GOSPEL MESSAGE, Vol. 92, Nr.1 1984
BEGGARS AND BENEFACTORS
"I would like to become a missionary, but deputation (raising financial support) is too much like begging. I don't think I could do that."
This statement, coming from a Bible school senior, is typical of the attitude many Christians have toward, what in mission jargon is called, deputation. Missionaries are not beggars, nor are their supporters simply "benefactors." Missionaries are ambassadors of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. They do not need to go begging.
But what is the difference between begging and "making a missionary appeal?" One mission leader explains it this way: "Begging is for selfish reasons, whereas deputation is raising support for the Lord's work." The problem with this explanation is that many Christians give readily and willingly to support the Lord's work, yet resent being "pressured" for money.
A careful study of the Scriptures on this subject will help us to understand more fully what our attitude should be. The most familiar reference to a beggar in the Bible, is the story told by Jesus, of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31). The Greek word for "beggar" appears over thirty times in the New Testament, yet only in this instance, is it translated "beggar." The word is otherwise rendered as "poor." From the text, it is clear that Lazarus is a believer. Although he "desired the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table," it does not say that he actually begged.
This passage, in my opinion, should not be used to legitimize begging. In Psalm 37:25 we read: "I have been young and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." God never intended for His children to beg. He has instructed believers to care for the needs of the poor (not just poor believers). Old Testament laws on giving of alms and gleaning were given for that purpose. The Lord's own teachings in the Sermon on the Mount reaffirm this, but also stress that God provides for His own * i.e. those who serve God and not mammon (Matt. 6:24 34).
Back to Luke 16 and the parable of the unjust steward. This man was not only greedy and dishonest, he was also too lazy to dig and too proud to beg. Yet the Lord commended the unjust steward. He commended him because he acted according to his faith. He did not serve God, but mammon. He believed that money could buy friends and secure his future. He knew that as a steward, the money was not his to keep. His interests were purely temporal and his faith was in the power of money and his own cleverness. He acted accordingly and Christ commended him for this.
We too are stewards, entrusted with that which does not belong to us and which we cannot keep. As "children of Light," we are instructed to invest our time, talents and money to establish eternal friendships and eternal habitations.
The aforementioned problem exists because some missionaries view themselves as poor and furthermore, supporters of missions sometimes give out of selfish motives. Both attitudes are wrong. No child of God is poor. We are immeasurably wealthy in "true riches." (vs. 11) The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians: "Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours... ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's. Ye are ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 3:21 4:2). Men of this world can only give as they receive. Christians, however, are like canals, or pipelines. If our lives are unobstructed, we receive as we give.
I recall seeing a magazine photo which depicted two boats. In the foreground was a fragile looking craft with a lone oarsman, rowing for all he was worth. In the background was a sleek white yacht with a well dressed gentleman at the helm. At first glance, the photo seemed to contrast the rich and the poor. Upon reading the caption, however, I discovered that the men in the photo were brothers, partners in a racing team and co-owners of both vessels. This aptly describes the relationship between missionary and supporter. We are brothers and team members. We are co workers and partners in the most important job in the world. Jesus spoke of "unprofitable servants" and of "good and faithful servants." We have done only that which was our duty to do (Luke 17:10). The reference may apply to missionaries as well as to supporters of missions. The same holds true for Matthew 6:33, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."
The example of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, best illustrates the cooperative spirit that should prevail between missionaries and their supporters: " . . . ye shall find a colt tied ... Ioose him and bring him thither. And if any man ask you, why do ye loose him? thus shall ye say unto him, Because the Lord hath need of him" (Luke 19:30 31). "...Go and prepare us the passover... when ye enter into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the good man of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall show you a large upper room furnished" (Luke 22:8 12).
If the owner of the colt and the good man of the house have both committed their lives and possessions to Christ, then they will not hold back that which is entrusted into their care when the Lord has needs. Christ instructs one disciple to give and another to receive. That which is Christ's merely changes hands -- there is a shift of stewardship responsibility. Admittedly, there is need for communications and explanation, but no need for begging.
We are neither beggars nor benefactors. There is no need for apologetic appeals. The work of the Lord is not dependent upon the alms giving of sympathetic givers or gleanings from wealthy Christians looking for tax exemptions. We are servants and stewards of the Most High God. "Moreover, it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful."
Ralph V. Harvey