Don’t Do Me Any Favors

When you’re a carpenter, people pay you to build things out of wood. Mechanics earn their living by fixing cars. Authors are paid for writing books, lawyers bill for their counsel, and teachers are compensated for teaching.

What is a missionary paid for? There’s really no tangible service being performed, and we don’t produce any material goods. The people who pay my salary will likely never even meet me, much less benefit from my services. Nevertheless, they give.

I’m humbled by the sacrifice and generosity of those who support us on the field. But there’s something strange about missions offerings. Many supporters talk about missions money as though by giving, they’re doing me a favor. I’ve had a number of conversations with church leaders who talk about their missions offerings like they were a big gift to me, their charity case. Again, I am grateful for the sacrifice of those who give, but money given to missions is supposed to be given to God.

Thanks. Really. But don’t do me any favors. If God called me to the field, He will provide everything needed to keep me here. Since He doesn’t need your money, I don’t either.

People support missions for lots of different reasons. Many feel some sense of obligation. Some give to satiate their guilt. Others give as an act of worship. The pious give out of pity and duty. I’m sure certain people feel led by God to send their money, and it’s obvious (to me) that most give out of their own kindness and generosity.

If giving money to support missions keeps you from actually being involved personally in what God is doing around the world, you should keep your money.

5 thoughts on “Don’t Do Me Any Favors

  1. This is my first time on this site and while I agree that any giving should be given as unto the Lord, I think it is interesting that you are coming across as bitter.

    I hope you don’t take offense at this, but I don’t see the benefit, spiritually or ministerially to slap people who are giving in the face. Perhaps they don’t understand the proper attitude they should have in giving. No doubt, as is the case with most Americans, they don’t understand the true concept of missions and how they are to be just as involved as we are.

    I am grateful for the times when I am able to share with my brothers and sisters in Christ that it is not to me that they are giving but to God. Furthermore they are partnering with me in God’s ministry. The explanation is sorely needed and an encouragement for many who wish they could be a part of a ministry in a more significant way than simply a “donor.”

    Once again, I don’t know you but I stumbled on your blog and was motivated to write. In any case, God bless you and may He grow your ministry!

  2. Manny,
    Thank you for your comment. I appreciate your tone, and I think you’re right. I suppose I am bitter. I find it extremely frustrating that missions has become an afterthought and a tax write-off for Christians.

    But your point is a good one. What good does it do to complain?

    My motivation with this post was to honestly express the frustration I feel. I want people to know that they shouldn’t be giving money to me or to an organization, but to God. I also want to have some integrity in terms of what money I “accept” as support.

    Sometimes my attempts at honesty cross the line into cynicism and negativity. I’m sorry for that. Please forgive my carelessness with words.

  3. Ernest,

    Clearly, it’s not a good thing for any church to make you feel like a charity case, as if they take great pride in helping you from a condescending attitude. However, I don’t think it’s a negative thing for people to give to your support out of a desire to see that your needs are met.

    Just as missionaries can find their primary motivation in different things (obedience, compassion for those who hurt, God’s renown, eternal separation for those without Christ, etc), donors can be motivated by different things. Some will be motivated out of a desire to simply worship God through the gift; others will be motivated to give because of the needs of lost people and unreached groups; others will give because they want to ensure the needs of missionaries are met.

    That said, I do respect your desire to teach believers to give out of a right motive. And I always love the openness with which you write.

  4. Ernest,
    Just a thought here, but when the Israelites left Egypt the Egyptians more or less paid them to go! Later all that silver & gold jewelry was used in the building of the items for the tabernacle.
    God provides and how He accomplishes that is up to Him.

    I do think it is part of our role to “teach” about missions, but we can’t be responsible for whether or not they “get it.” Each person has to increase their faith as they go through the journey of life. It’s easy to be tempted to be discouraged when the folks back home aren’t on the same page. They may be on the “right” page for them and I think at times we underestimate their intentions. I think that many do give to God for missions because they are genuine in their desire to see all the nations worship together.

    We all have different roles and giftings. Giving just may be their thing, and isn’t it okay if that’s their only thing. It’s up to the Spirit to pass out the gifting. Honestly, I’m a little OT and I pray for blessing of America and that the economy will turn around and that SB will continue to give generously to missions. Every day it is costing us more and more to be here, it is seriously starting to hurt. And I pray that they will continue to feel a burden for the nations. I’m praying that they won’t forget that we are here with a God-given task to do.

    Hang in there….I like your updated website, very nice.


  5. Stepchild,

    On this side of the ocean your words are greatly needed. I often wonder if Jeremiah or Isaiah were construed as bitter each time they spoke with a shrill voice. In our age of worrying about others’ sensibilities we have lost the prophetic voice. The late Leslie Newbigin was such a voice. After a lifetime on the “mission field” he sought to speak into the Western situation in a way to grab attention and note the ways in which we ourselves are in need of mission. With all due respect to one of your other commenters, if we have gone so long being taught one thing about missions (as you describe it) we are definitely in need of God raising up Ernests to teach us mission belongs to the church, not to an individual or to a denomination. Consider you point well taken here.

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