At Christ Church of Oak Brook a church leader said to me in the context of compensation: “He’s only a youth man”. The “youth man” led the very healthy high school youth group of well over 100. The leadership team numbered 30. They met weekly for study and planning. Almost all of the regular 100 also attended the high school Sunday school class. A couple times a year the group went on a well planned retreat. These young people invited their friends, many of them non-Christians. There were equivalent junior high and college groups. Parents frequently asked for time with him. Jim McCue was outstanding! Yet, in terms of his compensation, we needed to remember that “He is only a youth man.” In reality, Jim was chosen by God to be the shepherd for a large flock of young people, and he carried out his God given responsibility in a wonderful way. Jesus clearly said: “the laborer is worthy of his hire” Matthew 10:10
Our first Christmas in Oak Brook, our finances were very tight. We had three children, one car, and an older house in need of repair in a rather expensive town 15 minutes from the church. We were doing everything possible to keep our expenses under control – our only debt was the mortgage on our home. I had painted the house, installed a used stove when the one in the house died – you get the idea. As Christmas approached, our heads were above water, but not by much. We honestly did not have enough money to keep up with necessary expenses and still buy a nice Christmas tree. This was an affluent church with over 1000 attending every Sunday.
What is the appropriate compensation for those chosen by God for a specific ministry? We gain insight through seeing how God asked the Israelites to support the Levites, his chosen spiritual leaders for the Jewish people. God told Moses: “Speak to the Levites and say to them: When you receive from the Israelites the tithe I give you as your inheritance, you must present a tenth of that tithe as the Lord’s offering…to Aaron you must present as the Lord’s portion the best…” Numbers 18:26-29. The Levites were one of the twelve tribes. My guess is that it was not one of the larger tribes. If the rest of the Israelites gave 10% of their income, then the income of the Levites would have been quite comparable to the rest of the Jewish country.
God in the Old Testament, Jesus in the new, did not talk about giving a certain amount of money – with two exceptions I am aware of. The first was the rich young ruler who was told to sell all that he had and to give to the poor. Matthew 10:21 The second was the widow who gave all that she had. Mark 12:42
Jesus said to his followers: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Matthew 6:19-21.
Should I have a higher standard of living than a foreign missionary who has the same education, experience, and ability? Should this missionary have to come almost begging for support? Should the missionary family come back and be provided poor housing and a tired car? Or should appreciation be demonstrated to these people who obey God’s claim upon their lives – and leave family and security? Do we have the mental twistedness that says….God will supply their needs…and if they have enough to eek by ….they will be OK. Do we forget that their children arrive at a school with no close friends? With clothes that may be 4 years out of style – and don’t fit quite right?
I write all of the above from the context of being wonderfully cared for these past 23 years. When we came to Deerfoot, it was in serious trouble: low contributions, low camper attendance, buildings and vehicles in need of repair – and the economy (1982) was not good. My salary reflected these truths! As DL got up to speed, the DL Board and family have made us feel very special, very well cared for!! Now Sally Jo and I have been provided the use of a summer cabin on Whitaker Lake. It ours to use all but a month a year. We could never afford this
If all of us Christians gave generously – from thankful hearts – there would be no shortage of funds for His work. If I live “In Partnership With God”, I will give generously. I have no choice. To do so remains a challenge for us.