Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 10:8d “. . .freely ye have received, freely give.”
For their first short-term mission trip, Jesus gave the Twelve two assignments: preach and minister. They were to speak to the lost about spiritual needs, and tend to physical, emotional, and social needs. In whatever ways lost people hurt, believers are to relieve the pain “freely.” This has three implications for us.
First, to herald and help freely means to do so without grudging. Like the Twelve, we received our salvation and call to serve others without deserving it.
Thus, we should preach and minister without hesitation. There’s no need to waste precious time evaluating people, seeking to determine their level of worthiness or unworthiness. The verdict is already in and is as bad as we feared. People are desperately sinful beings who do not deserve, and can never earn, God’s favor.
Our job is to reach out and touch them anyway. Away with a haughty judgmental spirit. Without hesitation, go and give. Freely dispense God’s blessings in every direction to every person. In the parable of the sower (MT 13:3ff), the sower did not scrimp on seed. He cast it everywhere, regardless of the quality of the soil. We have plenty of seed. Let’s sow it abundantly, freely, without grudging.
Second, to tell and touch freely means to do so without charge. The Twelve were not to make money off the lost sheep of Israel. Prechristians must see that life’s highest blessings come as free gifts from God, not as purchases from people.
Our message and ministries are good news because offered free of charge. No one is too poor to receive them, for no one has to buy them or pay to hear. If we set a price on what we say and do, many potential recipients would be left out. As trophies of grace, let’s dispense grace. God’s favor is free. Keep it that way.
Don’t barter our message or ministries by making unbelievers pay to hear or receive them. Our care is care for the lost, not care for us. Don’t seek the highest bidder. When we look toward prechristians, Isaiah 55:1 should thunder within us, “Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.”
Our Master’s warning here was not wasted breath. The Twelve could have abused their powers, and raked in huge sums of money by performing miracles.
We humans are depraved, ever tempted to traffic in holy things. Any who have power to heal can become rich. Who would not buy a sure cure at any cost?
Since they received their powers without paying for them, the Twelve were to dispense their powers without being paid for them. The same holds true for us. Our prototype for ministry must be the magnanimous generosity of God toward us. How can we even consider selling to prechristians what we received for nothing?
Third, to preach and minister freely means to do so without hoarding. Nothing we have been given is meant for us to stockpile. Everything we receive is meant to be passed on, shared with others. We who have the message are to be rivers of bounty, conduits in which good news is conveyed to those in need. Let’s be channels of blessing, stewards of a gift passing through us on its way to others.
In many, the Gospel somewhere along the way stops being good news. It sours into stagnant news if we quit sharing it and begin hoarding it. This is criminal. Spurgeon, when asked if the heathen who never hear the Gospel will possibly be saved when they die, replied, “The question should be, if we continue to disobey God and ignore the claims of the heathen, will it be possible for us to be saved?” How can we who freely inherit the gift of salvation keep it to ourselves?
Matt. 10:9 “Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses,”
“Purses” were money-belts. The sash worn around the waist to keep a robe tight contained folds for holding money. Gold, silver, and brass refer to currency, coins of varying value. The Twelve, before leaving on their first short term mission trip, were forbidden to take time to procure extra money. It wouldn’t be needed. They were to survive on unsolicited hospitality folks would provide them.
Matt. 10:10a “Nor scrip for your journey,. . .”
The “scrip” was a small travel bag used for supplies and food. For this first short term mission trip, the Twelve were not allowed to take a sack lunch. Bag-less, they couldn’t even look like they wanted to carry away the people’s treasures.
Matt. 10:10b “. . .neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves:. . .”
Jesus forbade them to pack a change of clothes. They were to depart, taking only what they had on them at the moment. The urgency of their task allowed no delay. Jesus in essence said, “Take what you have and hurry to do My mission.”
Our Master later lightened the letter of the law with regard to our traveling restrictions, but their spirit and the lessons they taught have never abated. In this initial missions salvo, Jesus laid down important principles that apply for all time.
By commanding the Twelve to be outwardly unburdened, Jesus showed them the best treasures with which they were laden are inward. As we go, travel light. Take only what is strictly necessary. Keep encumbrances to a minimum.
Stuff easily distracts us. It truly is baggage, in the negative connotation of that word. We often need to shake off the things of this world, and be reminded the ultimate blessings of God we carry are who we are and what we have inside us.
By commanding the Twelve to go as they were, Jesus forced them to look no richer than the people they were sent to. Middle class USA Christians, hear ye. Whether going across town or over the ocean to help the poor, leave jewelry and fancy clothes at home. (I would say forego make-up and hair-spray, but we don’t want to scare people.) Often the message our fineries convey speaks so loudly that the less fortunate can’t hear the message we came to tell. To truly help folks, and not add to their feeling of loss and misery, we must meet them where they are. We are trying to win them. Let’s not turn them off by a gaudy display of wealth.
By commanding the Twelve to go immediately, Jesus said His business requires haste. Harsh rules of travel may be slackened, but urgency for the task ever abides. Be ready to drive across town or fly around the globe at the drop of a hat.
If God were to call us to go right now, many could not obey. We need to remove hindrances–credit card debt, not having a passport, no margin in life, a calendar out of control. See here the kindness of God. The things we need to do to be ready to go on mission are the same things we need to do to be happy in life.
I marvel at the creative excuses people fabricate to avoid short term mission trips. Recently I tried to convince three people to go on mission. They all immediately played the trump card of not having enough money. I told them some of our Missouri trips can be taken almost free, and even an international trip can be taken annually by setting aside eighty dollars a month. With the money excuse disarmed, one used as her next excuse for not going, “I have to have air conditioning” (not for health reasons, by the way). The second said, “I’m afraid I would get a sunburn.” The third said, “I have bathroom concerns.” I wish I would have thought fast enough to offer them a trip with clean toilets in air conditioned bathrooms having no windows for sunlight to shine through. I was again reminded, if people don’t want to go, one excuse is as good as another. No concern about creature comforts should ever prevent our willingness to go forth, carrying the Gospel.
Our current text has played a significant role in Church history. In times of worldly excess among believers, certain ones have resorted to these verses to try to restore material sanity. These tight regulations were adopted by the followers of Francis of Assisi and John Wycliffe. We also saw them fleshed out in Mother Teresa. We Southern Baptists saw them in our own beloved missionary to China, Lottie Moon, who starved to death, refusing to eat when people she ministered to had nothing to eat due to famine. All her personal possessions were shipped home in a small chest. When her family opened it, they wept, saddened to see how little she had accumulated in a lifetime. Do not think her life was for naught. Someone rightly noted, “Nothing creates admiration so much as a simple, contented life.”