Summary: What about ministry and money? Should a man make his living from the ministry? What did Jesus say about it? Today, we will discuss this at length.
I can just imagine the disciples sitting forward, anxiously waiting for Jesus to finish speaking. He’s just given them power and authority that they’ve only seen; that they’ve only been witness to - they’re anxious to get started. Jesus wants to make sure that they’re prepared before they go out on their own.
Jesus has already told these men what they are to say and what they are to do: proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons. Now He’s going to tell them how to do it; not the technique but the attitude. He begins by saying, "Freely you have received; freely give (8b).”
As a rabbi Jesus was forbidden by tradition from receiving money for teaching. The disciples had not paid they were not to expect payment either. From the miracles they were going to perform, from the teaching they were going to do, or the acts of kindness the report to share. Just as Jesus had given freely to them they were to give freely to all they came in contact with he’d set the example-they were follow it.
The teaching of the Word, the spreading of the kingdom, are not to be business ventures. The teaching of the Word, the spreading of the kingdom, are to be gifts not commodities. So how are they to be supported? How are they to eat and live? He goes on; "acquire no gold nor silver and copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics nor sandals nor a staff, for the worker is worthy of his support.”
Jesus is telling them they are to walk by faith. He will supply all their needs, and He will do so at the hand of those who will receive the gospel. Much of what passes for ministry today isn’t really ministry at all; it’s big business. The same was true in Jesus’ day. It was not uncommon to see someone with a bag at their feet while they were giving some kind of elucidation about the way of the world, the way of philosophy, the way of wisdom, some word of knowledge and expecting people to pay for it. The disciples were not even to take that kind of bag with them. But not only were they to do things differently, they were also to look different than the false teachers, the ones who were only after promoting themselves.
Think about this for a minute: You’re being sent out onto the mission field nothing but the clothes on your back and you are to take nothing with which to buy more clothes or even to buy food with you. How do you feel? Nervous? Scared? Intimidated? Not at all sure you want to be part of this little enterprise after all?
Jesus ends this part of his instructions with this phrase, “the worker is worthy of his support.” In other parts of the Word, 1 Corinthians 9:14, and 1 Timothy 5:18, for example, Paul reinforces this teaching with statements like: “So also the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel,” and, “For the Scripture says, ‘YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,’ and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’" The statement in 1 Corinthians literally means that Jesus has directed that those who proclaim/preach/teach the gospel are to ‘live their living” from the gospel. This is where Jesus Himself instituted the practice of full-time Christian ministry.
There is a big ‘however’ here. Jesus first said that they were to give what they had to give freely. But then He turns around and says that they are to receive adequate support for their work. How do we reconcile this seeming contradiction? We look at the heart behind the message. Jesus first tells them to give freely and to not even take up time preparing to travel. They are to just “go”, trusting in the Providence of God to provide all of their needs as they need them, even their basic day-to-day sustenance. He tells them that, as His representatives, they are “worthy of [support]”. The inference is, of course, that the people of God, sensitive to the mind and heart of God and to His Spirit, will realize who it is that these men represent and, as His representatives, are worthy of what they would give to God Himself.
I need to make a couple of remarks here to clear up some confusion that has arisen from time to time over seeming discrepancies between Matthew’s account here and Mark’s account in Mark 6:8-11. Luke’s account of this commissioning in Luke 9:3-5 very much matches Matthew’s account.
In the version recorded in Mark, Jesus is reported to have said, “and He instructed them that they should take nothing for their journey, except a mere staff – no bread, no bag, no money in their belt but to wear sandals; and He added, ‘Do not put on two tunics (6:8-9).’" This is simple to resolve if we consider that some of the disciples had staffs at the time, others did not – they were no to procure any if they were without. He told them in Matthew’s account not to acquire these things. In Mark’s account, it is simply a matter of a difference in emphasis and phrasing.