ATTITUDE TOWARD THE GENTILES
The principle is “taking nothing from the Gentiles” (3 John 7). We dare not receive any support for the work of God from those who do not know Him. If God has not accepted a man, He can never accept his money, and only what God can accept dare His servants accept. If anyone engaged in God’s service accepts money for the furtherance of the work from an unsaved man, then he virtually places God under obligation to sinners. Let us never receive money on God’s behalf which would enable a sinner before the great white throne to charge God with having taken advantage of him. However, this does not mean that we need reject even the hospitality of the Gentiles. If in the providence of God we visit some Miletus, then we should do well to accept the hospitality of a friendly Publius. But this must be definitely under the ordering of God, not as a matter of regular occurrence. Our principle should always be to take nothing from the Gentiles. When we begin to use their money, our work will have fallen into a sorry state.
THE CHURCHES AND THE WORKERS
Should the churches provide for the needs of the workers? God’s Word supplies a clear answer to our question. We see there that the money collected by the churches is used in three different ways:
(1)For the poor saints. The Scriptures pay much attention to the needy children of God, and a large proportion of the local offerings goes to relieve their distress.
(2)For the elders of the local church. Circumstances may make it necessary for elders to give up their ordinary business in order to devote themselves wholly to the interests of the church, in which case the local brothers should realize their financial responsibility toward them, and seek at least in some measure to make up to them what they have sacrificed for the church’s sake (1 Tim. 5:17-18).
(3)For the working brothers and the work. This must be regarded as an offering to God, not as a salary paid to them.
“I robbed other churches, taking wages for the ministry to you. And when I was present with you and lacked, I was not a burden to anyone; for the brothers who came from Macedonia filled up my lack, and in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and will keep myself” (2 Cor. 11:8-9). “And you yourselves also know, Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I went out from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the account of giving and receiving except you only.…But I have received in full all things and abound; I have been filled, receiving from Epaphroditus the things from you, a sweet-smelling savor, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:15, 18). Where the members of a church are spiritual, they cannot but care for the interests of the Lord in places beyond their own locality, and the love of the Lord will constrain them to give both to the workers and to the work. If the members are unspiritual they will probably reason that, since the church and the work are separate, they have no obligations towards the work, and it is enough that they bear responsibility for the church. But those members who are spiritual will always be alive to their responsibility in regard to the work and the workers, and will never seek to evade it on the ground that they have no official responsibility. They will count it both a duty and a delight to further the Lord’s interests by their gifts.
While in the Epistles the churches are encouraged to give to the poor saints and also to the local elders and teachers, there is no mention made of encouraging the giving to the apostles, or to the work in which they were engaged. The reason is obvious. The writers of the Epistles were themselves apostles; therefore, it would not have been fitting for them to invite gifts for themselves or their work, nor had they any liberty from the Lord to do so. It was quite in order for them to encourage the believers to give to others, but for the meeting of their own needs and the needs of the work they could only look to God. As they cared for the needs of others, He did not overlook their needs, and He Himself moved the hearts of His saints to supply all that was required. So the workers of today should do as the apostles did of old, concern themselves only with the needs of others, and God will make all their concerns His.
(The Normal Christian Church Life, Chapter 8, by Watchman Nee)