Witnessing flies when giving thrives.
by Aniel Barbe
“These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (Luke 8:3, NIV).
How relevant is any discussion about partnering in God’s mission? The God of the Bible is Omnipotent, and He declares Himself as the Owner of everything (Ps. 24:1, 2). Nevertheless, according to Luke 8:1-3, Jesus partnered with the 12 disciples and was supported by some women.
Supporting Expansion in Mission
Luke 8:1–3 serves as an introduction to a major section of the earthly ministry of Jesus—His final tour in Galilee. This section ends with Luke 9:51: “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (NKJV). This phase of His ministry was particularly rich in teaching, demonstration of power, and expansion in mission.
During his last trip in Galilee, Jesus used parables to make His instructions clearer. His teachings about “who is the greatest” and warnings against sectarianism date from this time. He spoke plainly about His death and resurrection. Another peak experience was the Transfiguration, which provided a glimpse of His coming in glory. This trip was definitely the platform from which the good news resounded.
During this tour, Jesus controlled the elements by calming a storm and walking on water. He demonstrated His power over death by resurrecting the daughter of Jairus, and His healing power by relieving the woman who had a flow of blood. A crowd of 5,000 men plus women and children—who probably ate more than the men—were fed until they were full. Jesus showcased Himself as the compassionate all-powerful One.
There was also a significant breakthrough in mission. Jesus visited the Gentile regions outside the borders of Israel such as Tyre, Sidon, Bethsaida, and Decapolis. He went north as far as Caesarea Phillipi. Outside Tyre, He repeated the miracle of the multiplication of bread by feeding 4,000 men, presenting Himself as the Bread of Life for all nations. He benchmarked the concept of a universal mission.
It was indeed an exceptional period in Jesus’ earthly ministry. Who provided for the needed resources? “These women were helping to support them out of their own means” (Luke 8:3, NIV). They assisted Jesus and His missionary crew. The all-powerful God depended on humans, on a handful of women, for the execution of His mission. This is a stunning paradox.
God’s mission for Planet Earth has entered into its final phase. It is time to move forward and faster. Do we have the needed logistics to support this expansion? Ellen White shares about God’s strategy: “He has placed in the hands of his servants the means wherewith to carry forward his work in home and foreign missions” (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 47). The resources are available; is it possible that they are not yet released?
The Contributions of the Women
When one invests in growing spirituality, the outcome will be growth in liberality.
Speaking of the contribution of these women, Luke employs two key words: “support” and “own means” (Luke 8:3, NIV). The Greek word diekonoun, translated “support,” refers both to service rendered and to financial patronage. The context can accommodate both meanings. An itinerant preacher with 12 disciples definitely had some practical needs: the washing and mending of clothes, the preparation of food, and so on. It is also true that Jesus left His carpentry shop, and His followers left their boats and tax collector’s booth, hence they needed financial support to survive. One should not minimize the value of material and financial support. These mundane things are essential for the good news to move forward; they are the wheels of mission.
Which types of uparchonton, translated “own means,” were employed by these women? They were providing services according to their abilities; both simple and complex. The “own means” also refers to financial means. It could be some pocket money, savings, possessions, or solid assets of a certain value. It is most probable that these women sold some of their valuables to assist Jesus and the disciples. If this was so, they started a practice that later would be emulated by the early church—selling assets and bringing the proceeds to support God’s mission.
Women in all generations have always had important things to do or buy for themselves. These women were not exceptions, but they demonstrated an exceptional self-sacrificing spirit. The pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church were animated by the same spirit (read box). Ellen White encourages us in the same line: “Each should keep a missionary box at hand, and drop into it every penny he is tempted to waste in self-indulgence” (Counsels on Stewardship, p. 290). Do we have our own missionary box, drawer, purse, or bank account?
The Driving Forces
What were the driving forces behind the spirit of self-denial of these women? The text brings two motives to light. These women were with Jesus (Luke 8:2). According to 2 Corinthians 3:18, the company of Jesus, the Great Giver, can only transform individuals into His image. Robert K. Mclver shares about the positive relationship between giving and other spiritual practices: “Among Seventh-day Adventists, tithing behavior is very closely related to a range of other practices relating to religion, such as whether they attend Sabbath School, read and reflect on the Bible each day, and pray often during the day” (Tithing Practices among Seventh-day Adventists, p. 30). The closeness of our connection with God and His Word leads to the renewal of the self-sacrificing spirit. When one invests in growing spirituality, the outcome will be growth in liberality.
Another motivating factor is the fact that these women “had been cured of evil spirits and diseases” (Luke 8:2, NIV). All have experienced the delivering power and goodness of Jesus. Without this background, it would be difficult to understand how Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household, could allow his wife to move around with Jesus and use their personal means to support the ministry of the obscure rabbi from Nazareth.
Stewardship is always the response of a grateful heart. In traditional patronage the beneficiaries show gratitude only with words and emotions, but here the beneficiaries showed their gratitude by partnering. This is a unique feature of biblical stewardship: we give because He has already given. We love Him and others because He first loved us.
The Real Beneficiaries
Service, giving, and witnessing belong to the same package. Let us refrain from being selective.
The next occasions that we meet these women are at the foot of the cross (Luke 23:49) and at the burial of Jesus (Luke 23:55). They did not run away when Jesus was arrested and condemned. Faithfulness in supporting God’s mission prepared them for faithfulness in time of crisis. Where do you go when you have given it all? To Jesus. Their commitment to support Jesus was translated into total dedication to Him. Their lives were a confirmation of the words of Luke 12:34, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (NIV). Our application in supporting God’s mission today is one of the surest indicators of where we will stand during the final crisis.
Finally, these women were present at the empty tomb on Resurrection day (Luke 24:1-9). They were privileged to be the first witnesses of the greatest event in all human history. Service, giving, and witnessing belong to the same package. Let us refrain from being selective.
Jesus, the all-powerful One, has chosen to associate with human partners in the work of proclaiming the good news of the kingdom. He associated Himself with both the 12 disciples and the women who gave of their own means. Involvement in His mission is through both dedicated service and sacrificial giving. As we taste His goodness, let us reflect on our response. The result will be mission forward and faster.