Understanding Human Nature and Money
YOU WOULD THINK that after thousands of years of human history, people would have achieved a greater understanding of human nature and would be able to avoid the inevitable pitfalls that come with that human nature. But like the driver who hits the same pothole every day on his way to work, we keep making the same mistakes with money in missions, apparently learning nothing from the bad experiences of others. Perhaps the problem is human nature itself. Most parents have experienced the frustration of watching their kids make bad choices in life, which could have been avoided if only these kids had taken the time to learn from the mistakes of others. This issue of MF is your opportunity to learn from others in regard to the dangers of foreign funds in missions. You are not doomed to make the same tragic mistakes others have made over and over again. It is time
to study human nature as it relates to money and make the proclivities of human nature work for us in our quest for establishing indigenous movements to Christ in every people, and not against us.
Money is Psychologically Powerful
It is an understatement to say that money is an important part of our lives. God considers it important too. There are 2,000 verses in the Bible concerning money and its use, while only 500 on prayer. Our lives are spent working day by day to earn money for the essentials of life. Money is a medium of exchange for our time spent at work. It represents compensation for a significant portion of our entire life span as individuals. It is no surprise then that money or the lack thereof impacts our emotions, our thinking and our behavior in dramatic ways. People will often lie, cheat, steal and worse to get more money. In fact, some statistics say that church leaders embezzle more money than is given to missions each year. So it should also be no surprise that money in missions can negatively
impact the understanding of the gospel and its spread in major ways. It is quite common in the history of missions for people to feign allegiance to Jesus in order to get the goodies the missionaries have brought. See our lead article, “What Have You Brought For Us?” starting on page 8. It is also very typical for money to stifle the growth of Disciple Making Movements as the influx of foreign funds impacts the thinking and behavior of its recipients.
No Substitute for Good Character and Hard Work
In the West we often think that money can solve all problems. But this is demonstrably false as seen in the case of Haiti. Billions upon billions of dollars have poured into this impoverished island nation with no apparent improvement in the grinding poverty that suffocates the hopes and dreams of the Haitian people. How can this be? There is one thing missing from this equation—the response of the Haitian people. How has the flood of foreign funds affected the thinking and behavior of the Haitian people? Has it made them more industrious
and hard working or less so? It is a fact of reality that no amount of money can replace the hard work, ingenuity and innovation of people. It is human beings that create wealth through their hard work and good character.
You can give every person in Haiti or homeless person in Los Angeles a beautiful new home, but unless these people demonstrate good moral character and hard work, that beautiful new home will soon become a wreck and the money spent for these homes is wasted. The question then for economists is, “How do you motivate and incentivize people to create wealth through hard work and good character?”
A similar question for us as Jesus followers is, “How do you motivate and encourage people to make disciples and plant churches?” Some think money is the answer, but as we can see in this issue of MF, money is often a disincentive to what we want to see in ministry. The money becomes the focus of peoples’ attention, not the love
of Christ and a love for others that compels these people to sacrifice their own time and money to bring the gospel to others. In many cases people come to believe that they cannot do ministry without foreign money and so all their efforts cease.
As followers of Jesus we have the God-given privilege of giving to the Lord and working to see the gospel increase in the area where the Lord has placed us. This privilege is passed on to those we seek to reach both near and far. When we use our missions dollars to try to “speed up” the spread of the gospel among the unreached by paying people, we discourage the unreached from giving themselves and their resources to the Lord for the work of ministry. We are robbing them of the joy and privilege of seeing the Lord bless and multiply what they give to Him. The foreign money not only does not speed up the spread of the gospel, it actually hinders it as it discourages the people being reached from taking personal ownership of the process of making disciples and planting churches. When someone gives of their own hard earned money and time to reach others with the gospel, they take a personal interest in the success of that ministry. As some might say, “They’ve got skin in the game.” No amount of money can replace this sense of ownership. In fact, money keeps it from taking place. The manpower and resources to fuel the harvest among the unreached must come from the harvest field itself.
When we see a baby chick struggle to emerge from its egg, our compassionate heart wants to help it out so it does not have to struggle so much. But in doing so, we rob that baby chick of the strength it gains from that struggle, which is essential for its survival. By helping we are hurting. When it comes to missions, our big hearts want to help people so they won’t have to struggle so much. But by doing so, we rob them of the internal strength and local resources they will need to foster a movement to Christ in their midst. That is a price too high to pay.
The next issue of Mission Frontiers for July-August will be guest edited by the leader of the Frontier Ventures Launch Lab.
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As is the case with most publications, Mission Frontiers cannot cover its costs from subscriptions alone. We need additional funds from those who believe in this ministry and are willing to sacrifice to help us move forward in casting vision for Kingdom Movements in all peoples. Like most of the people who work for Frontier Ventures, my salary is supplied by the donations of churches and friends who believe in what I am doing. And also like many staff members at Frontier Ventures, there are many months when not enough comes in to fully cover our allotted salary. To donate to my ministry with MF go to http://www.frontierventures.org and click on the Donate button. Put MA 323 in the dialog box. If you would like to help MF cover its general expenses and expand its influence, go to the same web address, given above, click on the Donate button and put MA 030 in the dialog box. We greatly appreciate whatever you can do to help Mission Frontiers and Frontier Ventures continue its work to see Kingdom Movements emerge in all peoples.