We Are Not Peddlers of God's Word
Giving and Selling in the Mission of Desiring God
“Take nothing for your journey.” That’s what Jesus said to his disciples when he sent them out. No staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra clothes (Luke 9:3).
I wonder if they gave each other worried glances.
“And as you travel, preach the gospel, heal the sick, raise the dead, and cast out demons.” But do not charge people money for these things. “You received without paying; give without pay” (Matthew 10:8).
Now wait a minute. This mission was going to incur very real costs. First twelve and later seventy-two men had to be completely supported. Taking no supplies and receiving no payment for services might have sounded like a recipe for bankruptcy. Why such radical instructions? No money, no ministry, right?
Wrong. That’s precisely the mentality that Jesus didn’t want the disciples to develop. Of course Jesus knew that his disciples needed provision. But he wanted to make explicit that his disciples must trust their invisible, heavenly Father alone for their provision, not some visible, earthly source of security, which he knew was the human tendency.
The reasons why this was so important to Jesus have direct bearing on how we operate at DG, as well as on how you and I are to live as 21st-century Christians.
First, Jesus wanted his disciples’ hope to be in God alone both for their sakes and the world’s. Living in radical dependence on the Father’s provision would say something glorious about God, namely, that God exists and is a more satisfying and trustworthy treasure than anything the world can offer.
Second, Jesus didn’t want any appearance of a conflict of interest. He said plainly, “You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24). So he wanted it to be clear to everyone that the ministry of the gospel was about the kingdom of heaven and that the love of money was not the real motivation behind “kingdom work.”
I’ve heard the statement “no money, no ministry” repeatedly over the years from experienced fund-raisers. It can sound like irrefutable common sense. But I have observed that it easily can become a rationale for placing our confidence in something else besides God.
Jesus calls all of us to live in such a way that God is clearly shown to be more satisfying and trustworthy than anything else—especially money. We feel this keenly at DG. Many today, as in the first century, are using “godliness as a means of great [financial] gain” (1 Timothy 6:5). But like the Apostle Paul, we don’t want to be viewed as “peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity” (2 Corinthians 2:17).
In fact, Paul purposefully refrained from legitimate forms of financing his mission in order that the gospel might not be obscured by any misinterpretation of his motives. And his principles have guided many of our decisions at DG. That’s why we’ve placed many of John Piper’s books, sermons, conference messages, etc., online for free access. It’s also why items for sale are made available for whatever you can afford. And it’s why we partner with many individuals and organizations to give as many resources away as possible, so that increasing numbers of saints and unbelievers around the world will be nourished.
Ministry like this requires that, like Jesus and Paul, we trust our Father to provide for us through financial supporters. But even here we must be careful to avoid the temptation to cultivate wealthy benefactors and transfer our trust from God to people and money. So we seek to focus on freely giving the gospel while trying to appropriately communicate with those God sends us as partners in this mission.
A few years ago, John Piper wrote a paper for the DG board and staff to ensure we were in agreement with regard to this issue. It is packed with important principles for living life in a radical, God-centered, “to-live-is-Christ-to-die-is-gain” way. It’s titled, “Money, Markets, and Ministry: Giving and Selling in the Mission of Desiring God.” In it John unpacks how Paul approached ministry and money and draws application for being God-centered, gospel-spreading people.
“Money, Markets, and Ministry” is available for you to read free and to pass on to others. If you are able to financially support us, we would be very grateful, but no gift is required to access the booklet. Our foremost desire is to encourage you to live in dependence on God.
In closing, I should say that the Bible does not mandate one method for financing a ministry. It gives principles, but methods can vary. Just like Paul did things differently than Peter, there are different callings and contexts for ministries. Indeed, there are many wonderful ministries that operate differently and have God’s blessing on them.
But with the particular message God has given to us, we discern God’s call to spread the gospel through radical giving, and to encourage our friends to a similar kind of life. Thank you for your partnership in this mission.
Seeking with you to trust God above all else,