Last Tuesday I wrote about giving. I want to return to the subject since we have had time to “chew on this cud” for a while.
I believe that Paul’s care calls us to engage this issue thoughtfully. He was concerned to prevent his apostolic band from being discounted as more religious charlatans–notorious con-artists. He, also, raises the issue of his desire to preach the gospel at his own personal cost so he could go “above and beyond the call of duty.” The apostle to the Gentiles models a very nuanced theology of giving.
Maybe I am misreading Acts 20:34-35, but it appears to me that Paul’s business enterprise in Ephesus was adequate to support his personal needs, also financed a sizable apostolic team and produced enough to “help the weak.”
My dream is to see apostolic workers (those commissioned to get the gospel into truly unreached people groups) who are able to enter communities with business models that are simple, easily reproduced and adequately resourced so they are truly financially sustainable. They will be of such a nature that they involve the workers in providing a valuable service for the people of the new community. They will provide excellent opportunities to look for Persons of Peace. They will become valuable for the community on a long-term basis. They will provide the opportunity to model hard work and helping the weak.
Maybe Paul had not taught about giving at earlier stages during his three year stay in Ephesus. Maybe his statement about “remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive'” was a personal remembrance. But I suspect he is pointing their minds back to earlier teaching he had done when he quoted this from Jesus [NOTE: This statement on giving is not found in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. Is this something Jesus said to Paul personally after his Damascus Road encounter?]
I am thankful that my time in Arkansas prompted me to return to this issue. What are your thoughts on the matter?