Saturday, May 13, 2006


Part 2: Jesus was very smart.

We're considering the instructions Jesus gave to the Twelve and to the Seventy-two (see previous post) as he sent them out to spread God his Father's reign of relentless and renewing love. Have you ever seen a concrete sidewalk broken and buckled by the root of a tree? A tiny seed grew quietly and steadily and no human-made power or obstacle could keep it down. "The kingdom of God is like a farmer who went out to sow 'mustard seeds'... ."

From Jesus' instructions we can detect some of the energies in the tiny seed of the-kingdom-of-God's arrival. Let's consider just one of the most startling and unsettling energies that extend God's kingdom of serving love into a culture of religious hate and oppressive power.

--Little or no expense. Jesus was saying bluntly, "You don't need money." "Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light" (Matthew 10:9-10 The Message). Or, as the NIV translates Jesus here, "Do not take along any gold or silver or copper coins in your belts... ."

Now, this is where it gets dicey. This is where good old, pragmatic American genius takes over. Paraphrasing a line from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, "What you mean you don't need no money? He said, 'We don't need no money!'"

I love Eugene Peterson's line, "You are the equipment... ." Classic. Jesus is apparently saying, "Money? Do leave home without it." But again Jesus was not an American and perhaps here is where his brilliance falters. Y'think?

The more expensive the cost to plant and grow outposts of the kingdom of God, the less reproduction of those outposts there will be. It's an axiom you can bank on. In American culture a big budget is a status symbol. Even kingdom-of-God-people and ministries get culturally absorbed here. Jesus was not into status. He was into faith and simplicity. He knew that his kingdom enterprise would choke and die the more it got caught up in "the desires of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth... ." Thorns; don't you just hate those prickly things? Guess what just happened? I went to another website to check on a word spelling and a pop-up ad erupted...for a credit card with low interest and no fees! How American is that?

Talk to any missiologist. Missiologists are deeply saddened by the costs of maintaining the USAmerican church to the almost sheer poverty-level giving to globally extending the kingdom of God's relentless, hope-giving love to those who need it.

Let me say this less I am misunderstood. I serve as a non-resident missionary to Ukraine. Many people are helping me financially to serve young Jesus-followers there who are aggressively about extending the reign of God's love in this former Communist nation. I am deeply grateful to those who give; some I know give sacrificially. My point in this post is that the more expensive the costs to plant kingdom outposts, the less reproduction of those outposts we will see. Jesus understood that.

Talk to any missiologist. They will tell you that in countries of expansive poverty, the kingdom of God outposts are mushrooming. Tiny seeds are planted, grow, produce fruit and more seeds drop. India, China, Africa. Jesus-followers in those countries apparently believe Jesus' instructions. Maybe Jesus was smarter than we think on the issue of money and mission.
"...for the worker is worth his keep," Jesus said. "Those who spread the gospel will live by the gospel," Paul the Apostle would later write. "Seek first God's kingdom and righteousness and all these other things will be taken care of as well."

Next we'll consider the last two energies: the dangerous nature of the kingdom mission and it's amazing ability, even in the face of danger, to catalyze commitment to the Jesus Way.


At 5/17/2006 6:55 PM, Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Excellent point, John. This troubles me greatly. Both when looking at my own life, which is harldy extravagant by American standards, but is a travesty when looking at the words of Jesus, I think. And I've had a burder about the overhead in churches. It is ridiculous the amount of money it can take for a church to run here (building, etc.). The American way, but not the kingdom of God way.

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