Work or Ministry?

"If you're really a committed Christian then what you need to do is quit your job and go to seminary so you can enter the ministry." This is the kind of message or impression Christians generally receive from institutional church leadership, being the primary spokesmen for the Christian community. But what is seldom if ever heard is the word of Christ which Paul preached on this subject. For what he advocated was not a matter of an EITHER/OR decision, but rather BOTH/AND.

In Acts 6, The apostles had an either/or, clergy/layman, concept of ministry. The twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, "It is not appropriate for us to forsake the word of God and serve tables." In this they departed from Jesus' example of washing their feet. Furthermore the word "appropriate" here is a Greek <701> word means pleasing. Notice its usage elsewhere:

Joh 8:29  "And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please <701> Him."

1Jo 3:22  And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing <701> in His sight.

This is very significant and so we must ask as to whom they feel it is not pleasing to. For they could mean that they just didn't feel like doing it. In which case it was not pleasing to them. But if they meant that it was not pleasing to God, that's quite another matter. Is BOTH serving tables AND preaching the Word - that is a BOTH/AND ministry - not pleasing to God? Let's see what happens:

They assigned other men - Stephen and Philip - to the menial task of "serving tables", as they referred to it in a derogatory, contemptuous fashion, not unlike the attitude of many clergy today towards the work laymen perform.

But as we read on we find something interesting happens. Sudden the book of acts departs from talking about the apostles and focusses on these lay Christians. Somehow these men - Stephen and Philip - managed to BOTH wait on tables AND preach the word. And it's quite difficult to argue from the context that they were not pleasing God in doing so. In fact in the case of Stephen, who became the first Christian martyr, Jesus stood up from his throne to honor him just before he died. Apparently he pleased Christ with his BOTH/AND minstry.

Now let's also consider something more explicit. For the apostle Paul spoke explicity and extensively on this subject and not only his word, which is the Word of the Lord, but also his example instructs us in this matter.

These are briefly some of his points advocating a BOTH/AND type of ministry, which he practiced.

1. Work provides a means to meet people's material needs

Tit 3:14  Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.

Acts 20: 34,35  You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"

2. Work provides the resources to offer the gospel free of charge so as to help prevent it from being hindered
1Cor 9:12,18 "If others have this right of support from you, shouldn't we have it all the more? But we did not use this right. On the contrary, we put up with anything rather than hinder the gospel of Christ. ... What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it."
3. Work keeps us from being idle and as such helps prevent us from being an unnecessary burden to the Christian community. And gains us respect of outsiders.

"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody." 1Th 4:11,12

4. Freeing ourselves up from being an unnecessary burden is consistent with the model Paul intended us to follow.

2Thess 3: 6-10 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.   For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you,  nor did we eat anyone's food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.  We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow.  For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."
5. Earning a living through secular employment rather than getting paid for ministry by one's constituents is the mature thing to do
2Cor 12:14  Now I am ready to visit you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children.

Giving up Personal Rights to Serve Better

Now just from a practical standpoint - which in fact is the primary viewpoint from which we see Paul coming from on this subject - it is more blessed to give than it is to receive. By getting paid for ministry you are directing some resources away from the needy. Generally if you have ten Christians who tithe, they can pay the salary of one full time Christian worker. Their tithes could have been used to support third World Christians, but instead the resources are directed elsewhere. Now if that full time Christian worker decides to do a BOTH/AND ministry instead he's freed up essentially eleven people. By giving up his personal rights to get paid for ministry, 110% worth of tithes can be directed to the needy, which is alot in the third World.
"They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the Jews.  All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do." Galatians 2:9,10

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