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The voice of God is like the grace of God. It cannot be purchased. The thought of human beings attempting to buy and sell God's grace -- and specifically to sell His spiritual food and healing for the desperate and hurting -- is absurd. How can one sell that which God Himself is giving freely to all? I suggest that it is a fearful thing to sell the anointing of the Holy Spirit which has been freely given by our loving God for the purpose of building up and nurturing His family!
To give ourselves a quick introduction to how God feels about buying/selling the things of God, let's take a quick look at what Peter said so emphatically to the man who offered money for the "power" to lay hands on people so they could receive the Holy Spirit. Peter said to the man...
One may ask, "Where is this kind of thing taking place in the world today?" I encourage us all to pause and look carefully at the economic activity that is currently taking place within Christian circles everywhere. Is money "paying for" the work of God? Are men paying to become the workers of God? This must not be. It is true that workers need to make a living. It is not true that they need to become "professional" Christians, paid (salaried) indefinitely to do God's work on our behalf. Rather than pay others to do God's work, perhaps SOME OF US OURSELVES are called to do His work and use the resources God has placed at our disposal to sustain OURSELVES while we do HIS work. Read on and I'll explain a bit more...
I believe we must re-think and un-learn much that we as Christians have come to know in historical Christendom (I make the distinction between historical Christendom and Scriptural Christianity). Scripture says, "What do you have that was not given to you?" If we have been given spiritual gifts, how can we then sell those to others around us? How can we justify paid professional Christians whose permanent and paid job is to "serve" God's grace to others? Where do we see that in Scripture? Did Jesus take a salary? Was Jesus paid my men to do what He did? Did Paul and others? No, they did not charge anyone for the good news of the Gospel, or the work of serving. If God begins to speak through someone, why must men pay to hear His Voice? And at what price? Shame on those who commercialize and seek gain from the sharing of spiritual truth and spiritual food that our loving Father gives freely to men through His Holy Spirit for the building up of the body of Jesus and His Church.
By the way, "serving" is sometimes referred to as "ministry" which has taken on a life, culture and money making profession of its own. In reality, the word "ministry" has no other meaning than "to serve". Jesus said that to be great in His Kingdom, one must serve others, being the servant of all. If someone is anointed by God to server, then they are fully qualified and empowered. The servant's experience and wisdom will grow in time.
THE LORD vs. THE WORKER vs. THE WORK
The worker is indeed worthy of his wages, but the WORK ITSELF is free to all. The Lord of the work, the worker of the Lord, and the work of the Lord are three distinct things.
(1) The Lord of the work
God is God. He is from everlasting to everlasting. God is unlike any other, He is Holy (separate), He is good, and what He desires "creates value" and "creates reality". God is Lord of all, meaning that He will have the last say in all things. God is the Lord of the work. God initiates work as Scripture says, "For He spoke and it was done, He commanded and it stood fast." God raises up workers as Scripture says, "Pray that the Lord of the harvest would raise up workers." God is the worker's Employer. As Employer, God pays His worker's wages (i.e. "the worker is worth his wages"). God's workers look to their Employer in expectation of wages.
(2) The Worker of the Lord
The worker of the Lord discerns the desires of God and by God's leading puts them into motion. The worker is motivated by value. The worker highly values the desires of God's heart. Having become deeply convinced of and motivated by the desires of God, the worker works. At any time the worker may be reassigned by God and thus must be in continual communication with God and must not assume that what God has done today God will do tomorrow. The worker of the Lord is not to expect, urge, demand, coax, coerce his "wages" to come from men. The worker's wages are provided by God Himself. When men give to other men it is called a "gift" (i.e. "God loves a cheerful giver") not a wage. God is always and ever the worker's Employer and provides the worker's wages. If God has called a worker to some particular work, the worker can look to God for provisioning of: (a) the worker's successful completion of the work, or (b) the worker's successful contribution toward some part of the work. The worker must not assume that, because he has been assigned to some task, he is meant to bring that task to completion or carry it on indefinitely. The worker has finite understanding and only God has complete understanding of the work He is about. The worker may be directed or redirected at any time. Another worker may complete a task that others were previously engaged in. Or the task may be "cancelled". A worker must not misunderstand the task at hand. Today's work may appear to be accomplishing long term goal "XYZ" when in reality, God may only want today's work to be done today, with no further work to be done on subsequent days. The work is dynamic and the workers must also be dynamic and fluid. The worker looks directly to his Employer for direction, purpose and provision. The worker of the Lord is commissioned by the Lord. A man cannot "decide" to become a worker of the Lord, or be "elected" by men to become a worker of the Lord. "The gifts and calling of God" are always and ever "of God".
(3) The Work of the Lord
The work of the Lord is what God is doing; the motion of God. The motion and movements of God fill His works with divine kinetic energy, emanating from the depths of God's desires. When God places value on something, it becomes valuable, and things begin to move in that direction. This is sometimes referred to as the "will" of God (e.g. "it is God's will that none should perish, but all should come to repentance"). The desires and values and works of God are "from", "through", and "to" God. He does not give His work away, it is always His work, and He has no subcontractors. He Himself is directing His work. For example, God is -- right now, this very minute -- providing the work of salvation freely to the world though His Son Jesus Christ. God is personally doing this through something He calls grace. Grace is something given freely -- not deserved or earned, and not of works lest anyone should boast. God has given this work freely to the world-- it is not being bought or sold by men. Since God's values and motives alone are pure and good, the work that emanates from Him alone is pure and good. And because man is not God and can never deserve the gifts and call of God, man can never PAY for the work of God. The work of God is FREE to all and never SOLD. It is already paid for.
Though we are to freely serve one another in the love and grace and mercy that God has shown to us personally, some have become like the servant in one of Jesus' parables who beat his fellow servants when his master went away... unwilling to show the very same mercy and forgiveness that his master had just (freely) shown him, requiring things of fellow servants that were not required of himself (see Matthew 24.45-51 -- note the word give in v.45, not sell).
[See also The Lord of the Work by Chip Brogden]
HOW ELSE WILL IT GET DONE?
God is provisioning His own work. God doesn't need earthly money to accomplish His purposes (Acts 17.25) and doesn't want us to give others the idea that He is looking for money (1 Timothy 6.5).
God is NOT looking for money. God is longing for "people" -- like you and me -- do draw near to Himself. The great longing that has been stirring in God heart for the ages is not THINGS (2 Corinthians 12.14). Jesus' food was to do the will of His Father. He wasn't too worried about His next meal (i.e. "take no thought for your life, what you will eat or what you will wear" Matthew 6). Jesus wasn't on any man's payroll, and at one point He even told His disciples not to take any money with them when He sent them out to do His work. But WAIT... how could they have done anything without money!? Jesus was training them to look to God for everything.
Paul said, "If we have food and clothes, we will be content with those." Other things from Scripture come to mind...
ISN'T THIS A BIT EXTREME?
If by extreme, you mean "not normal", then yes, looking around at current practices established among men, I suppose this way of thinking is a bit not-normal.
But consider these questions:
Is it normal in God's eyes? Did Jesus demonstrate it? Is Scripture sending out a clear and consistent message? Does it make sense when most of the billions on earth live in poverty and could never afford the "teaching materials" of modern Christendom? If we gave stuff away, wouldn't it change the way everything is done?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.
Since everyone is buying/selling, isn't there safety in numbers? Shouldn't we try to maintain consistency with the way Christians have long operated throughout human history? Would the Christian publishing industry -- as we know it -- be able to survive without buying/selling? Wouldn't this set God's work back about 2000 years? Isn't this just a dance of semantics?
No, no, no, no, no.
Have you purchased a good book or music CD that has blessed you? Have you paid money toward the "salary" of a Professional Christian who has blessed your life? Thank God for communicating His love in any way He can!
God is reaching into human history to call men OUT of this "evil age", as Jesus called it, to draw men to Himself and His Way. Once called out, men must look to God for pattern, precedent, and planning, provision. We cannot blindly assume that "as we have always done, we should always do". We should continue only as God communicates, demonstrates, and leads. Who paid Jesus' salary or Stephen's salary, or Paul's salary or Epaphroditus? These men were not ON-SALARY. They trusted God to provide for them (i.e. "In Him we live and move and have our being") and THEY WORKED! In Paul's case, he was a tent maker who worked to pay his own way and refused to demand money from fellow believers lest any would be turned away. The Scripture says, "if a man will not work he will not eat".
Paul was, however, quite happy to voluntarily join together with fellow believers who themselves were eager to volunteer to GIVE gifts to poor believers of their time. Give; not charge. Jesus and his followers trusted the Holy Spirit to provide for their personal well-being, and to open doors for the awesome Message they had been made stewards of and had become. But they did not enter a city, set up shop, and sell or "peddle" the good news of Jesus Christ or the gifts of God at a price. They were not traveling salesmen or stationary salesmen. How many times did Jesus ask the large crowds for an "offering"? He never did. Never. How many books did Jesus write and sell to the impoverished and needy of His time? (2 Corinthians 12.14). None. How many songs and worship CDs did the disciples of Jesus copyright, sell, and tightly control through copyright litigation? None! Did Paul & Silas have to pay fees for Copyright Clearance when they taught the prisoners their sweet hymns during those dark nights in jail? Oh no, you can be sure those songs were freely given!
Fellow Christians, we must keep our hearts tender before God, always listening to hear what the Spirit is both TEACHING and UNTEACHING those who have ears to hear. (2 Chronicles 16.9)
I plead with you to hear what God is saying this moment. Come Lord Jesus for Your own. Come to all who would hear Your precious Voice -- though they are penniless. Pour out Your Holy Spirit on ALL flesh -- though they may live in an economically depressed part of the world and will never know the luxury of electricity or running water in their own home. Grant the gift of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ -- and repentance -- to the billions that need You so much, for whom You gave Your earthly body in agony on the cross -- though they cannot afford books or radios or TVs or MP3 players! Thank you Father for sending Your Son Jesus as Lamb of God and Savior of the world! Come into the hearts of all who will make a tender home for You, regardless of where they live or how much money they will ever possess in this short life. Accept the praise and thanksgiving of the poor and needy, without regard to status or stature, outward appearance or personal history. Father, I ask in Jesus Name. The Spirit and the Bride say, Come Lord Jesus!
"Though things are done by men for centuries, do not consider that God's justification of the things men do."
"For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God." Luke 16.15