Dos and Don’ts of Gospel Worker Finances
© 2011 by Brian Simmons and George Patterson
granted to copy, translate, post and distribute freely.
invited Brian Simmons to share his insight on personal finance that
he teaches as a church planting trainer. In every country, mentors
must often plan with gospel workers how these will earn a living and
how to finance their projects. Many workers feel frustrated by their
lack of finance, yet they have unwisely narrowed their options to one
or two of several biblical ways the Lord provides for workers’
Means of Income
New Testament illustrates the following ten ways in which God can
provide for the needs of those who serve him. Jesus promised, ‘Your
heavenly Father knows what you need!’ (Matt. 6:32) Mentors can
discuss each of these options with trainees and lay plans
Sons of Peace (Luke
10:4-7; Matt. 10:9-13). Jesus instructed the 12 and the 72 to let ‘sons
of peace’ provide them with lodging, food and drink, which Jesus called
‘wages’. Such persons would also provide an entrance for the gospel
into networks of friends, family, neighbours, and co-workers. Examples
include Cornelius (Acts 10), Lydia and the Philippian jailer (Acts 16).
This means of provision remains primary for short gospel trips.
18:1-4). Paul worked and stayed with fellow tentmakers in Corinth while
he preached there. He highly commended honest work (Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess.
3:6-13). Gospel workers must not be ashamed of performing manual labour
for their keep, even if some local Christians disagree with it. Some
successful “tentmakers” find that, even though their business earns well, it remains wise to
get partial support from churches, lest prayer support and
accountability break down.
Missionary Support (Acts
18:5; Phil. 4:14-19). Paul quit making
tents, for a while, to do full time ministry, because Silas and Timothy
came from Macedonia bringing gifts from the churches there (See Acts
16:10-17:15 for their travelogue). Many gospel workers today quit their
regular jobs ‘by faith’ only to turn to asking outsiders to send them
money. But Paul kept making tents until he received some gifts; only
then did he quit his job.
4:10-13). Before being ‘amply supplied’ by the Philippians, Paul had
learned and practiced a ‘secret’ that today’s gospel workers need
desperately – contentment. Too many keep seeking after worldly wealth,
whereas Paul remained content even when hungry and in need.
Church Salary (1 Tim.
5:17-18; 1 Cor. 9:14). Gospel workers sometimes let their families go
hungry, because of their own pride or false humility. ‘Elders who rule
well are worthy of double honor’, that is respect plus money, and ‘the
Lord has commanded
that those who preach the gospel
should earn their living from the gospel’. Yet many pastors refuse to
take a salary from their church, even though their church members want
to give and know the Lord has instructed them to do so.
Generous Believers (Acts
2:45; 11:27-30). Even if not salaried by a church, members will
sometimes supply gifts to meet others’ genuine needs. Yet some gospel
workers seem too embarrassed to receive such help. But why should
workers deny God’s blessing to those who want to give?
25:16; Luke 19:16). In his parables about money, Jesus taught that good servants are those who put
their money to work to earn more for their Master. The fact that he let
them keep the money teaches us that all we have comes from God. There
is much good and no shame in investing in legitimate business and
25:20-21; Luke 19:17). Notice how those who were found ‘faithful in
little’ (lots of money) were put in charge of many things, even cities.
The Lord always starts with little things to test our faithfulness.
Gospel workers must prove faithful before God will trust them with more.
25:27; Luke 19:23). The minimum
standard in these parables was to
deposit the money in a bank and receive interest. Proverbs 21:20; 30:25
and others affirm the wisdom of saving for the future. Gospel workers
should save up in times of plenty (Gen. 41:33-36) so they will still
have some in times of want.
(Matt. 6:11, 31-33). Last, but
least, is prayer with a Kingdom focus. Jesus told us to pray for our
daily needs, and he promised to meet our needs when we seek first God’s
kingdom and righteousness. Gospel workers must turn to God to meet
Means of Income
gospel workers may feel under pressure to take unsafe steps to secure
a temporary income. Jesus’
warned, ‘You cannot serve God and money.’ (Luke 16:13) Counsel
workers to resist these five temptations, for they lay a trap.
(Psa. 37:25-26). Neither the righteous
nor their children beg. Begging is shameful (Luke 16:3); it comes from
doubting God’s provision (Matt. 6:33). It is the other religions that
send out beggars.
(Pro. 22:26-27; Rom. 13:8). Modern
economies are driven by so-called ‘credit markets’ (a worldly system
that creates debt) by using ‘other people’s money’. Recent economic
collapses show the ultimate folly of this approach. It is possible to
save up for needed purchases, and to wait for inheritances to obtain
houses and wealth (Pro. 19:14). Christians are not to borrow, even
though Jesus said to lend expecting nothing in return (Luke 6:35).
(Luke 16:1-7; 1 Cor. 6:8). It is simply
wrong to cheat one’s employer, family, government or fellow believers.
To avoid this sin, remain willing to be cheated yourself.
(Acts 5:1-5; Eph. 4:25). Believers are
to put off falsehood and speak truth one to another. Lying about our
needs and resources, or pretending to give, can bring discipline from
(John 12:4-6, Eph. 4:28). Believers
should not steal, rather they should work to meet their own needs and
the needs of others. We must not justify theft by thinking only of our
own needs or about the excess riches of others.
there are 3 attitudes that battle against contentment in gospel
a church-planting training workshop, before leading a group Bible
discovery in the ten Biblical Means of Income, you can have
participants present a skit to demonstrate the five wrong ways obtain
money. Gospel workers in many places have learned from Scripture how
to get free from worry, while resisting sinful
attitudes and actions regarding money. God is pleased with such.
(Pro. 28:25; Luke 12:15; Eph. 5:5).
Keep up your guard against every form of greed, which is idolatry.
Greed stirs up dissension, shows that one does not trust God, and
excludes folk from the Kingdom of Christ.
(Exo. 20:17; Acts 20:33; Jam. 4:2).
Avoid lusting over anything that belongs to others. Coveting leads to
fights and quarrels, because it displaces faith in God’s provision.
Money (1 Tim.
6:6-10; Heb. 13:5). A root of all kinds of evil, love of money has
destroyed faith, brought grief, and warred with contentment. God is
with us and cares for us!