How much does it cost to minister to someone?
That might seem like a strange question, but it occurred to me while I was reading a ministry organization’s pamphlet encouraging the reader to give to their ministry. “Every $10 reaches a new child!” it boasted. But that sentence is what made me think. What if I did not give $10? Would they be unable to “reach” just one more child? My imagination painted this picture…..
Mr. Greene was a missionary in Romania. He was working for this missionary organization reaching children with the gospel. One month, Mr. Greene received his paycheck of $500, which is $250 less than he normally received.
So Mr. Greene went out to the schools, visited homes, and helped at orphanages, making sure that for every $10, he talked to one new child about Jesus. By the end of two weeks of working like this, Mr. Greene tallied off his fiftieth reached child as he left the orphanage. “Now I can work on paperwork and respond to emails for the rest of the month,” he thought as he walked toward his apartment complex, content with his fulfilled ministry.
On his way, he passed an alley, from which he heard uncontrolled sobbing. Glancing toward the sound, he saw a young girl, no more than twelve years old, clothed with rags, bruised and bleeding, with unkempt hair, curled up with her head between her knees. Mr. Greene could tell that she had been recently assaulted and presumably left for dead. Her wailing communicated a lack of hope for anything better than this. But Mr. Greene knew the gospel that could change her life and give her the hope she was starved for—
And with great willpower and intentional action—
Mr. Greene turned his head and kept walking his way. The sobbing was slowly being muffled by distance and the bustling sounds of life in the city. Mr. Greene lifted his eyes and spoke in a quiet voice, “I’m sorry, Lord, but I only received enough money to reach fifty children, and that I have done! Why would You place that poor creature in my way knowing that I had no resource to reach her? You test my faith.” And, satisfied with himself, Mr. Greene went to his apartment to work at his desk for two more weeks before next month’s check arrived.
Perhaps this story seems a little exaggerated to you, but I don’t think it is. In fact, Jesus told a similar story starring an assaulted man, some religious folk, and a kindly foreigner. Of course, I’m talking about the story we often call “The Good Samaritan”. Our religious characters here are similar to Mr. Greene.
The priests worked at the temple. They sacrificed animals day-in and day-out to atone for the sins of the people. They came in contact with those whose hearts were visibly broken by the shame of their sin and sick with desire to be right with the Lord as they carried in their bulls and lambs. They saw people whose love for the Lord was so intense that they frequently led their sacrifices in and with a smile said, “It is a gift to the Lord, who is so good to me!” They knew of people like Anna and Simeon, who had a genuine fervor for the Lord and hope to see the Messiah. It was their ministry to assist the Israelites in their sacrifices to the Lord.
And just like Mr. Greene, the priest walked away. Perhaps he muttered to the Lord, “I’m so tired of blood and dead things…. Besides, if he’s dead and I touch him, I will be unclean and have to go through all those purification rituals. I don’t have time for this.”
The non-priest Levites had various jobs in assisting the priests in the care of the temple. Some were janitors and maintenance men. Some were guards and gatekeepers. Some sang in the choir or played the instruments to lead the people in worship. They were specially chosen by God to serve Him in a unique way, and the rest of Israel knew that. They were familiar with the Word of God and knew what was right and what was wrong.
Yet the Levite copied the priest’s (and Mr. Greene’s) behaviour. He noticed the assaulted man and crossed onto the other side of the street, maybe so that he wouldn’t get his robes bloody, or maybe so that he could pretend that he didn’t see him as he looked at the countryside instead. Perhaps he thought, “Well, Lord, I have to get to work at the temple. If he were at the temple, maybe I would help him, but he’s not. I am not getting paid for helping dead men and if I don’t get off this dangerous road, I might be a dead man myself!”
There are many vices that we could point to as the root of the actions of these three men: pride, selfishness, mistrust of the Lord’s provision, unbelief, lack of concern for fellow humans, greed, laziness, lack of love for the Lord, etc. Let’s turn that toward me, and consider why I don’t stop to share the gospel with others or think to do a kind thing for someone near me. Is it one of these vices, or perhaps another, that I need to work on weeding out of my life?
The fact is, you cannot put a price tag on ministry (and ministry, meaning “service”, is just that—spiritually-inclined service to our fellow humans). While there is much in the Bible that talks about the necessity to finance your spiritual leaders (that will have to be in a different post), we cannot calculate the monetary value of spiritual service. To God, reaching a child with the gospel is infinitely valuable; for who would die for ten dollars? Jesus died for that child’s soul, counting it worth such a payment. Would I even miss a meal for a chance to share the gospel? Jesus died. What am I willing to give up?
Monos Doxa Theos!