Mission Minded Money isn’t simply about spending less on the things that don’t add to the Kingdom, it’s also about committing to spending MORE in the places that do. This isn’t limited to simply stroking checks to non-profits.
One of the expenditures that can have the highest return for anybody’s mission is spending money towards what I call the “Priest’s Portion.”
What is the Priest’s Portion?
In Joshua 13, God distributes the promised land to the twelve tribes of Israel, but somebody gets left out. The Levites get no portion. God tasks them as his representatives to Israel. God himself is the inheritance of the Levites.
God commands each of the 11 tribes of Israel to provide for the Levites out of their own inheritance.
Leviticus 2 describes that the Israelites should bring their offering before the Lord, the priest will burn some of it up and then “the rest of the grain offering shall be for Aaron and his sons; it is a most Holy offering to the Lord”.
Though Christ’s death completes the law, God taught us a lot about proper relationships between people, communities and money through the economic system he set up for the ancient Israelites.
I’ve spent some time leaning into exactly what it would look like for my offerings to God to provide for the priests in my life.
Who is my Priest?
The priests in ancient Israel were people who mediated between Israel and God. They were the ones who pointed people to God, received confession, and copied and explained the scriptures.
Because Jesus poured out his Spirit on all flesh, literally anyone can be a priest towards you, but have you taken the time to notice who they are?
Of course, a pastor often fills this role in your life. Additionally, a more spiritually mature friend, mentor, or counselor may also fill the role of pointing you to God throughout your life.
As I began to take notice of who was being a priest in my life, I realized the vastness of God’s spiritual provision for me. From a paid spiritual director, to a recently retired pastor outside my denomination, God had placed a plethora of shepherds and pastors who were pointing me to Jesus
Scripture commands that we “Honor our Father and Mother.”
How much more should we honor our spiritual father and mothers than our earthly ones?
How Can We Modernize the Priest’s Portion?
Think of the pastor, teacher or mentor that moved your life ‘on mission’.
Can you imagine where you would be without them? If you had an emergency or crisis of faith today, who would be your first call? When’s the last time you’ve showed them honor?
Because there is no way to adequately repay someone who provides this level of spiritual care in your life, the priest’s portion is more about honor than provision. It’s a gift that says, “I honor the cost of what you’ve given me.”
Here’s a few ideas of how to honor the sacrifice of those who are helping you “fan your gift into a flame”.
- Give out of your hobbies: I love to work in the garden, raise chickens and roast my own coffee. These are things that I strive to share with the people who are nurturing my relationship with God. Perhaps you are a seamstress, or a woodworker or an expert baker. Share something out of the things you are already creating.
- Give out of your abilities: I once knew of a man who simply crossed the street while he was mowing his yard to mow his pastor’s yard. The yards were small. Perhaps this took 20 minutes a week for this man, but it kept the pastor’s house looking maintained and was one thing the minister didn’t have to worry about. What ability do you have that could add value to the lives of the priests in your life.
- Give out of your abundance: I don’t recommend straight cash contributions, although God may tell you otherwise. Most mentors I know would feel uneasy about the dynamic shift in the relationship (perhaps they shouldn’t, but that’s a different blog). However, you can pay for things to benefit your mentor. Buying a plane ticket, or hotel room for a getaway, paying for a membership to a gym or club or even simply buying a meal from time to time, says “thanks” to your priests and provides for them in a small way.
A Warning About Power Dynamics
People don’t like mixing money and ministry and I understand why.
It seems every month we hear about some minister who took advantage of a loyal congregant or misappropriated money from the church coffers.
The purpose of the priest’s portion is always gratefulness NEVER obligation.
God sovereignly provides for the ministers of his Word, and will never put a heavier yoke on you. Because of the cross, we are free to give out of glad hearts instead of religious duty.
On the flip side, your gift to your priest is just that, a gift.
You should not attempt to use your priest’s portion as leverage for additional access or preferential treatment.
Like all things money, the heart matters.
I know a lot of ministers, former ministers, and just down right awesome Christians who have paid enormous costs in time, money, and spiritual energy to raise up a new generation of spiritual leaders.
Some of them have cashed in 401(k)s, left lucrative careers, and abused their bodies for the sake of the Gospel.
The Bible commands “give to everyone what you owe…if honor than give honor” (Romans 13:7)
What would honoring the priest in your life look like?
Is a $20 lunch, a basket of produce, or a free brake job too much to ask for those who have brought us closer to the foot of the cross?
We will never repay these mentors for what they’ve sowed into our life, but we can show them we noticed.