Earlier this year, my wife and I stepped out of our band ministry to fully dedicate our time and energy into the growth of A Jesus Mission, in equipping and sending new missionaries out into the field. As we settled down, we knew that a home was something we needed to look into. We discovered a two-bedroom apartment for our family of four was going to cost $1200/month. We simply did not feel this was wise stewardship for us with the money we had. I don’t think any of our supporters would have questioned it, but as we prayed, it just didn’t feel right. Someone recommended we start looking into travel trailers. The monthly costs would be half of an apartment, my parents graciously offered us land to move it onto, and it would be completely paid off in 10 years, which seemed like the wisest decision as there’s a good chance we’ll live overseas someday.
So we moved forward with it!
In August, the trailer arrived, and I was really excited to show a couple of my friends because it had been so long since we had our own landing spot. To my surprise though, one of the first people who came over asked, “You bought a trailer? Aren’t you a missionary?”
I kept my mouth silent, but I wanted to scream, “Aren’t you?!” Why do we have heightened expectations of what missionaries can or can’t spend their finances on, yet live so conflictingly ourselves? Are these our treasures or God’s?
That’s the grand question. The people who have hosted us over the last five years, these are people that have dedicated their homes as God’s. I know many people whose homes are more like Christian missionary landing pads 90% of the year. That’s a Kingdom investment! Then, there are so many others who struggle to treat their “treasures” as the Lord’s. They seemingly hold looser forms of financial stewardship over themselves, while holding tightly the reigns of those they deem “missionaries.” Let’s look at the Bible (always a good idea). Maybe this is Christianity 101, but I feel somewhere along the pitfalls of American Christianity’s idolatrous love for money, we forgot this…
Remember when Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-20, “Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal” (CSB). I love how Jesus just lays out a very plain, practical reasoning for this at first glance. He’s like, “Look, dude, no one can steal from heaven… Earth will fade away… Your money is more safely invested here…” Then he said this:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:21, CSB).
Okay, Jesus. Well, that was a little blunter…
It’s funny to me that Jesus would give a totally valid and applicable reason prior, and then just drop the spiritual hammer on revealing the true state of our hearts when we invest in earthly things. The scary truth is that these “treasures on earth” can be our homes, cars, entertainment systems, shoot – even our bible degrees! Why do we own the things we own? What’s the root in our decision making? Have we even thought about it? I think so often we just assume we’re entitled to spend our money, however, we’d like because we earned it, and that makes it ours, right?
I don’t think God is like the Grinch who stole Christmas. He’s not here to rain on our parade and to be the financial nit-picker that judges our every transaction.
But maybe that’s the problem.
We abuse grace and neglect stewardship.
God shouldn’t be left out of some of the most major decisions in our lives. A 30-year mortgage on a home is a pretty big financial and time commitment. Why do so many people leave God out of those decisions? Or why do people selectively pray about which house they should buy, rather than whether or not they should even buy a house, to begin with? The same could be said about colleges, car payments, and anything else we purchase. We assume we’re supposed to go to college, so we say, “Jesus, I’ve brought you three different colleges I’ve narrowed it down to… speak to me on where to go!”
And what if Jesus never wanted you to go to college? … or never wanted you to own a home? Or a car? Is that even an option for you?
It’s very possible He does have those “treasures” for you, but the majority of people I’ve talked to assume these “treasures” are ensured. They assume they’re our great inheritances of being American. Don’t get me wrong. Homes, cars, degrees – these can all be great vessels in which the Lord moves about within our lives and uses greatly to advance His Kingdom. Is that what you define these as in your life?
What’s this have to do with giving to missions?
EVERYTHING. Because your life is the mission.
You and I are both missionaries. That is the job description we were handed when we became followers of the Way! That being said, every Christian is a missionary needing financial support. Some just happen to be funded by the generosity of other Christians while some are funded by their current vocations, but our status or job descriptions do not alter. Having been the guy whose family has only survived by the generosity of others for the last five years, and counting, I know I can speak into this from a healthy perspective because I’ve been on both ends.
Jesus never did tell the apostles to tithe. Isn’t that funny? Our reference for the storehouse is an Old Testament concept, and it is important! But not a commandment of Jesus. What He gave us was much harder. Oh, how easy it would be to only give 10% and look at the other 90% as money we get to put anywhere! Instead, Jesus said to store up our treasures in heaven, and not just 10% of it. Paul further validates this thinking when he writes to the Corinthians saying “… Excel also in this act of grace (context is financial giving). I am not saying this as a command. Rather, by means of the diligence of others, I am testing the genuineness of your love” (2 Cor. 8:7-8, CSB).
Did you catch that? Paul said he was “testing the genuineness of your love.”
There’s a much larger picture of self-sacrifice, of love and devotion to Christ, His work, and His people at stake when we come to view what we own as God’s. We’re all missionaries entrusted with “treasures” on this earth, and what we choose to do with them, for better or for worse, will expose the genuineness of our love. “There your heart will be also.” If the genuineness of my love was merely based on 10%, I don’t think it would be that difficult, but it’s far more than that. The problem is the placement of my heart! And that’s exactly why Jesus said in Matthew 23:23, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth…. and yet you have neglected the more important matter of the law — justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.” (CSB).
How sad is it that these people gave consistently, yet they missed the bigger picture. To say we give 10% is not enough. Everything we have is God’s. The Pharisees gave out of obligation, not understanding the opportunity for relationship, and that’s where they went wrong. So, I guess the heart of this writing is simple.