AMONG THE FELLOW WORKERS
In the Old Testament we read that though the Levites stood in the place of God to receive tithes from all His people, they themselves offered tithes to Him. The servant of the Lord should learn to give as well as to receive. We praise God for the generous way the workers in days past have given to their fellow laborers, but we still need to be more thoughtful for the material needs of all our brethren in the work. We must remember the words of Paul: “These hands have ministered to my needs and to those who are with me” (Acts 20:34). We must not merely hope to have sufficient to spend on ourselves and our work, but must look to God to provide us with sufficient to give to others too. If we are only occupied with the thought of our personal needs and the needs of our work, and forget the needs of our fellow workers, the plane of our spiritual life is too low. Like Paul, we must constantly think of those with us, and help to minister to their needs. If anyone among us is only a receiver and not a giver, he is unworthy of Him who sent him and those who labor with him.
The scope of our thinking along the line of material needs should always be on the basis of “my needs and to those who are with me.” The money God sends to me is not only for me, but also for those with me. A brother once suggested that God would surely supply the needs of all our fellow workers, so we need not feel too concerned about them, especially as we are not a mission and have no financial obligations towards them. But our brother forgot that we are not only responsible for our own needs and the needs of our work, but in a spiritual way we, like Paul, are responsible also for those with us. Whether we are good fellow workers or not will be evidenced by the measure of our thoughtfulness for our brethren in the work.
Since we are not a mission, and have no man-made organization, no headquarters, no centralization of funds, and consequently no distributing center, how can the needs of all our fellow workers be supplied? This question has been repeatedly put to me by interested brethren. The answer is this: all needs will be met if each one realizes his threefold financial responsibility—first, in regard to his personal family and needs; second, in regard to the needs of his work; and third, in regard to the needs of his fellow laborers. We must not only look to God to supply our own wants and all those related to our work, but we must look to Him just as definitely to send us extra funds to enable us to have something to send to our associates in the work. Of course we have no official obligation towards them, but we cannot ignore our spiritual responsibility.
The requirements of workers vary, and the requirements of the work vary too, besides which, the power of prayer differs in different individuals, and the measure of faith differs also. It follows therefore that our income will not be the same; but every one of us should definitely exercise faith for the supply of sufficient funds to be able to distribute to the necessities of others. The amounts we receive and give may differ, but the same principle applies to us all. Working on such a basis, no headquarters is necessary; for each of us acts as a sort of headquarters and distributing center. Of course that does not mean we must send an equal share to all who are associated with us; that is a matter of individual guidance. We trust in the sovereignty and providence of God, and we leave it to Him to regulate the passing on of gifts so that none will have a surplus and none be left in want. Should God lead us to send money regularly to any particular worker, it would be well to send it through one brother this time and another next time, so that the giver will receive less attention from the receiver.
The principle of God’s government in relation to financial things is “he who gathered much had no excess, and he who gathered little had no lack” (2 Cor. 8:15). Anyone who has gathered much must be willing to have nothing over, for only then can he who has gathered little have no lack. Some of us have proved in experience that when we bear the burden for those who gather little, God sees to it that we gather much; but if we only think of our own needs, the utmost we can hope for is to gather little and have no lack. It is a privilege to be able to help your brethren in the work, and to be able to give away even the greater proportion of your income. Those who have only learned to take seldom receive; but those who have learned to give are always receiving and have always more to give. The more money you spend on others, the more your income will increase; the more you try to save, the more you will troubled by rust and thieves (Matt. 6:19-20).
We must not confine our giving to those immediately associated with us, but must remember workers in other parts and seek to minister to their needs. We must constantly keep the thought of other workers and their needs before the brethren among whom we labor, and encourage them to help them, never fearing that God will bless other workers more than us. We must leave no room for fear or jealousy. Do we really believe in the sovereignty of God? If so, we shall never fear that anything God has intended for us shall fail to reach us. The needs of Paul and his fellow workers were great, and though he only brought the needs of the saints and the elders before the churches, God looked after his needs and the needs of those with him.
If your work is to be conducted along lines well-pleasing to God, then it is absolutely essential that the sovereignty of God be a working factor in your experience, and no mere theory. When you know His sovereignty, then even if men seem to move around you at random and circumstances appear to whirl at the mercy of chance, you will still be confident in the assurance that God is ordering every detail of your way for His glory and for your good. The needs of others may be known to men, while none may know or even care about your wants, but you will have no anxiety if the sovereignty of God is a reality to you; for then you will see all those haphazard circumstances, and all those indifferent folk, and even the opposing hosts of evil, being silently harnessed to His will; and all those unrelated forces will become related as one to serve His purpose, and to serve the purposes of those whose will is one with His. Yes, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
So the question is not, Are our needs small or great? or, Are they known or unknown? but simply this, Are we in the will of God? Our faith may be tested, and our patience too, but if we are willing to leave things in God’s hands and quietly wait for Him, then we shall not fail to see a careful timing of events and an exquisite dovetailing of circumstances, and emerging from a meaningless maze we shall behold a perfect correspondence between our need and the supply.
(The Normal Christian Church Life, Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)