One day my wife finally dropped the bombshell on me. She said she believed I had the talent and calling from God to leave my career as a paramedic and become an author.
For years I resisted the urging of friends and relatives who felt I was called to be a writer. I rejected the possibility of writing and selling books because I knew Jesus told His disciples, “Freely you have received; freely give…” and I understood that as a prohibition against selling anything related to God. I could not in good conscience sell a book that was based on the revelation He had given me. My wife suggested I read those instructions again.
The tenth chapters of Matthew and Luke are a great help in understanding the things Jesus expected of His disciples. In Matthew 10, He instructed the twelve about their ministry, and in Luke 10, He gave instructions to the 70. It’s in Matthew chapter 10 that we find the instruction about giving freely. Immediately after choosing the twelve disciples, Jesus gave them power to heal sickness and disease and said to them:
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. (Mt 10:8 NKJV)
What’s important to note is the context of this verse. The instruction to give freely was not a general instruction that applied to all of their activities. (This becomes clear in the next verse.) It seems as though it applied to healing the sick, casting out demons, cleansing lepers and raising the dead. He did allow them to receive compensation for other things related to their ministry. The next verse reads:
Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. (verses 9-10)
Jesus sent the disciples out penniless. Rather than telling them to take money to pay for their own needs, they were to rely on the generosity of strangers. They lived in the homes of whoever received them and taught about the kingdom of God. In return, the homeowners provided for their needs. When He sent out the 70, (recorded in Luke chapter 10) He gave them similar instructions, once again telling them not to take any valuables. They were to stay wherever they were welcomed, heal the sick, teach on the kingdom of God and allow strangers to provide for their needs—reminding them that they were laborers for God and that they were worthy of the wages they received. In his letter to Timothy, Paul affirmed that teaching a preaching ought to be compensated:
Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” And in another place, “Those who work deserve their pay!” (1 Tim. 5:17-18 NLT)
It’s clear from these passages that believers may be compensated for their ministry to the body of Christ. Here’s how I apply these instructions in my own life:
I’ve never asked for money to pray for anyone to be healed, set free of a demon, raised from the dead, or for any type of prayer request. It takes an enormous amount of time to create blog posts, podcasts and videos, but I make these things available for free. I do however, charge for my books, and there are a couple of reasons why:
A typical print book requires me to pay about $1,500 just for editing services. All my books are published through Amazon who sets a minimum price an author must charge for a print book. They don’t allow them to be made available for free. As much as I would like to offer my books for free, it’s just not possible.
Although I once thought it was against the instructions of Jesus to charge for anything related to my service to God, I now understand that there are things that I should offer for free and things for which I may charge. I don’t think this is an unreasonable approach and I believe it’s consistent with way Jesus intended new covenant ministry to be conducted.