Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.Luke 8:1-3, ESV
What is the relationship between religion and money? Some view money as a tool to be leveraged to benefit the gospel, while others view money as a benefit of the gospel. Those two perspectives are worlds apart. The Christian perspective ought to be the former. Wealth is not the gospel’s aim, but Christianity has many critics who often assume that churches exist for selfish gain rather than gospel proclamation. Can we blame them for being so judgmental? Yes and no. On one the one hand, there have always been cynical people who assume the worst motives, and on the other hand, there are countless examples of ministries and ministers who abuse their influence for selfish gain. They say that confession is good for the soul, so let me speak to you on a personal note. As a pastor, talking about money can often leave me feeling like I’m walking on eggshells. Why is that? This answer will be a bit simplistic, but there are at least two reasons I never enjoy talking about money. First, there is an unhealthy stigma in our culture that assumes ministers are charlatans. Second, I have an unhealthy assumption that Christians are unable and unwilling to give financially to support the gospel’s proclamation and program. Those two assumptions have worked together to deter me from speaking about the subject of money. The relationship between religion and money is often cowardly ignored rather than confidently discussed.
Jesus was busy traveling to teach, heal, and disciple. His miraculous ministry was not for sale. He never required payment from a blind man He had given sight to or a lame man he healed. Jesus was not collecting sums of money from crowds, like the five thousand, but providing food for them all. Yet, there were inevitable expenses that arose from traveling as a minister. How was Jesus’ ministry financially supported? Maybe we suppose that God delivered a little money to Jesus through supernatural means? We may imagine that Jesus had no use for money at all. However, our passage gives us a small insight into the financial side of Jesus’ ministry. Luke recorded that Jesus’ ministry was provided for by His followers “out of their means .” As Jesus traveled with the Twelve, they had money at their disposal to use, and Judas held that money for the ministry like a treasurer (John 13:29).
Luke’s small detail about financial support is interesting, but not enough information to teach us about the proper relationship between religion and money. If we are looking for a biblical answer to our question, we should turn to the Apostle Paul’s epistles. For example, in 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul instructed Christian financial gifts to be donated from a conscience that is joyfully participating in the ministry. This kind of financial support is healthy because it is not a law for believers to become servants to obey. Some believers are incapable of giving financially today. Some believers are capable but unwilling to donate financially today. In either case, Paul instructs Christians to give generously because they have received generously. Paul’s teaching on financial giving is relevant for many reasons, but precisely because Paul was Luke’s teacher. Therefore, when Luke eventually took up the task of writing this narrative, the eyewitnesses who explained how followers financed Jesus’ ministry was an accepted point that warranted no explanation. In other words, Jesus’ ministry was funded in exactly how Paul instructed Christians to give throughout his epistles.