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Christians giving to other Christians who are traveling from place to place

Posted by on Oct 27, 2011 in community, hospitality, love, missional, scripture, service | 8 comments

Christians giving to other Christians who are traveling from place to place

This is the fourth post in my series on Christians and giving from the perspective of Scripture. (See the introduction post here.) I’ve already stated that giving directly to those in need is the most prevalent method of giving by Christians in the New Testament (either by example or instruction). There are also a few examples of Christians giving indirectly to people who are in need.

Similarly, there are a few examples and exhortations in Scripture of Christians giving to those who are traveling from place to place. These traveling (or itinerant) believers may be apostles, or prophets, or evangelists, or perhaps gifted for some other type of service. The common fact for this type of giving is that the recipients are traveling away from home, and they do not intend to stay in one place.

Of course, Paul is the quintessential example of the itinerant servant in Scripture. It is not surprising, then, that there are many example of him receiving help from other believers. This passage from Philippians is a famous example:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. (Philippians 4:10-14 ESV)

Receiving support from others seems to be a right of itinerant believers. Paul discusses this right in 1 Corinthians 9. This is also the passage where Paul says that he refuses to exercise that right among the people where he is currently working. (Paul accepts money from believers in other locations, but there are no examples of instances in which he accepted support from believers in the location where he is currently serving.) This passage also indicates that there are others (besides Paul and Barnabas) who are traveling from place to place. (See 1 Corinthians 9:4-6.)

Similarly, there are exhortations and instructions in other letters in which believers are encouraged to support other Christians who are traveling through their area. Another famous itinerant support passage is found in 3 John:

Beloved, it is a faithful thing you do in all your efforts for these brothers, strangers as they are, who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God. For they have gone out for the sake of the name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8Therefore we ought to support people like these, that we may be fellow workers for the truth. (3 John 5-8 ESV)

In fact, John later tells Gaius (the recipient of the letter) that he should not follow Diotrephes’ example, partly because Diotrephes refuses to help Christians who are traveling through their area and even attempts to stop others from helping itinerant servants.

Furthermore, the many instructions about practicing hospitality are primarily focused on helping traveling strangers. (For example, see Romans 12:13 and Hebrews 13:2.) There is even a special verb for “sending with hospitality” that is used in several passages. (For example, see Acts 15:3, 2 Corinthians 1:16, and Titus 3:13.)

Again, the important aspects of this kind of giving is that it was offered to people who were traveling from place to place. It seems that as long as the servants were traveling, believers would help them. When they settled down, there is less evidence that the support continued, at least at the same level.

What would you add to this discussion of Christians giving to those itinerant servants who are traveling from place to place?

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Giving and the Church in Scripture Series:

1) Introduction
2) Christians giving directly to others because of need
3) Christians giving indirectly to others because of need
4) Christians giving to other Christians who are traveling from place to place
5) Christians giving to other Christians in response to some service


8 Comments

  1. 10-27-2011

    After this, Jesus traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God. The Twelve were with him, 2 and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; 3 Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.-Luke 8:1-3

    How scandalous.

  2. 10-27-2011

    I think it is important to note that while Paul did receive some financial assistance, he was not a “full time” missionary with enough support to meet his needs (nor those who traveled with him). This was due both to necessity and so that Paul could set an example to others (which example seems to be missed by too many “leaders” today).

    Paul’s (and other itinerants) lack and labor to support themselves: “Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; And labour, working with our own hands…” I Cor 4:11-12 (see also II Cor 12:13)

    Paul’s appeal to the example he left of working to provide for his own needs: “Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.” II Thess 3:7-13 (see also I Thess 2:9)

    References to Paul working while traveling in Acts:

    “And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers.” Acts 18:3

    “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20:33-35

    Paul DID stay with other believers when he traveled–in their homes–which reduced the financial needs. We can still do that today, if we won’t mind the inconvenience and lack of privacy (on both the one providing the hospitality and the one receiving it).

    Actually, I think living in homes where you labor when traveling is an excellent opportunity to build one another up and to provide examples to one another. It also means you can probably work PT at McD’s and make enough to support yourself while you labor.

    Some examples of this travel methodology:

    Acts 16:14,15 And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.

    Acts 21:8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him.

    Acts 21:16 There went with us also certain of the disciples of Caesarea, and brought with them one Mnason of Cyprus, an old disciple, with whom we should lodge.

    Philemon 1:22 But withal prepare me also a lodging: for I trust that through your prayers I shall be given unto you.

  3. 10-27-2011

    Alan,

    Valerie and I learned,when we began pastoral ministry, that we needed to make sure that the “itinerant” was really what they claimed.

    We met several, over the years who were knowledgeable regarding Scripture, could speak well,and give what, by all accounts, was a good message, but were confidence tricksters, even though having, what appeared to be, very good letters of recommendation, one of which was genuinely from a Baptist big-wig, who we learned didn’t know the fellow, but wanted to help him in his “ministry”.

  4. 10-28-2011

    Hutch,

    What? Women supported Jesus as he traveled from place to place out of their own means?

    Art,

    I agree. I thought about getting into that in this post, but decided to stop at the point of giving.

    Aussie John,

    It seems like the people who supported Paul knew him already. Similarly, they were supporting him AFTER he had served in their area. Maybe those were the differences?

    -Alan

  5. 10-28-2011

    Yes, indeed and they were traveling with Christ and the twelve and at least one was a married woman. Shouldn’t Jesus have told them to stay at home since it was a severe break in Patriarchal tradition and might to gossiped about as unseemly? But of course he also allowed women to come into the men’s part of the home where women were not allowed, and taught them as equal disciples..in a time when rabbis did not have or allow for female disciples. Too bad Grudem was not around to correct Him.

  6. 10-28-2011

    Alan,

    Your question didn’t mention any one by name, “What would you add to this discussion of Christians giving to those itinerant servants who are traveling from place to place?”

    It may be different in the USA, but in this country, there are so many “itinerants” that it is impossible to know them, or to trust, at least some, of the letters of recommendation which they carry.

    One such,amongst several in my own experience, cost the small country town, $40,000.

    Naivety isn’t a spiritual gift, which Paul acknowledged, when he gave warnings about such “wolves”.

  7. 10-29-2011

    Hutch,

    The amazing thing is that that culture (in the 1st century) was much more patristic and male-dominated than our culture today.

    Aussie John,

    I know things were very similar in the southeastern part of the USA when I was growing up.

    -Alan

  8. 11-20-2012

    It’s interesting how such a simple concept can require such an involved explanation. I guess it shows how much we’ve mucked it up. Most of our discussion on the subject amounts to a workaround to allow for the status quo. The scripture says it all in a few words.
    Regarding ‘credentialed itinerants’. In a less religious setting we can smell charlatans and kooks a mile away. Let’s not be any more gullible than civility calls for.
    Hospitality is a simple concept. We may bend over backwards to accommodate a guest, but we sometimes have to ‘show him the door’.
    In the real world everyone is responsible for his own support. If someone takes time from his own employment to help me, I can accept the help as a gift in the spirit in which it is offered. Or, I can offer to compensate him for his time. We always work it out without recourse to any religious obligation.
    Alan, thanks for the article.

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