Monday, June 20, 2016

THERE AIN'T NO FREE LUNCH

FREE AS THE LORD PROVIDES

As we reach the end of this short, packed-full little letter, we find something that for the most part is hidden from our practice today—possibly even hidden from our understanding.



The FINAL final verse is what we would might call in letter writing “the complimentary close.”

It is the two verses prior that I want to speak to in this article, however, as I bring this series to a close.
Bring Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them. And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful. (Tit 3:13-14)
Apparently, Zenas and Apollos were itinerant ministers, and Paul seemed to have an idea of where they were and where they were headed.

He instructs Titus to make sure that they are able to continue their journey without having need of anything. That would essentially translate into something like “make sure they can easily afford to get to their next destination.”

It was common when I was coming up in the things of the Lord that the gospel was preached “without charge” at any level—travel expenses, literature, etc. (see 1 Cor. 9:18 in context). Everything was practiced from a “freely you have received, freely give” perspective. (Matt. 10:8) 

Even some of the popular musicians of the time practiced this for their concerts.
In 1979, after negotiating a release from his contract with Sparrow, Green initiated a new policy of refusing to charge money for concerts or albums. Keith and Melody mortgaged their home to privately finance Green's next album, So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt. The album, which featured a guest appearance by Bob Dylan, was offered through mail-order and at concerts for a price determined by the purchaser. By May 1982, Green had shipped out more than 200,000 units of his album – 61,000 for free. Subsequent albums included The Keith Green Collection (1981) and Songs for the Shepherd (1982).
When his music was carried by Christian bookstores, a second cassette was included free of charge for every cassette purchased to give away to a friend to help spread the Gospel.
Travelling ministers did not charge or have a ‘minimum’ honorarium requirement, but were willing to place their trust in the Lord to provide for their needs.

I travelled for 4 ½ years on this basis, taking my family with me as we lived in a travel trailer.

Some places I stopped, it looked as if our needs could’ve been met easily for the next three stops, yet we wouldn’t be given enough to make it to the next town, let alone our next destination.

Other places we would stop, look at the situation with the natural eye, and think, “Uh-oh;” but the offering would more than cover our immediate expenses.

These two differing scenarios were not necessarily the norm, but they served to teach me dependence on the Lord for my sustenance. For the most part during that time, God’s people knew, understood and practiced what the apostle is encouraging Titus to be aware of here.

Recently, I saw within my own local assembly on two separate occasions, how lacking is our understanding of this principle.
We had a visiting minister, one who surprised us and another whom we knew was coming. We received an offering for each, but we had to supplement the offering from the church’s general fund so as to not be embarrassed by what was given.
Times have changed, though I am not convinced the Word of God has.

Most ministers now require some sort of ‘guarantee’ if they are to come to your church or home group. If they are of the type, they will also have a box full of their latest publications in whatever form they are using. Those publications—books, cd’s, dvd’s, mp3’s—are available for a pre-determined fee.

Such a setup is now required in order for the minister to be able to continue to offer whatever it is the Lord has given them.

We have been so steeped in capitalism and the free-market economy that if someone offers something “free as the Lord provides,” the only word most folks will see is “FREE.” They will not even question if the Lord would use them to help defray any incurred costs “as the Lord provides” for the production of the materials.

The Bible is chock full of verses about how we are to be givers, full of liberality and generosity; and I am sorely tempted to delve into that here.

However, I will stick to the passage at hand.
Help those two men of God on their way so that they do not have to stop and beg along the way. (Tit. 3:13)Also, teach our people that they are to “maintain good works for necessary uses” (Tit. 3:14).
Could those ‘necessary uses’ be in any way connected to the previous injunction to help those ministers? I do not see any other possibility that could remain true to the scripture.

Regardless of what your particular church practices, you can make it a personal challenge to make sure that you “help them on their way,” and that you “maintain good works…so that you be not unfruitful.”


Try having a “God account” with you at all times—a stash of money that ONLY gets used when He directs. This can be for these travelling ministers, or for the travelling “angels” (Heb. 13:2) you may meet along the way of your day, or in any other way the Lord may direct as you step into the realm of generosity and liberality without seeking a reward. 

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