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Work, Wages, Worth

Where does your income come from?Do you get paid, financially, as much as you feel you are worth? How do you receive your income? I have a stimulator friend who has the gift of research (in scripture that gift is called ‘teaching’ and includes the aspect of research). He is also a bold one, willing to radically change his life style if his research produces facts that run contrary to his or societies assumptions. He’s been causing me to investigate the boundaries of my theology and traditions particularly in relation to the ‘how to’ of financial reimbursement, a subject otherwise known as ‘salary and wages’.

Let me explain. He’s a self-employed businessman. This ‘wages’ part of his study started when he became an ardent subscriber to the lifestyle that issues out of the verse “priesthood of Believers” (1 Pet 2:4-10). I don’t know if you believe all the implications of that theological position or not. It is something that gets lip service but little exercise. It is a belief that all Believers are ministers, with no division between clergy and laity. Actually laity is done away with and all Believers are clergy.

So, when my businessman researcher eliminated the divisional status of clergy and laity, he also had to deal with the divisional categorizations of ‘secular’ and ‘ministry’. Secular is defined as: ‘of the world, not spiritual’. As ‘clergy’ he began to look at his business as ministry rather than a secular occupation. He began to treat it as a gift from God to enable him to bridge into the secular world.

We’ve now come to the good part of his journey …

When my mentor put God as his boss in this ministry business, he faced another issue: that of establishing his income. Since God was his Master (he’d already established that at salvation) He, by a natural course of thinking, was also now his Employer.  Where should he expect his income to come from? Of course, it had to be from God. (That actually wasn’t a very hard fact for him to accept because he had previously spent several years overseas as a ‘missio’. The concept of ‘living by faith’ wasn’t new to him.) But how does a businessman, turned employee, get his pay cheques? How does he determine his worth; and his wages?

This was a whole new paradigm that most of his customers had no conception of! He went around to each one and explained that from now on he would not be issuing any charges for his services. He informed them that he would continue with the services he specialized in and they could reimburse him financially, if they so desired, purely on a voluntary donation basis. In other words they would have to depend on God’s stimulation to pay and how much to pay! Imagine that! He lost a few clients because they couldn’t comprehend his theology, but he is still in business several years later. He’s had an interesting journey of taking God at His Word, applying the principles in practical methodology AND sharing his lesson with others.

You may now be asking: why is John writing all about this?

Well, you see, for the past 35 years Laura and I have lived like my friend now runs his business. It is the accepted methodology for labourers such as us. We have existed purely on unsolicited donations as God prompts individuals to give. (Some people have told us that they like supporting us because we don’t ask for money! Others have confessed that they haven’t given because we don’t remind them by asking!)

MY question is: why can Believers who are plumbers or doctors or clerks or labourers solicit specified wages for their services, but Bible teachers, like ourselves, are expected to live on donations? It seems to me that we are both believers; we are both called to minister, and we both have the same Employer … why are there two interpretations / standards for the practical outworking of each of our faiths and incomes? Should Laura and I come to you asking for donations / wages so we can go to unreached people? Or go on strike if you don’t give? Or should salaried people stop collecting wages and live on donations?

I’m scouting through the dynamics of this concept and looking for more scriptural basis for one person charging for their services, while another is expected to depend on donations. And probably also asking: Would you have the courage to look only to God for your income? Do you have any ideas to contribute?

Your regular stirrer! … john (Heb 10:24)


(original e-newsletter post –  Feb 5, 2012)


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