Freely You Have Received – Freely You Are to Give
By Your servant, Dan Baxley
What is the truth about this business of receiving or not receiving money in exchange for information about the Bible or the truths taught from the Bible? After all, a price cannot be placed on the truth, right? But wait a minute, is it right to use scripture as a marketing tool in order to influence the sheep into thinking a preacher or group is much more righteous than another because they do not ask for donations, because they advertise everything they teach is free?
The often quoted verses to presenting their righteous nature does cause many to drop their guard, especially after receiving some of the free material and there is no request for do-ray-me, mullah, coin, bill, money. You will, in most cases, however, receive small cards in the mail offering more free material by just sending the request card in, oh, and a small place to enter the amount you wish to free give. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with this, it is, however, a marketing ploy and it with this I take issue. It is a type of deception that is used and has been used very successfully by various religious groups.
The World Wide Church of God (now defunct) was the main originator of this technique among religious groups, so it is no surprise that the founder of that once thriving (fringe) religious group, was an advertising guru of sorts, or at least billed himself as such. He used and applied his marketing skills to build a large and loyal group numbering around 150,000, religiously tithe paying members, most all brought in under the guise of receiving freely and soon they ended up giving free themselves to the cause of the Church.
Let me say again, I am not opposed and do not believe it is wrong to offer something or anything for free just as it is not wrong for as one sent out to preach the Gospel to receive support for his work. What I have a problem with is “motive”. This type of marketing, giving away material, is perfectly alright but as a righteous position and using scripture to prove this when it is not so, is then, totally wrong -- freely given so give freely? Fine, but too many use this to gain the trust and eventually prove that old saying, “nothing is free in this world”. So, I will stick my neck out and call those using this ploy, religious bigots, self-righteous Pharisees, for not telling you up front they hope you will join them in freely giving to others and stop using scripture to prove they are right, making everyone else wrong, and the real purpose is to build some kind of religious empire on your dime. All too many works are based on “greed”.
Let’s take a look at what the bible really says. We will take a look at the Scriptures used to support their teaching of “freely giving”.
(Mat 10:8-9) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, KJV
The NIV says: (Mat 10:9-10) Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.
From this they remind you that our Savior is giving instructions to His disciples to give for free what has been given to them but few quote the rest of the verse -- "Provice neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in you purse" -- opps, seems our Lord is actually saying you give freely of the Spirit and not to fill your purse, or wallet with money -- and more -- no extra cloths or shoes either. WHY? The workers in the Gospel will be provided for, they will earn their keep, so to speak, their needs will be met along the way. Who demonstrates this kind of faith in following our Lord's instructions?
This all sounds good, right? Follow what our Lord instructed His followers, right? Remember that little thing called “context”? And who uses this instruction and refuses to take money for a trip, relying, not so much on the donations of others but the support of our Lord. He will provide what you need and when we see this we also see how simple it is, but how hard it is, as well, to believe this. Many wanting to do something will begin by going in debt and then begging for money or loans, contrary to this teaching. Also, a further teaching, within the context -- Let’s bounce back a few verses –
(Mat 10:5) These twelve YaHshua sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter you not:
Maybe it is just me, but doesn’t this sound like our Savior, YaHshua, is telling His disciples not to go to the Gentiles? The next verse says to go only to the House of Israel. If we follow the teachers of this principle to freely give then we should also follow the principle of not going to the Gentiles with our message. This happens all too often, the picking and choosing of our Lord’s instructions. You cannot use these verses out of context and if you stay within the context you will see the whole picture and understand this was a particular event, meant just for the House of Israel, the Jews and not meant to be used against other brothers and sisters of the Faith.
We do not need to make this a long a drawn out study, because the truth is readily available and the understanding plain. We go to Paul and we are given, even corrected, in our understanding of what our attitude should be and seeing the truth of how the Apostles of YaHshua later conducted themselves in “going to the Gentiles”, as well as the people of Israel, and even the Samaritans. Paul, I believe, speaks for all of them, as well as any to follow them in the way of preaching the Gospel. Let’s keep it in context –
(1Co 9:1) Am I (Paul) not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen YaHshua the Christ our Lord? Are not you my work in the Lord? (Paul speaking to the Corinthians)
Paul is stating what is, or should be, obvious concerning the rights of all the Apostles. AS you read through the verse following this one, we see Paul questioning the believers concerning him and Barnabas having the same rights as other Apostles, even Peter, in the right to take a wife with them in their travels. Taking a wife, or having a wife is not the only issue but the expense of having a wife along, even as a helper, with the members paying for this extra expense, it is a bit more than just about who can have a wife. We see this in the next verses --
Using the NIV
(1Co 9:4) Don't we (Paul and Barnabas) have the right to food and drink?
(1Co 9:5) Don't we have the right to take a believing wife along with us, as do the other Apostles and the Lord's brothers and Cephas (Peter)?
(1Co 9:6) Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?
(1Co 9:7) Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its grapes? Who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk?
(1Co 9:8) Do I say this merely from a human point of view? Doesn't the Law say the same thing?
(1Co 9:9) For it is written in the Law of Moses: "Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Is it about oxen that God is concerned?
(1Co 9:10) Surely he says this for us, doesn't he? Yes, this was written for us, because when the plowman plows and the thresher threshes, they ought to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.
(1Co 9:11) If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you?
(1Co 9:12) 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 the Christ.
There it is, the truth of the matter. Notice, however, what Paul says after claiming the right to take support from those benefiting from his and Barnabas labor – he say that they chose not to ask them for any kind of support. Why? Not because the Corinthians were such strong Christians but because of their weakness and the fear, from Paul and Barnabas, that to obligate them in such a way might cause some to turn away. But, now, at the time Paul is giving this instruction, the Corinthian Church has been around for a while and it is time for them to grow up. Apparently the Corinthians were not stepping forward, voluntarily, even though they witnessed how the other Apostles were being treated so well by those they had brought to the Christ, no, the believers at Corinth were not stepping forward to help in supporting the men that had brought them the message of life.
An interesting side light here is the fact that Paul never claimed the Tithing Law, found in the Law of Moses – never mentions it, never alludes to it -- Instead, Paul quotes a different rule from the Law of Moses, and specifically states this rule, or law, was written for the benefit of the workers in the Gospel.
This is all pretty simple and straight forward and just makes sense. I you labor in the fields you would expect to get paid. This super righteous idea that giving freely prove you are something better, or above the Law is ridiculous. Another interesting point is that most of these groups and individuals using this ploy to convince you that they are somehow your friend and to be trusted is that they do teach the Tithing law and claim it for themselves, once, that is, they have sucked you into their game. Look, I have been there, done that, and I have seen exactly how it works, and it is a hard thing to shake – being fooled and then admitting it, that is.
Again, let me state, I do not think it is wrong to present the Gospel without a fee. It is not wrong to reject your rightful claim to support from those you are helping. What happens, eventually, is that these very people and groups telling you this, that all they have is free because our Lord teaches this, will eventually “require” you to pay a Tithe to them, once they figure they have you hooked – then it is by the Law you must obey and may your Tithe. Guess what, in the Tithing Law there is more than one – that’s right, more than one, and if they teach only one Tithe from the Law of Moses then they are liars and the truth is not in them, for if they require a tithe from you then they must also teach the other two, as part of the Mosaic Law.
So, how do you know who to give your money to? Well, if you have gained in your understanding and growth in our Savior and this is due to a certain preacher or groups then what harm is there in throwing something into the pot so they can help others the way they have helped you? While your money is your money you can do with it what you wish. There is not Mosaic Law commanding you, as a follower of YaHshua that says you must give this or that amount. Give as you are moved. Those working in the field, in the name of YaHshua, need your support to do what they do. There is nothing wrong with them asking you for your support, but there is no commandment saying this is what you must do.
Look at the first Church, they were all Jews, and an incident occurred where the believers where combining their resources for the benefit of the Gospel. People were pledging funds, and even property for the advancement of the Gospel. A certain couple pledged some property but had a change of heart and instead of going to Peter and explaining they had been a little hasty in their pledge, they lied about it. This was revealed to Peter and ---
(Act 5:1) Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.
(Act 5:2) With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet.
(Act 5:3) Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?
(Act 5:4) Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God."
(Act 5:5) When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.
(Act 5:6) Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
(Act 5:7) About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
(Act 5:8) Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price."
(Act 5:9) Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also."
They did not have to give anything. Peter did not call on the Mosaic Law of tithing, not at all, and this couple had power over their own property but they decided they would cut back on what they had promised and together they lied, not to Peter, as they supposed but to our Savior and out Heavenly Father. They do not take pledges and promises lightly. Even YaHshua tell us not to swear, or pledge on anything on earth or in Heaven. This too is against the Law of Moses, when it comes to pledges. In the Law of Moses personal pledges (vows) are permitted but YaHshua says, under Him, they are no longer to be a practice of the believer. Why not, you might ask? Read the verses quoted above again and you see why. We humans are not that good at keeping out vows it seems, especially when it comes to making vows, or promises with God.
(Deu 23:23) Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD (YHWH) your God with your own mouth.
(Lev 19:12) 'Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD (YHWH).
(Mat 5:33-37) Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
You have just read the rules (law) in Moses and can see the seriousness in making vow, pledges, or the swearing of an oath. Yet, there are religious groups (churches?) that require this of their lay members constantly, demanding your take an oath of allegiance or repeat some declaration confirming their “creed” as your creed, as your pledge. Of course, if you make such a pledge or oath, you had better be prepared to keep it and to its fullest extent -- as required by the Law. The warning, from YaHshua himself, the real author of the Law, is not to make such oaths, not to swear by anything and simply answer yes or no to any question of faith, but many religious groups want more than this, they want a confession and then a promise, swearing, to be true to the creed of that group. Witness the seriousness of such pledges and vows as seen in the account of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. And this is why our Savior changed – yes – changed the understanding of this Law of Moses and instructed His followers not to “swear” at all, on anything – to pledge nothing. His desire was for His followers to be honest and upright, to do the right thing without pledging or the swearing of oaths on things they really have not control over. If someone asks you if you are a believer, the simple answer is, Yes, or No. Away with the swearing in and the oath making and the pledging of creeds made up by the hands and minds of men.
It All About the Money -- or so it seems
You money is your money to give or not to give. And no, I do not want your money. I do not need your money, or support to live. I am a free laborer and there are many others like me, whom the Lord has taken care of as he takes care of you. I am financially stable and do what I do for the benefit of the few willing to hear the common sense view that, I believe, our Savior, YaHshua, and His Apostles held and delivered. Hopefully, this is a benefit to you – no strings attached. You want to help me? Then give to a worthy cause, donate, as you are moved, to the homeless shelter in your town – that would please me a lot and I think you could do this in the Name of our Savior, and it would please Him even more.
Again, I must repeat, there is nothing wrong with working for free that is the option of the worker. Paul makes it plain, however, that the worker has the right to expect support, physically as well as spiritually without having to asks for it. He chastises the Corinthians because they ignored Paul and Barnabas in their support, even though it was they who brought them the message, who planted the seed of faith among them. He should not have had to do this and it was not begging, it was Paul and Barnabas’s right.
The next time you read that a website or material from a religious organization is offering you free material because our Lord commands we give freely because we have received freely, then be suspicious of that group or person. They are fishing with cheap bait and if they catch you, as I was once caught, then just remember that old adage, “There ain’t nothin’ free in this old world”
This is presented in all humility and desire to stay within out Lord’s teachings, not the bending and twisting of His words or meanings for our own personal gain. To give freely because you have received freely is an honorable goal. The bare truth is, however, YaHshua’s instruction for this cannot be taken out of context – if – that is – those verses are being taken as proof you are doing right while everyone else is wrong in asking for support. Paul proves, without doubt, that a worker in the Gospel message has every right to expect and receive support from those benefiting from their work. But, as Paul makes plain, by the context of his writing to the Hebrew brothers and sisters, he nor any worker in the field should have to ask for support – still, they have the right to ask for it.