In Matthew 10 we see Jesus giving final instructions to the 12 disciples before sending them out to minister the kingdom of heaven to others.
“And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.” (Matthew 10:7-8a)
Jesus had them preach (which means to proclaim to the lost in the streets) that His kingdom was about to be released to the earth. This had to do with His government, His ORDER, coming to the disorder on the earth that resulted from Adam’s Fall.
(Healing the sick, cleansing lepers, raising the premature dead and casting out demons all have to do with bringing ORDER where there is none.)
It was prophesied that establishing a government would be one of the things the Messiah would accomplish.
“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE UPON His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. OF THE INCREASE OF HIS GOVERNMENT AND PEACE there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” (Isaiah 9:6-7 – caps are mine for emphasis)
As we have seen on the earth, governments have personalities that reflect the personalities of those in leadership. These governments have qualities that come from those leaders. The government of Jesus is no different because all other governments were designed to function based on His government’s model.
Sadly, very few governments of nations, companies, and Christian ministries and congregations (large and small) consistently and accurately portray His example.
When Jesus sent out the 12 to proclaim His Kingdom He said something curious at the end of Matthew 10:8 that reveals a CORE aspect of His government.
“Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8b)
Now, in context, this was referring primarily to the coming offer of salvation through Christ, but the statement reflects the NATURE of our King. The government of Jesus was to operate in a “no strings attached” manner. This would cover salvation as well as the meeting of material needs, emotional healing, and so on.
As His instructions continued He revealed other aspects to His government: not worrying about provision, rather TRUSTING the LORD (Matthew 10:9-10) and going where one is received and moving on WITHOUT REGRET whenever one is not received (Matthew 10:11-14).
We could spend a lot of time on these qualities of the government of Jesus but the Lord put on my heart this day that first one
(ministering His Kingdom in a “no strings attached” manner).
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been FREELY GIVEN TO US by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12 – caps are mine for emphasis)
The truth of the matter is that EVERY Christian, whether he or she be at the top of an organizational chart for a huge corporation (private or church congregation) or small company, ministry, or church is a representative of Christ’s government. The same is true of ALL other Christians (married and single adults and teenagers) because we are ALL ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) and, therefore, representatives of Jesus and His government.
The question is, “Do we represent Jesus and His government well or do we do things and give things with 'strings attached?'”
One thing about attached strings is that they are often invisible – to us.
“The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (Proverbs 15:3)
The other thing about “invisible strings” is that they are NOT invisible to God and, in time, He reveals them.
“….there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.” (Mark 4:22)
In the years I have been out of the secular workforce “ministering full-time” I have witnessed a gross negligence in the Body of Christ when it comes to addressing the material needs of not only church members but also so-called outsiders – both saved and lost.
The tendency, all across the globe, seems to be focusing on maintaining the structure of the individual congregation first and foremost. This seems to be the primary goal of most Christian groups because it is believed in a foundational sense that the very existence of the organization is beneficial.
Many congregations do absolutely nothing for “benevolence needs” and ones that do will only help those who are members, asserting that they are only to help “church family” - a term and concept that is completely absent in the Scriptures.
ALL Christians are family.
In addition, the needs of fellow Christians who do not attend THAT particular congregation and non-Christians are rarely, if ever, met at all. They are turned away.
I don’t say this as an indictment. I understand the cost of building and maintaining buildings, paying salaries, insurance, etc. What I am saying is that it doesn’t seem as if this sort of thing represents the government of God’s Kingdom – especially when the world sees the institutional church as THE representative of Jesus on the earth today.
When, whether through private individuals or Christian organizations, things ARE done to bless others there are almost always “strings attached”. These are invisible……until the person extending the blessing yanks his end of the string to manipulate the recipient of the blessing into doing things the giver wants him to do.
I’ll give a couple of real life examples.
Many, many years ago I worked for a private company as a chaplain and agreed to be hired if I could function as the pastor for the company. The leaders agreed wholeheartedly. A few months later one of them overheard me talking on the phone about our dryer that had died. He offered to buy us one and I asked him what he would expect in return for that blessing. He said, “Nothing!” as if it were an insult for me to even ask.
He bought it, we brought it to my house and I was very grateful for his gift and said so many times.
Many months later I addressed with him some issues I saw that I thought to be spiritually dangerous ones. He and his partners had hired me with the knowledge that this was part of my job description – not to mention my role in the Body of Christ.
His response was to reveal the invisible string that was attached to that dryer all along. “I can’t believe you are saying these things after all I DID FOR YOU!”
What do you do when someone offers things with strings attached? You cut your end of the string!
I looked at him and smiled and said, “The dryer will be on my back porch at 6 pm tonight. You can take it back for your refund.”
(No matter how much we need some material thing we CANNOT allow ourselves to be purchased by a person offering up some mere thing. We BELONG to Jesus and are worth MUCH more than that!)
I’ve heard many stories, from all over the land, of earnest church members learning of the need of another person. They pray and decide the Lord would have them give to that need. Wishing to remain anonymous, they give the money to a church leader to pass on to the ones in need.
Think about the spiritual mechanics at work here behind the scenes.
God knows the need. God puts the need on the heart of the givers. He tells them the entire need and they give 100% of what those receiving the blessing need. The givers do it humbly….like Jesus would have done…and remain anonymous trusting the leader to pass along the 100% freely.
Tragically, I have personally experienced leaders who would keep the 100% and never tell me it was given. This happened many years ago when a friend gave money for a prison ministry trip and it went to another part of the missions budget. Had he not asked me if I had received the $200 I would never had known that 0% of what God put on his heart to give had gotten to its intended target: a prison ministry team I led in another city.
Ever since that day I have prayed that spiritual leaders would never do this. It’s not about the money. It’s about what leaders who do things like this bring on themselves by acting in such unrighteous ways.
Many times those leaders will pass along 90%, taking “the tithe” off the top. Sometimes they will give the recipients the 100%....but will put out their hand, demanding “the tithe” back from the recipients.
When leaders do this sort of thing they 1) prevent the recipients from being blessed completely in the matter as God intended and 2) they cheat the recipients of the joy and privilege of giving back to God VOLUNTARILY.
True submission is always voluntary and anytime it is demanded….it ceases to be voluntary and all God’s intentions for voluntary submission through Christian giving evaporate.
However, these are not the only negative results to a Christian leader demanding a tithe from money given to meet a benevolence need. By doing this the leader actually hurts himself.
We saw in Matthew 10:7-14 that Jesus’ instructions were to do three things, basically, as we are going along in life. There were:
1. Preach God’s Kingdom, the government of which is built on the concept of “Freely you have received, freely give” (A “no strings attached” style.)
2. Trust the Lord (don’t bring provisions, rather depend on the Lord.)
3, Go where you are received; when rejected keep moving and don’t look back.
Whenever a leader of any kind sees fit to manipulate others under his leadership to benefit the organization, there is a reason for him to do so. He may not be aware of his reason….but there ALWAYS is a reason for that.
The most common reason for any manipulation of any kind on this earth is that there is an underlying distrust that God will provide.
Why else would a leader use a “strings attached” approach to generate income for his organization? By doing this, the leader violates the first of the instructions Jesus gave the very first 12 men for advancing His kingdom.
I would suggest that whenever manipulation is used to advance God’s Kingdom a kind of kingdom IS advanced….but it isn’t God’s Kingdom. Instead, it is some earthly kingdom.
In addition, if a leader takes a benevolence opportunity which the LORD orchestrated for the purpose of teaching the recipients that He CAN be trusted for provision and turns it, instead, into an opportunity to “yank a string” by demanding his take, the leader pollutes God’s intentions for the recipients. Instead of being a part of the provision, the leader inadvertently models the exact opposite of God’s intention: distrust in God’s ability to provide.
When a leader demands a donation in these circumstances he demotes himself from the wonderful position of utilized by the Lord to meet someone’s need. The money he demands is his “cut” in a mere earthly business deal.
He turns himself into…..and let’s really get this….a moneychanger, taking advantage of and using those he has been chosen to care for by God.
In John 2:15 we see these words:
“When He had made a whip of cords….”
I can’t think of any other place in the Bible that describes Jesus in His time on the earth premeditatedly preparing a weapon with which to punish people. Which people group has the sad distinction of being addressed this way?
Spiritual leaders who use the people they are there to support, serve and bless.
Our ministry has been blessed to have served many locally, across our nation and, even, overseas. We have made a decision to give 100% of the funds raised for specific needs to those for whom we raise them. Our logic is that if God puts it on the hearts of people to give to a specific need then God intends for them to get ALL that money, even if what we raise is double or triple what we asked for them.
We believe that we don’t have to charge a “handling fee” or take a cut or remind the recipients to donate to us or anyone else because we can trust the same Lord to meet our ministry needs…..and He always has.
We DO believe that it is proper for people to express their gratefulness for God’s provision by honoring those He uses in their lives and we encourage people, when they ask, to give to those who watch over their souls (Hebrews 13:17). Honor is a good Christian practice that blesses all involved.
I’ll close with a true story that models what we have discussed here today.
I know of ministry somewhere in the USA that was approached to help a family with some financial needs. That ministry put out a call and raised a substantial amount of money for them, exceeding the amount they had requested the Body of Christ to provide.
The leader of that ministry gave 100% of what was raised to the father in that family.
Later that night, he received a call from recipient of the funds. He was asked, “Do you think its okay for me to take some of that money you gave us and use it to take my wife out for an inexpensive meal?”
The question broke the minister’s heart. He knew the man asked it because so many times in the past whenever anyone helped him and his family….including spiritual leaders….there were “strings attached” to the gift. He was asking permission to use that money because he felt OBLIGATED to do so.
“Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)
The question is: “Was that man free or had some other spiritual leader and others put him in bondage by attaching strings to previous blessings?”
He WAS in bondage. In other words, he wasn’t free to use the money.
Brothers and sisters, as ambassadors for Christ we have the immeasurable privilege of being able to administer the Kingdom of God on the earth. HIS Kingdom is about freedom from bondage.
The minister refused to operate at all in the place of someone who had the right to tell that man what he could or could not do with the money that GOD had GIVEN to him. He refused because he did not have the right to make decisions about that money. That money was in the husband’s possession and HE had stewardship of it…not the minister.
He said to the man, “God gave that money to you. It’s yours. Anything I ever give to you will come with no strings attached. Ask the Lord if He would have you bless your wife with a nice meal and do what you think He wants you to do. You are free.”
May we allow the Lord to reveal the workings of His Kingdom to us so that we might represent well Him and His government. Let’s preach the Kingdom of God like that!
May we never stop learning to give as we were given….freely, never stop trusting in His provision, never resent those who do not receive us, and never stop going where He would have us go and remain where we are received (Matthew 10:7-14).