Correcting our thoughts on the issue of income
[notice]Missionary pastor Willem Taute of Jeffreys Bay missions organisation Global Challenge tackles issues of money, faith and ministry that challenge many people who seek to serve God in a Christian calling — and indeed challenge us all to some degree.[/notice]
As a missionary or volunteer one the thorniest issues usually represents itself in the question of personal income. Where will I live and what will I eat? The idea of asking other people for money can come across odd, and granted, can be very tricky and sensitive.
Some think it is difficult to raise support — and yes, it can have its challenges. Some look down on it, some disagree with it and some think it is unsustainable. Others think it should only be a temporary agreement.
To help you think through how to approach this whole issue (from the giving and the receiving end) here are a few things that helped us along the way:
Start by asking God
God knows our prayers, thoughts and needs before they cross our lips (Matthew 6:8 your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him and Matthew 6:32 your heavenly Father already knows all your needs). Yet, he still instructs us to ask him and engage in prayer (Matthew 7:7 Keep on asking and you will receive what you ask for). God designed prayer to activate his response to our call for help. He is waiting for us to call out to him. In my personal life I’ve often found God provided in a need I had without me even knowing it was a need! But mostly when I knew I was in trouble God acted when I asked in prayer. Not only does God long for our prayers — prayer also plays a big role in calming us and giving us peace and assurance. It helps us to come and stay in line with the will of God.
When we are looking to raise financial support we can go about it in different ways. We can either ask him to send more people who want to support us monthly or we can ask him to meet our needs with once off gifts etc. While you pray he might put certain people on your heart to approach or even better — he will send people to you — offering their monthly support without you uttering a word. This has happened to us a few times over the years and we are astounded by it every time.
As a personal exercise my wife and I will make a list of all the things needed to complete the month and we would then lay it before the Lord. He has never failed us even though his timing might be different from ours!
God provides in more than one way
Unfortunately, our identities can be very strongly linked to the amount of money in our bank accounts. When the money runs out and you start feeling depressed, sad or anxious you need to trust the Lord to free you from money’s controlling grip. Usually we are very one dimensional in the way we expect God to provide — it doesn’t always have to be cash in the bank account. It can be a meal someone “randomly” drops at your home or an invitation to dinner. I regularly experience friends randomly giving me a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit them anymore and it fits me perfectly!
The adventure of seeing God provide in creative and alternative ways is always very rewarding for our faith!
Ask yourself — do you give time and opportunity for God to provide in alternative ways or do you become anxious and start making your own plans?
(PS be careful of manipulating someone into giving you something. Hinting that you need something is more a token of your desperation than it is proof of your faith in God’s provision. Granted, we should never be too proud to share our needs with close friends if the appropriate time to do so arises. But this should never be done in a way as to coerce them into helping you out. Praying together should suffice and when God provides make sure you let your friends know about it.)
The advantages of having little money
Enough money is not always a good thing (In italics because no one really knows how much enough is). Enough is described by many as the ability to do or buy something whenever they want to do or buy it.
Too much money is certainly almost always destructive. With too much disposable income we can quickly rely on our own plans and leave God out of the decision making process. Much of the western world’s obesity problems comes from an overabundance of food. We feel safe when there’s always food at hand but in the end it is detrimental to our health. Times when I was healthiest was when I didn’t have money to buy a chocolate bar every second evening, yet I was never hungry.
The same can be said for other things: You might be renting a new movie every night because you can afford it. Conversely, with less money, you might have spent that same night reading — a much better choice.
God knows exactly how much you need and will provide just that — we are usually the ones not trusting him and thinking that we need MORE. Having a limited amount of money helps us to make wiser and well thought through decisions. We don’t need half the things we think we do.
Give us our daily bread
Most bible translations today read: … and give us today our daily bread … Luke 3.11. Yet according to K E Bailey, author of the acclaimed book Jesus through Middle Eastern eyes, most biblical scholars today agree that no one really knows if the word “daily” is the correct translation for the original Greek word. Using the word “daily” is what they think it means- but no one is 100% sure because it is the only place in the Bible where that word is used.
The earliest translations Bailey could find were Syriac translations of the Bible that date back to 200 years AD. In these translations it is translated as: “Give us today the bread that doesn’t run out.”
This means that if we are God’s children he has already planned and set out for us bread/ food to eat for every day. One of our biggest drawbacks are that we think once money/food runs out it will be gone forever. But God promises that there is always more on the way. This way of thinking (that it will run out) plagues all who are under money’s control — the rich and the poor. The poor holds on to the little they have for fear that they will never receive again. They are too afraid to spend. The rich also holds on to what they have by storing up more than they need — for they also believe that it might run out. Instead Jesus said, Freely give for freely you have received. Matthew 10:8
He provides, not always before it is finished, but once it is finished!
The drawbacks of a set salary
Choosing to live a life of faith opens the door to endless possibilities.
The biggest drawback of a set salary is that it can indoctrinate us into a mind-set of limited thinking. We view our salary as our only possible source of income and once it runs out for the month there is no other way out. For many our first instinct is to make more debt. While the bible is certainly full of laws and regulations regarding lending and borrowing — and God certainly uses debt — it becomes a problem when we start believing that making debt is our only way out. A life of faith opens up the possibility for God to use many different creative ways to provide.
If we live a life of faith, and in the case of missionaries/volunteers that have churches and individuals supporting them monthly, there is unending potential to far exceed what your average monthly income allows. Your income and your thinking is not limited by a set monthly salary and therefore you wait in expectation for the Lord to provide. In December 2016 our families’ monthly expenses ran R15 000 higher than usual! We wrote everything down that needed to happen, gave it to the Lord in prayer — and every single cent was covered! Then on the day before we left for Christmas a friend blessed us with a new set of tyres for our vehicle to the value of R2 600! This wasn’t even on our list because we were so busy we didn’t notice the tyres needed to be changed. God knows our needs!
Receiving a set salary may give us a feeling of independence but it is that mind-set of independence that can rob us of being dependant on one another the day calamity strikes. Living in faith means that life doesn’t need to be restricted to the strict borders of a set salary.
I’m not saying that a salary is bad or that you cannot live a life of faith while earning a salary. From an employer’s perspective I believe in providing a sustainable salary and paying a fair amount for the work done. I’m simply stating that basing your dependence and identity on a set salary will undermine your faith life and deter dreams of endless possibilities. All things are possible with God only.
To God, money is irrelevant
In Luke 5 Simon had been fishing all night and caught nothing. Now Jesus was in his boat, a carpenter who knew nothing of fishing, and he was instructing him to take his big cumbersome net and throw it out on the other side. Reluctantly Peter did it and struck the mother lode! He had hit the jackpot. For a lifelong fishermen like Peter — who didn’t simply have one boat but other boats and fishermen working for him — this was a lifelong dream. A net so full of fish it was tearing! This was the moment he had been dreaming of all his life — think of everything he could do with the money once he sold the fish! In today’s terms it is probably the equivalent of someone winning a million dollars in a game show.
Yet right after receiving this massive net of fish Jesus asks Simon to leave everything and follow him! That’s right, dump it in the sea, or give it to the other guys, and come with me. Where I’m going there is way more to life than the jackpot.
Jesus can provide for you at any time and at any moment — as much as you want. He usually doesn’t — but he CAN.
In another example the disciples had to pay tax (Matthew 17:24) and Jesus instructed them to pull a fish from the sea. In its mouth was a gold coin. Jesus is above money, to him amounts and numbers mean nothing.
Because he can provide everything we don’t need to worry about anything. Therefore we can focus our minds and strengths on following and serving him and forget about the money. Like Peter, follow Jesus into a life that is way more rewarding, a life with significance and true value. Over time money loses value, while a life with Jesus gains value.
God has prepared people to give away monthly
CS Lewis said that one of our biggest drawbacks as human beings is projection. It might be that you don’t have the means to bless someone monthly or haven’t been giving at all. Since we don’t see ourselves doing it we project our inability to give on others and we struggle to believe that other people want to give. The fact is that God has provided for and prepared others who want to bless you monthly. If you’ve been praying for support and someone approaches you, please be honest and agree to receive their support.
Having said that:
Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them. Matthew 7:12
One way to show faith that God will provide is by starting to give (albeit privately/secretly — Matthew 6:4). Get into the habit if donating your tithe or some amount to someone else monthly. Giving away when you have very little communicates that your trust is not in the money you have but in God.
Countering two support raising myths
Myth 1: Eventually I have to become financially independent
Independence sounds way more glorious than it is. We’ve been created to be dependant. Dependant on one another, our spouses, our children and God. To be financially independent is a loss — not a gain. It removes you from the privilege of sharing life with each other, of giving and receiving gifts.
Myth 2: Support raising is not sustainable
Fact: All provision comes from God. Whether you work for a rich corporate company and earn your “own” money, whether you own a business or whether your income is through monthly support. It all comes from God and neither is more secure or more sustainable than the other. Different things and jobs might have the outward appearance of security and sustainability but in the end our sovereign God is the only one who sustains. If we base our identity and security in him there will always be enough.
As you’ve read through this I pray that God will lift the burden of money in general or of raising monthly support and that you will come to experience the joy of him providing for you!
In our Global Challenge community I’ve been countlessly surprised by sacrificial giving. My prayer is that the flow of food, cash and other gifts will increase between the members of our community; and I pray that we will be a blessing to Jeffreys Bay and the nations.