Some people who sincerely are trying to follow Jesus and are doing a good job at living out some of his teachings, will respond to the truths about money in the Joshua and Money article and say something like, ‘well, you are wrong. Jesus does not want his followers to work for food or clothing or shelter at all’. They will usually site these sayings to justify their belief:
a. "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth." and;
b. "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on him the Father, God, has set His seal."
c. “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
I can see how they believe that and I admire their zeal, however, I do fault them for not being able to actually live that strictly literal understanding out, and for neglecting a more important principle that Joshua taught. When Joshua appears to say something that is impossible to do, then we ought to look harder or deeper. Or, you can be like a religious person who denies every day realities in favor of a religious view you'd really like to believe exists even when it does not and the evidence of that is right in front of your face daily.
Saying a. above means I should not have money as a master…that I don’t service it or live for it. That does not mean I cannot earn it on some limited basis to meet physical needs. When we spend the majority of our time working for money doing work that has nothing to do with advancing the Kingdom of God, then it is likely money is our master. When a woman disciple lovingly makes a meal for others, is she serving the food that she prepares? If the woman goes and sells her vegetables to buy bread to feed others, is that serving money? Those are the arguments of some who say doing any work other than 'proclaiming the gospel' (often what is not actually the good news but something esle) is wrong or who say taking any money for work done is wrong, and it is error. It is a wrong legalistic understanding of the Master’s commands and it ignores other teachings of his which clarify what he means (see Luke 10:7 and Luke 3:14). It is the lawyer error of the letter versus the spirit.
Saying b. above does say in an absolutist form that we should not work for the food which perishes, which is material things. However, there are other sayings that clarify that saying like:
“Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Matt. 19:29; Mark 10:29; Luke 18:29)
In this saying repeated three times in three books, Joshua says that those who leave their old life will receive a hundred times as much and he includes “houses” and “farms”. So, houses and farms are material things and houses and farms need maintenance and people need food to eat. Therefore, it is not reasonable for two reasons to read that strictly literally. First, it is impossible to do if taken strictly. Second, his other teachings makes it clear that it is a general principle that must characterize the disciple’s life…we don’t work for money or material things. Rather, we work for the King and as part of that Life we also need to do some lesser work to support ourselves in this world.
Saying c. above does ask disciples to give up their possessions.
So, what did he mean in Luke 14 when he said, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be my disciple.”? He meant two primary things.
First, that forsaking is first of the heart, and internal matter of our hearts/souls. For example, a person can give up all his material things in an effort to be accepted by God, but do so begrudgingly or out of fear, not faith or love. That ‘sacrifice’ (giving up most of their material things) will not amount to much in God’s eyes since they are not willing to do the greatest command, which is to love God, not fear him. Please listen to Joshua in this respect, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. Mercy means compassion towards others, NOT perceived sacrifices for God which He does not need nor want.
Second, it means that most people - when given the information about what having one’s faith in Joshua means – will need to make significant change in their lives, typically including leaving one’s job and natural family.
The spirit behind the sayings is clear – money and material things ensnare people and you need to get un-snared from them…you need to NOT SERVE material things. However, when you take an absolute prescription like, “do not work from the food which perishes” to mean, ‘never work for anything but the Kingdom of God’, you put a burden on people that they cannot bear and that is NOT what Joshua had in mind which we can know from his other teachings, such as:
“Jesus said, “Stay in that house, eating and drinking what they give you; for the laborer is worthy of his wages.” (Matt. 19:29; Mark 10:29; Luke 18:29)
In the above saying, Joshua is plainly saying that someone doing his work deserves to be compensated for it. Whether that compensation is in the form of material things (food, clothing, shelter) or money doesn't matter. The point is that a person doing work is worthy to be compensated for that work. It is up to the person doing the work what they choose to work for.
"But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed. Then you ought to have put my money in the bank, and on my arrival I would have received my money back with interest. Therefore take away the talent from him, and give it to the one who has the ten talents.’" (Matt. 25:26ff)
Here Joshua is telling a parable which is a story to teach something. Joshua would not include principles or concepts in the story that were wrong or that he does not support. Here, he plainly says that a person given some resource (in this case money), they ought to WORK to increase that money or at least invest it to increase it. Take note of the concept of "lazy" in the story. Lazy is all about not working or not pulling one's weight in an effort to help others. Note he says take the small amount the lazy person has and give it to the person who is willing to work hard or to be diligent to earn more.
Let’s look at some examples to clarify that when Joshua says the things in sayings a, b and c above, he does not mean, 'Never work for material gain or money' or 'only work for 'the gospel''.
Preparing food to eat is work, so I guess people who do that are definitely ‘working for the food which perishes’! Sewing clothes is work that has nothing to do with the kingdom of heaven. Building or maintaining a shelter is work that has nothing to do with the kingdom of heaven. Planting, weeding and watering a garden is work that has nothing to do with the kingdom of heaven. Changing a diaper is work that has nothing to do with the kingdom of heaven. Adding a bedroom to a house is work that has nothing to do with the kingdom of heaven. Doing laundry is work that has nothing to do with the kingdom of heaven. Painting a barn is work that has nothing to do with the kingdom of heaven. I could go on and on.
Therefore, to say that Joshua meant ‘never work for material things’ – meaning to procure shelter or maintain a farm, for example – is unreasonable and should be rejected.
Other folks try and fulfill some of these sayings by believing they are not working when they create ‘ministry’ tapes and CDs and fliers and other materials with their beliefs on them and go around and give them to people asking for money for them. Does using terms like "please donate" change the fact that they are asking for money? And if they are asking for money, then is not the work they are doing include working for money? If you are not working for money, why ask for it? If you don't ask for it but still make it clear that you want it and take it, does that make it not working for money? Asking for a donation for something is certainly better than, ‘you must pay me this much to get this’, and is thus commendable, but it is still taking money for work. Why do you reject, "The worker is worthy of his wages"?
In addition, clearly working for material things is done while trying to continuously 'forsake all' and 'not work for money'. If a disciple spends all of her daily work time working on building an orphanage because she cares about those children, and she takes money for her work (not demands it but takes what they are willing to give her), isn't that still working for Joshua? Not according to these folks - it is working for mammon because she was not 'preaching the gospel' or because she took money. In these folks binary delusional world in this area, there is only two kinds of work...working for God or working for mammon, and if you are not working for God you must be working for mammon. To take money a nickel is to serve it. To not preach the gospel is to do other kinds of work which is working for mammon. Using their understanding of Joshua's teachings, to do any kind of work other than 'preach the gospel' (which, by the way, is often not the good news that Joshua taught) is to be sinning and not obeying Jesus'. And yet, do these folks not prepare their food or sew clothes or maintain shelters or change diapers or do laundry etc.?
So, to sum up, the REASON I am doing work is what matters to God, NOT whether it 'preaches the gospel' or if I take a wage for that work.
Joshua says, "The worker is worthy of his wages". If I take a wage, I am NOT working for mammon if I am doing that work to help another person out of love and if I am not storing up my wages for myself. It is that beautifully simple.
The Greater work that we ought to endeavor to spend the most time doing is bringing people to our Father and Master and thus building the kingdom of heaven. The lesser work is not sinful, but we should be working to minimize it and we should not be using the fruits of that work for selfish purposes.
There is nothing wrong with these folks sincere efforts to serve God with two exceptions. First, when they place the importance of love at a lower priority than what they believe are their God-works. Second, when they condemn others who go both with Joshua's teachings AND reason and observation in order to understand what Joshua wants.
Joshua said it this way to the religious people of his day:
“Woe to you, bible scholars and religious leaders, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!”
So, for those folks who will refuse to love other sincere disciples because they insist on making less important issues more important than love, you would be guilty of having the same spirit of the people Joshua addressed in the teaching above. Exactly how we live out not serving money or material things is not nearly as important as recognizing other sincere follower of Joshua and seeking to love them and work together as he teaches. If we can agree that we are not to serve money or material things with our life and work, then we ought to be able to work out or accept differences of what that looks like in daily life.
Following Joshua has a beginning, and some of the sayings that people use to justify not doing any lesser work use those sayings to justify their positions. Perhaps the most important one is Luke 14:33. Let us take a look at that saying in context:
“Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
The context is set by phrases like, “if anyone comes to me”, and does not give up these things, "they cannot be my disciple". Other phrases like “come after me”, “wants to build a tower”, “sets out to meet another king” are all clearly BEGINNING statements. All these sayings speak of “beginning” or planning what to do. Joshua is calling to the people who are listening to him to leave their lives in the world and the things they are doing and working for, and to instead follow and work for him. In this context, verse 33 makes perfect sense, “none of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions”. In order to follow Joshua, one must give up working for the things of this world, and give up hanging onto the things the world considers valuable (material possessions) and instead work for him!
The question many zealots do not ask is, “then what”? In other words, a person forsakes all their material things and goes to follow Joshua and if they gave all their stuff away then they only have the clothes on their back. Or even if they sold their possessions and kept some of that money to enable their following Jesus, the money will run out if they don’t do some work for money.
Consider this passage:
“Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Matt. 19:21-24
Again, this was clearly a “beginning” teaching. The young man loved his wealth and was unwilling to give it up in order to follow Joshua. This does NOT say that if the young man decided to give up with wealth in order to follow Joshua that he would never work to provide food, clothing or shelter for himself or others or that he could use some of his land to support people. The key is the intention of the land use went from selfish to selfless, from serving money and himself to serving God and others. The rest of the saying makes it clear that we as disciples cannot store up material wealth for ourselves and expect to enter the kingdom of God.
Consider these passages – Luke 10:38-42; John 12:1-3. In those passages is described the friendship between Joshua and Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary. What is clear from the passages is that those three were disciples of Joshua and they lived in a house in Bethany and they needed to do work to support themselves. To deny that is irrational. They were not one of the twelve sent ones, but they were disciples and they were living in a house. So, the question is, why did they not “forsake all” to follow Joshua? In fact, I believe they did, but they had a proper understanding of that teaching. They did forsake all, meaning after they met and talked with Joshua, they no longer worked for money and the possessions they had but instead worked for Joshua and they gave and/or used freely what they had to help other disciples or those in need.
Finally, please consider this saying, "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." It is from Matthew chapter 6, and I would ask that you please read it in context. It is a conclusion saying after Joshua just said in many different ways, don't worry about how you will clothe or feed or shelter yourself. He is trying to get us to have faith that our Father loves us and cares about us and will provide what is necessary to provide for us and that He does not want us working for material things. At the end of those words, he said the above. It is the same thing he is saying with all his other sayings regarding seeking material wealth - DON'T make it your top priority in life, rather, make God your top priority in life AND IF you do that, you will have plenty of food, clothing and shelter! The material things will be added to you IF you truly place God first and live and work for Him first! The material things will not be added miraculously, but through the others you live with as you fulfill the new command - see Mark 10:30 and Acts 2:44-45 - they will be added by love and the lesser work you do!
Sincerely trying to live out Joshua’s teachings is a good thing, and if we see others doing their best to do so then we ought to be glad and try and get to know them and work with the common ground we have.
For more on the "forsake all gospel" message and the people who preach it, please see "Forsake All?"
Please, turn away from what at some level you know is empty - a materialistic or religious life-style - and instead, become part of the solution and part of the peaceful revolution.