Let’s Start Talking is in the middle of our biggest fund raising activity of the year. Once a year–during August and September–we have what we call our Season of Generous Giving. Typically, we conclude this season of fund raising with the September Celebration Dinner, this year on September 25.
The activities and emotions of this season are all over the place! We start with trepidation! Since September 30 is the end of our fiscal year, we need a successful fund raising effort to finish paying for the work that we have already done! The difference between a successful effort and a less successful effort can mean the difference for us of finishing our fiscal year with a positive or negative bank balance! So much is at stake!
But we also start with great faith that our God is rich in mercy and His people have all the resources needed for His kingdom to advance. Most years, our prayers and efforts are richly blessed, but other years, the same prayers and often greater efforts do not result in all we thought we needed.
In this context, I was thinking about Luke 10 and the report of Jesus sending out the 72 on their short-term mission. “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals . . . ” (v.4). What was he thinking about there–what was he trying to teach them?
If LST put a team on a plane to somewhere, but told them not to carry a suitcase and don’t take any money, we’d be considered irresponsible and negligent. If a church required missionaries to go without support, they would be used as a negative illustration at every missions conference for the next decade.
So what was Jesus doing? Teaching?
For those being sent out, perhaps he was trying to teach them total dependence on the Great Commissioner! If they went out completely self-sufficient, they would not learn to be content with whatever God provided. Remember Paul’s words, a missionary who also went out with insufficient support–measured at least by today’s standards–but with absolute trust in the One who sent him: ” I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:11,12)
But, if the workers had gone out with all they needed, what would those to whom they were going fail to experience or learn? This is what gave me the most pause for thought.
They would not have learned that to be asked for help is an opportunity to participate in the plan of God. I’m always a little surprised during this Season of Generous Giving at a few people who are somehow offended when we ask them to participate with us financially. Some of them are perhaps like Ebenezer Scrooge and simply don’t believe in charity because they believe so strongly that they have earned and deserve everything they have! What foolishness!
I suspect most, however, just find it awkward, and they don’t like to be put in awkward situations. Either they don’t think money is something you talk about, or they may not be able to say either Yes or No to the request without some embarrassment–and they don’t want to be embarrassed.
So should someone not hear the Gospel because you are embarrassed? Or maybe this is a place where God can transform our thinking, to refocus us on others rather than ourselves?
They would not have learned that it is more blessed to give than to receive! We only know that Jesus said this because the great missionary Paul told us so. It’s not recorded in the Gospels. Those who received the 72 would not know what God would do for them if they had not offered them food, shelter, maybe money, and sandals!
What would God do to bless us if we gave to support those who are going? I can only imagine good things–and He is able to do more than we can imagine.
They would not have learned that generosity is at the core of the message proclaimed by those who go! Can you even imagine a person of peace saying, “Well, I totally accept the message from God that you have brought into my home, but I’m not going to give you a bed or share a meal or offer to give you an extra pair of sandals because if I do, I won’t have enough for myself.” Unthinkable!
The 72 took nothing with them because they believed that people of peace would offer them all they needed to accomplish their mission. My experience with a lifetime in missions is that some are generous if you ask–but almost no one is offering.
Now back to my memory of Byron Nelson. One Sunday in August 2006, I was teaching an adult class at church, talking about LST. After class and after the aisle had cleared, a large elderly man came toward me on his scooter. He introduced himself to me–but I knew who he was. It was one of the greatest golfers of all times Byron Nelson.
He immediately asked me a question which I am almost never asked: “How is your ministry doing financially? Is there something I can do to help?” I was literally speechless for a second, managing finally to tell him that we were always in need of support–a pretty lame answer for such a generous question.
He invited us to come to his home that week and present our needs more particularly. We met him and his wife Peggy, presented our need, then left them to talk and pray about it. Within days, we received a check in the mail from the Nelsons–not for the amount that we had requested–but for TWICE AS MUCH!
Here was a man of peace who offered without being asked and who was more generous than “required.” He will be remembered by many for golf, but he is known by God for his faithfulness and his generosity!
Go out today–and tomorrow–and offer to support someone who needs your help to do the mission of God. Offer without being asked–and watch that missionary’s eyes glisten and voice crack–and know that God is smiling.