The Disciples Commission and Earning their Income

(Matthew 10:5-15)

After Jesus had selected the twelve who were commissioned to be his initial disciples, he gave them authority to do many works. They were to go out amongst the people and to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons and most importantly to preach the good news of the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

Amongst his instructions he told them to take no money, food or additional clothing for they would be provided as they went along preaching. He made the comment that, “…the labourer deserves his food.” (vs. 10) And he also pre-empted that statement by saying, “You received without paying, give without pay.” (vs. 8) The disciples who were working in the preaching and teaching of the word were entitled to receive their food and other bodily requirements. These would be provided as they moved amongst the people from thus who had the resources to provide. When the disciples were to enter any town, they were to find out who was worthy and stay with them for the duration of their stay in the town.

Now there are several things we can learn from this that conflict with the way the churches often operate today.

1. Many churches today take tithes from the people to pay for the ministers and ministry of the church. Jesus did not tell his disciples to take tithes when he first sent them out, on the contrary he said that they received without paying and so should give without paying. Nowhere else in the New Covenant were the ministers instructed to take a tithe from the people for tithing is not a part of the New Covenant but of the old.

2. The disciples were meant to receive the requirements necessary to sustain themselves. They were to receive food and lodging and perhaps clothing if needed, and this would be provided. They were not in the business of collecting significant sums such that they became wealthy at the expense of the people they were preaching to. In essence they were not to be a burden on the people but to provide a service. They were to be as Jesus was, servants not the ones who are served.

3. Jesus did not tell the disciples to go from house to house, staying first with one and then another, but rather to find out who was worthy and that they would provide their needs. There are some churches today however who do go from door to door seeking contributions towards their ministry.

Is it OK to receive your living from preaching the word? Yes it is, but it should never be a pathway to riches as we see in some ministries today. Even in the times of the apostolic church we saw that some were preaching for base gain and financial reward. Paul talks of such men saying, “…they must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for base gain what they have no right to teach,” (Titus 1:11), and also in 1 Timothy 6:5-10, “…wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain. There is great gain in godliness with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.”

There is no doubt that the pursuit of money is a great temptation in the church today. Western society is awash with the lust for money and it is difficult even for men of God to stand against such desires. The deception is that they say the money is for the expansion of the ministry and how many more people can be helped with the additional income. So they squeeze their supporters and those in their care to give till it hurts through tithes and offerings, but how much goes into the hands of those who need it? How many of the people in these churches need help, not just in physical ways, but also in financial as well? I must say at this point that not all ministries are like this, but when you see ministers of the church driving expensive cars and wearing expensive, tailored, imported suits and jewellery… you have to ask whether they are following the Lord’s instructions to his disciples in Matthew 10:8-11 or if they are following their own desires.

The processes of tithing and seeking offerings as were laid down in the Old Testament law do not belong in the Christian New Covenant church today. Not only is it morally wrong, it is scripturally wrong. If you wish to understand more on this matter I have written a paper on this subject, which can be found at here.

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