Did Christ Really Instruct Us to Go With Nothing?
And what model does that leave us for going?
Christ was quite clear and gave specific details on how the disciples were to go out. Basically, only take what is on your back and definitely do not take missionary funds with you. In Matthew 10:9-10 (also repeated in Mark 6, Luke 9, and Luke 10) Jesus says "Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep."
This is indeed are very interesting instructions based on the current accepted model of sending out the disciples to the mission field. Perhaps we make exceptions because we are going for a longer time, have children, need a car, etc. However, further on in the chapter in v. 11 and repeated in each of the four instances mentioned above, Christ gives the mechanism of how we are to be able to go with basically nothing: "Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave". The reason is explained in verse 10 where it says that the "worker is worth his keep". This instruction is harder to avoid. It can not be explained away by our duration of stay, if we have family or not, or whatever other need we might justify in having. The people of the place where God is sending us are to have the privilege, be "worthy" of says Scripture, of taking this responsibility. When we go with our own resources we quite literally are robbing the people of this ability to enter into partnership with God's calling in our lives. Our excuses of personal discomfort, or of not wanting to be a bother to others, prohibit us from living out this Scripture.
But why did Jesus send us out with nothing? What might have been some of the practical reasons for these instructions? Perhaps if we can understand conceptually the logic behind these reasons they might inspire us to change.
Here is a quick list:
1. By going with nothing we are living by faith and the reason for going is front and center: dependency upon God and God alone. God knows our incredible capacity to fall into idolatry and feed the desires and passions of our flesh. We often live with these "conditions" for serving Him. For example, I can go anywhere but I at least need running water. Or is it a flush toilet? Or is it my personal space? Or is it wifi? The list goes on. Our consumption and socio-economic status and comfort is quite literally the reason we can not follow these simple instructions.
2. By going with nothing we are inviting others into the ministry. Our task is to find a "worthy person" to receive us. If they receive us then they are immediately invested in our ministry. Physically (space in the house), financially (they have to feed you), emotionally (loss of privacy), socially (what do they say to their neighbors?), politically (read versus 17-20 in Matthew 10), and thus as a consequence spiritually! It means you get an automatic co-laborer in the ministry! By renting our own space and providing our own food we miss out on all of this.
3. The model is based around discipleship. Our "need" creates a relationship that inspires locals to be a part of the ministry from day one.
4. It is focused on resources that only God can provide and a mission that only He can do. In verse 8 Jesus sends us out with the instructions to proclaim that "‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give." Perhaps with modern medicine we can heal the sick or even cleanse the lepers. However, certainly only He can raise the dead. And certainly only He can drive out the demons. Thus when we proclaim that the Kingdom has come near we do not erroneously proclaim a new economic or political kingdom of our own. May it only be His!
5. It is reproducible. Anyone can go without anything. No longer are we bound by economic necessity or lack of resources. This is great news for the emerging Church, which is not the majority Church, in the developing World. You can go. Today! This is also great news for the North and Western Church. You are no longer bound by your personal list of personal conditions to participate in missions. We are free!
Can you think of any more reasons why Jesus in His wisdom asks us to go with nothing?