FREE… FREE… FREE…
Hyderbadis have something to be proud about, for their ‘son of the soil’ Sathya Nadella was recently elevated to one of the most enviable posts in the world, CEO of Microsoft. The fact that some of you are reading this piece using one of the Microsoft products says something about this multinational giant in the corporate world.
His annual pay package? A staggering Rs. 112 crore! More than the annual Defence budget of Mauritius! Considering the unquantifiable pressures which come visiting along with the responsibilities of being a CEO of such a high-profile company, our cricket-loving Sathya would doubtless be fully deserving of such a handsome compensation.
That brings us to an equally staggering command to every Christian from his incomparable Master, “Freely ye have received, freely give” (Matt.10:8). What are the areas of Christian life and ministry where free service is expected of a Christian?
“What then is my pay? It is the opportunity to preach the Good News without charging anyone. That’s why I never demand my rights when I preach the Good News” (1Cor.9:18). Raise your hands, those who were saved from the deadly clutches of sin by the Saviour Jesus Christ for a fee. Now no hands would go up, for all of us got our indescribable gift of Jesus (2Cor.9:15) and along with Him the priceless salvation free, by just inviting Him into our lives. When we repented, just as He promised, the kingdom of God which was very near us (Matt.4:17) came into our hearts. So much so, from that moment “righteousness, peace and joy of the Holy Spirit” flooded our hearts (Rom.14:17). What ought to be our response to this free gift of salvation? Share the Good News with everyone we meet so that those who never had a foretaste of heaven right here on earth would enjoy the same by inviting Jesus into their hearts. Jesus did not want all of His followers to be preachers but witnesses.
Yes, there is a responsibility placed on those who receive the Gospel (1Cor.9:14) of “taking good care of those who brought them the Good News,” but those who are in the God-given ministry (evangelism) of inviting people into God’s kingdom, ought to go about their divinely-ordained task without expecting anything in return, in conformity with the apostle Paul’s stand on this subject.
Where the evangelist’s work of winning a soul for the kingdom ends, the pastor’s work of nurturing the ‘new born’ in God’s kingdom begins. Unlike an evangelist, who is moved by the Lord’s Spirit from town to town, a pastor’s call is to be at one place patiently “taking care of and feeding the Lord’s flock” with God’s word (Acts.20:28).
When Peter responded to our Lord’s question repeated three times, “Peter, do you love Me” with words emanating from the depths of his heart, “Lord, I love You,” the Master’s response on all three occasions was, “Feed My flock” (Jn.21:15-17). Peter’s love for the Lord was to get reflected in equal measure in his care for the people whom the Lord “had purchased by shedding His own blood.” No wonder, Peter after many years of serving the Lord, wrote these words to younger pastors, “And now, a word to you who are elders (pastors) in the churches. I, too, am an elder and a witness to the sufferings of Christ. And I, too, will share in His glory when He is revealed to the whole world. As a fellow-elder, I appeal to you: care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly—not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your own good example” (1Pet.5:2).
What is the responsibility of the ‘flock’ to their full-time pastors who lead them through life in the ‘spiritual ecosphere’? How should the flock treat their pastors who have not pursued any secular profession and, in nine times out of ten, may have swapped a lucrative secular one for a serious responsibility in the spiritual realm in full obedience to the Great Shepherd’s call? Here’s the answer.
“Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them” (Gal.6:6). “Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching” (2Tim.5:17).
Of course, these Scripture portions do not give a licence to the pastor to go about his ministry expecting a royal treatment. His ministry out of love for his Master should be at all times governed by the principle, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts.20:35), without ever forgetting the fact that he has received the anointing to effectively preach or teach, freely from the Lord! Minus the anointing – the ‘X factor’ – which determines his/her success in preaching or teaching ministry, a servant of God would be like a pen without ink.
“Forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col.3:13). The key operative word in this Scripture is as. Without demanding any monetary compensation, the Lord forgave us our sins the moment we trusted Him for our salvation and keeps forgiving us whenever we slip in our spiritual journey, provided every single time we sincerely repent (1Jn.1:9) of our wrongdoing. Then is it demanding too much when He requires of us to do likewise with those who may have hurt us physically or emotionally? In fact, when we harbour a grudge (Heb.12:15), we fiddle with our physical health besides doing a mighty disservice to our spiritual health (can you retain the joy of the Holy Spirit in your heart when you are yearning for revenge?). As some wise soul put it, “Harbouring resentment is like drinking poison and expecting your enemy to die.”
Then what about habitual offenders? Would they not end up exploiting us? “Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honourable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, ‘I will take revenge; I will pay them back,’ says the Lord” (Rom.12:17-19).
“As for me, I will certainly not sin against the Lord by ending my prayers for you” (1Sam.12:23). With the appointment of Saul as the first king of Israel, even as obscurity loomed large in front of that faithful old prophet Samuel after being ‘in thick of things’ for many decades, he resolves to intercede for the very ones who were inclined indignantly to replace him with ‘their choice’. So seriously did this aging prophet view his intercessory prayer ministry that for him to call it quits would tantamount to sin.
Our High Priest, the Lord Jesus, intercedes for us free of cost at God’s right hand (Rom.8:34). In fact, it is binding on all Christians to pray for one another (Jas.5:16). I remember a cult group about 20 years back seeking Rs. 10000 for prayers on behalf of a seriously sick kidney patient from his desperate, gullible albeit rich parents and Rs. 50000 for ‘special prayers’, as though to suggest that Rs. 10000 prayer would take one up to heaven’s gates and the Rs. 50000 would take one right up to the Almighty’s throne!
Intercessory prayer ministry, unlike preaching and singing ministries, does not require any special talents. All one needs to be effective in it is to have love for the Lord and for the person who is in need!
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1Thes.5:11). Besides the intercessory prayer ministry, if there is one more ministry which does not depend on any special talent, barring pristine love for God and the person in need, it is one of encouragement. In the early church, there was one Joseph (a Levite from Cyprus) who so personified encouragement in his spiritual walk that the apostles named him Barnabas (Acts.4:36-37) meaning, son of encouragement. The same Barnabas accompanied Paul in the historic first missionary journey, taking the Gospel to the heartland of Asia Minor (Acts.13-14).
Even in Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians (Acts.11:26), Barnabas on a special assignment (from the Jerusalem church) was doing what came to him naturally from a heart full of love and Holy Spirit (a name for the Holy Spirit, besides others, is ‘an encourager’ (Jn.14:16-17;15:26). “He encouraged the believers to stay true to the Lord. Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith. And many people were brought to the Lord” (Acts.11:23-24).
By the way, going by our disposition, what would be the name our friends, both in and outside the church, would give to us? A disgruntled discourager or an enthusiastic encourager?
Wherever the Lord has placed you in His sovereign wisdom, even if it were in Microsoft, you can surely be a CEO there – Chief Encouraging Officer!
Speaking of proud Hyderabad, ever wondered what prompted the State Government of Andhra Pradesh (Hyderabad is its capital) to name its pioneering free ambulance services as 108*, which has since been replicated in other States of India too like Goa, Gujarat, Odisha etc? Matthew 10:8 – “Freely give, as you have freely received.”
By His grace alone, I was inspired to pen this article for free! Were you edified?
(*My mom and our family are deeply grateful for the services of Ambulance 108, for in Nov 2010, when she had a stroke, the good Lord gave me the presence of mind to call it immediately, so that with its help, we were able to rush her to a nearby hospital, where prompt medical attention saved her life.)