Few things generate more of an immediate and emotional response than the topic of money. People have a natural, deep response to finances and the material wealth of this world. Where and how we use our resources shows where our hearts are.
Interestingly, Jesus taught more on our response to money and worldly treasure than almost any other topic. Our attitude toward money is important to God, and it comes up over and over again in the Bible. The rich young ruler, the parable of the talents, and the workers in the field, are all there to teach us the attitude we should have when it comes to money. There is nothing inherently wrong with money, it’s how we deal with it that gets complicated. One of the most misquoted Bible verses is 1st Timothy 6:10. It doesn’t say that money is the root of all evil, but rather the LOVE of money. Money matters, but what matters more is our response to it. It’s a big topic and we need to be mature and wise about it.
Jesus taught us that where our gold is, our heart will also be. Money in missions has a HUGE impact, so how we raise it, how we distribute it, and how to be responsible stewards of the limited money that exists are extremely important. Whenever I meet with orphanage directors or missions leaders, the topic of fundraising always comes up. The reality is that missions cost money. Money to care for children at risk, money to feed the needy, money to educate, etc.
Several years ago, we hosted a large group from the southeast US at our orphanage in Baja, Mexico. This is one of many groups, but this one group stood out for the wrong reasons. They flew 30 people across the US to southern California, rented vans, and drove down to serve with us for five days. We were happy to have them. Most groups bring some type of funding to cover materials for projects while they’re with us. This group brought $500 to use for projects and to bless our home. We appreciate any donation, but when I heard what they were doing the two days after they left us it struck me as odd. The group of 30 traveled three hours north of us to finish out their missions trip spending two days at Disneyland. There is nothing wrong with visiting Disneyland, but my guess is that those two days cost the group around $9,000 in tickets lodging and food. When the team was raising money to go and serve orphans in Mexico, were they transparent in letting donors know how much of the money would be spent on non-missional activity? Even if they spent their own money on the extras for the trip, is that the most productive use of their resources while on a missions trip?
A few years ago, my wife and I had the opportunity to go and serve with an orphanage in Ghana West Africa. We had some very long conversations about the cost of this trip. My wife and I have over two decades of experience in running a very large orphanage. We felt we were bringing something of value to the home in Ghana, and that we could make a substantial impact. We also knew that it would cost around $5,000 for the two of us to take this trip. We had to decide what would be the best use of those funds. Should we pay our way with the intention of blessing that home in the two weeks we’re with them? Or should we just send them a check for $5,000? We had a responsibility to be good stewards of the funds we had available. In the end, we decided to go, and I’m glad we did. I believe the coaching we provided helped in their fundraising and generated ten times as much for that ministry as we spent to get there. We also decided to leave a financial donation to be used in any way they saw fit. I’m not sharing this to show how “generous” we are. I’m sharing this because I think it’s a great policy to leave a substantial donation with whoever is hosting your short-term missions team. Call it “tithing in on travel expenses” if you like.
We are called to be wise in our decisions and use of the resources we’ve been entrusted with. God wants us to make the most of the funds available to us. We need to seek healthy organizations wherever we’re serving. Organizations that we partner with need to have a high level of accountability, a history of productive work, and have shown responsible stewardship of the resources made available to them.
Be careful where you put your gold, your heart will follow.
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