“What’s in it for me?” doesn’t seem like the kind of question we ought to be asking our Almighty Creator, God. So it’s surprising how many times his Word seems to answer it, as He speaks about the benefits of obedience, the blessings of following and the rewards that await us in Heaven.
And that’s why, as the New Testament exhorts us to be generous toward missionaries, He also tells us what’s in it for us.
Generosity Makes You a Partner in the Work
God’s Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is for all believers, and the original Greek of Acts 1:8 indicates that we’re not to put a higher priority on the place we live than on the ends of the earth. But how can you do that?
Generosity puts you there, as a full partner.
Though the meaning is obscured in most translations, 3 John 8 tells us we have a responsibility to meet the needs of missionaries. But John doesn’t dwell on that. He quickly moves on to the why: “that we may become fellow workers in the truth.”
You should never feel that you’re less than a full partner in the work because you’re “just” giving. That’s not how God sees you. In fact, the phrase John uses here — fellow worker — is one Paul reserves for missionaries in all but one case.
Generosity Stores Up Treasures in Heaven
That one exception is found in the book of Philippians. Paul is writing to thank the church at Philippi for their generous gift to his missionary work and calls the man who brought the gift, Epaphroditus, “my … fellow worker” (Philippians 2:25).
Paul later exhorts the Philippians to continue in generosity because it’s good for them: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account” (Philippians 4:17).
That reminds me of Jesus’ encouragement to “store up treasures in Heaven” (Matthew 6:19-21) rather than on Earth. Jesus tells us we ought to put our resources into things that last — into God’s work — instead of using them here on things that don’t last. Paul writes that giving to missionaries is one way we can store up treasures in Heaven.
But what about the here and now?
Generosity Unleashes God’s Abundance
Apparently God knew the Philippians would ask that same question because after one more verse He had Paul write, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
We treat that as a blanket promise for all believers today. But when Paul wrote that, he was writing to a group of believers who were generous toward his ministry as a missionary. So surely it applies to folks who are generous toward missionaries today. I’ve seen that myself.
Early on in our ministry, my wife and I too often said, “We can’t afford to.” We said that about doing and about giving. But as we’ve matured in giving — as we’ve learned to respond positively to His promptings to generosity and trust Him — we’ve seen Him provide for us repeatedly. He’s provided according to His riches in glory, giving us peace, growing our faith and blessing us.
Is it all about you?
So does God say this because it’s all about you and me? Certainly not! It’s all about God — we belong to Him and owe Him our everything. But He loves you and me. He loves us so much that He gives us opportunities to be fellow workers with each other and with Him, and then He blesses us for doing so.
What an amazing God we serve.