*Editor’s Note: Check out Part 1 of this article here
This is the perspective Paul encourages in 1 Corinthians 7 when he says, “[Let] those who buy [do so] as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it (vv.30-31, NIV). Paul encourages us to maintain a healthy emotional distance from this world’s goods. Yes, we have to buy and sell. We are not ascetics. We must deal with material possessions in this life. We must conscientiously manage what we have. Yet, we do so in such a way that we remain ultimately unattached to these things. We hold onto all of them loosely as we seek to use those resources for the advancement of the kingdom.
In the Psalms, David called his house the “house of my sojourning.” We must learn to look at everything in that light- as a temporary gift from God- as we make our pilgrimage through this world. Our houses, money, cars, jobs, and careers are simply the houses, money, cars, jobs, and careers of our sojourning. If this is true, neither acquiring nor protecting any of these things in this life will be our chief occupation. Getting them will not occupy us, protecting them will not consume us, and losing them will not destroy us. We live for another time and another place.
This radical kingdom perspective- financial reckless abandon- is often appropriately called “wartime living.” I can think of no better way to capture the sentiment of Jesus’ teaching. The call to wartime living is a call to simple living. It is a call to zero-excess living. It is a call to minimalistic living that conserves and funnels all resources into the greater way effort. In wartime, car assembly lines are converted to artillery factories. Food is rationed so as to send as much as possible to the troops. Money is used sparingly so as to conserve as much as possible for the front lines. The war becomes the all-consuming preoccupation of those who have sent their sons, siblings, and fathers off to the trenches. The progress of the war hinges, in part, upon the commitment of those back home to personal self-sacrifice and reckless abandon for the cause. Mission is war, and we must live accordingly.
Few people better exemplified this kind of sacrificial, kingdom-oriented, financial reckless abandon than the church in Philippi. In the book of Philippians, Paul recounts “from the first day until now” the Philippians had financially partnered with him in ministry (Philippians 1:5). In the weeks and months that followed Paul’s planting of the church, the Philippian believers “once and again” sent Paul gifts to fund his mission (Philippians 4:16-17). Apparently that support had continued throughout the years. Ten years later when Paul passed through Macedonia near the end of his third missionary journey, the Philippians once again demonstrated their reckless abandon as gospel-driven senders by sacrificially contributing to Paul’s offering for the suffering church in Judea. Here’s how Paul describes the generosity of the Philippian church:
Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. (2 Corinthians 8:2-3)
That is financial martyrdom. They were poor, yet, out of their “extreme poverty,” their kingdom-centered, mission-loving generosity overflowed in wealthy giving.
Nearly 20 years after Paul founded the Philippian church, their poverty continued, yet so did their mission-minded generosity. During his Roman imprisonment, Paul wrote the Philippians to thank them for the gift they had sent to him in prison- again, a gift sent out of deep poverty. “Do not be anxious about anything,” Paul encourages them. As Paul had learned, so they had to learn “the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12). The Philippians understood, as their legacy of self-sacrificial giving to Paul’s mission indicates.
Mission is war, and war must be funded by wartime living. We cannot fund the war while pursuing the American Dream. The call to take up our cross, die to ourselves, and renounce all personal claim to our material possessions is a call to both goers and senders in this war. Mission requires more than dedicated self-sacrificing, recklessly abandoned goers. It also requires dedicated self-sacrificing, recklessly abandoned senders.
*Editor’s Note: This was originally printed in the Fall 2010 issue of TET magazine.