I will follow you…

When Jesus noticed how large the crowd was growing, he instructed his disciples to prepare to cross to the other side of the lake. Just then a teacher of the law said to him “Rabbi, I will follow you no matter where you go.” But Jesus said “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest.”

Later when he invited a man to come with him and be his disciple, the man said that he needed to go home to bury his father. Jesus told him “Now is the time to follow me. Let those who are spiritually dead care for their own. Your job is to spread the good news of the kingdom of God.”

Another asked to follow him but said “First let me go and say goodbye to my family.” But Jesus said to him “Anyone who turns aside from the work I plan for him to do is not fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

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MT 8:18-22, LK 9:57-62 (HCSB, LB, NIV)

Paid ministers or not?

Are ministers supposed to be paid or not? What does Jesus say about this?

Here, he is sending out his disciples, giving them instructions.

Matthew 10:7-10
7 And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons: freely ye received, freely give. 9 Get you no gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses; 10 no wallet for your journey, neither two coats, nor shoes, nor staff: for the laborer is worthy of his food.

So they received freely, so they should give freely. Got it. So they should heal people for free, because that was a gift they received for free.

Then they are told to take no money with them, not even taking a wallet or extra provisions. People are supposed to give them what they need, because “the laborer is worthy of his food.” Some translations say “the worker is worthy of his keep” so it isn’t just about food, but everything. So that sounds like they should take what is offered to them as their salary.

But what about a minister who has special training? What if he had to go to school to learn, and has thousands of dollars of debt because of that? Was that freely received? Should he expect a salary or a stipend?

Ministers have to eat, and have shelter, just like everybody else. So what should they do?

Not worry, because God knows what we need.
8 Be not therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:8)

We are not to store up anything.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal: (Matthew 6:19)

Ultimately, we are to not worry about anything, because God will provide.

25 Therefore I say unto you, be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? 26 Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value then they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? 28 And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matthew 6:25-34)

Jesus lived like this – not in a fancy house, but homeless. He gave thanks for whatever he was given. He didn’t ask for anything, and trusted that God would provide. This too is part of being a minister, a disciple, a follower of Jesus. If we are to truly follow him, we are to live like him.

Matthew 8:19-20
19 And there came a scribe, and said unto him, Teacher, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest. 20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

(All Bible translations are ASV, which is public domain)

I’m not a Christian. I’m a Jesus follower.

I’m not a Christian apologist. In fact, I’m not even comfortable admitting I’m a Christian. But I am for Jesus. And I want to make sure that people don’t confuse the two.

There are many Christians who are awesome Christ-followers. There are many who quietly work for justice and peace. There are many who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick and visit those in prison. You know, the stuff Jesus said to do.

But they are quiet. They are quiet because that is part of it. They understand that they aren’t supposed to toot their own horn or call attention to themselves. They understand that they are to keep their piety private. They understand this because they have read the words of Jesus. They understand this because they have Jesus in their hearts.

My issue is with the people who aren’t pious and who aren’t quiet. My issue is with the people who give the term “Christian” a bad name. Those people who make “Christian” mean anything but love and service.

I’m not apologizing for them. They are like the relatives that you don’t talk about. While Christians generally agree that the Westboro Baptist Church people aren’t following Jesus, they get a little iffy on the Duck Dynasty patriarch. They feel that some level of crazy-hateful-intolerance is OK.

The problem is, it isn’t. It isn’t Christian to be anything other than loving, and ‘loving’ doesn’t mean telling other people they are wrong and going to hell because of how they are living their lives. The more you read of Jesus’ words, the more you realize that.

I feel like I keep writing this same thing over and over, yet I feel it is still necessary. I almost didn’t write my Duck Dynasty piece. I feel like they don’t need any more attention. I feel like the whole thing needs to die down. But then, I realize that they are doing the exact opposite of what Jesus wants, and they are besmirching the name of Jesus. Way too many people can’t see Jesus because of all the fake Christians standing in His way.

I’m not a Christian apologist. I don’t want anybody to become a Christian – not now, not with what “Christian” means right now.

But I will say I love Jesus, and I want you to know that Jesus isn’t like His followers at all. They say that you know a tree by its fruit, and if you look there are a lot of really rotten apples in the bunch. But it isn’t all bad. The good ones are hiding.

Sometimes I want to burn the whole thing down and start over from scratch. I want to strip away everything that gets in the way of following Jesus, of serving God. Jesus did this. There were ten Commandments, and Jesus stripped them down to two. He saw that people were getting bogged down in the details and missing the big picture.

Sure I’m upset when people use Christianity as an excuse to be judgmental and hateful. I’m also upset when they do this to the exclusion of focusing on more important matters.

Christians, if we really are going to be worthy of the name, need to focus more on poverty and homelessness than pornography and homosexuality.

Instead of telling others what they are doing wrong, we need to start doing things right. There are people who are dying every day because they don’t have enough food or water. There are people who are suffering because they don’t live in a safe home. People are illiterate and undereducated. People are in prisons, both real and mental.

This is our calling. This is our place. This is what we are here to do. We are here to relieve suffering. We are here to lighten the load. We are here to help.

That is what being a Christian should mean. We need to be known for our love.

That is who Jesus is.

We need to be more like Jesus, who was totally obedient to God. He broke all the rules of his society and declared everybody “clean.” He touched the lepers and the menstruating woman – both were excluded and inhuman in those times. He ate with tax collectors and prostitutes. He violated every rule to show us that nobody is unclean. Nobody is inhuman. Everybody is welcome. Everybody is loved.

This is what we are supposed to do. Love. Welcome. Serve. Forgive. Bless.

So if you were to ask me right now if you should become a Christian, I’d say no. Become a Jesus follower instead. Read the Gospels – any translation. Don’t read someone else’s interpretation of the Gospels yet. Read the words of Jesus. There are some bits that don’t make sense – that’s OK. Even his disciples didn’t get everything and he had to explain it to them. There are some bits that are repeated. That’s OK too. It is the same story from four different viewpoints. The people who put the New Testament together thought that this story was too important to try to mash together into one story, so they left it the way it is.

You’ll come to see that the Jesus you find looks nothing like the one you’ve been sold all these years.