Tentmakers Amidst Labor Shortages in the Kingdom of God

As Christians celebrate the grace and mercy of God, to execute so great a salvation, we remember that God uses means to accomplish His end goal objectives. Although God does not need anything from those He has already saved, it is very much part of His plan to gift and equip His people in work of service that contributes to the advance of His kingdom.

The New Testament provides a variety of terms that support Christians in service to their Lord and King (1 Tim 6:15), including slave of Christ, steward, laborers, workman, workers, faithful, minister, etc. With each incidence of one being born again, the potential in the labor market is enhanced. Each death of a Christian reduces the labor pool. When we read the Bible, we discover various genres of literature that contain doctrine pertaining to diverse themes, including the economies of the kingdom of God.

Man’s definition of economics is the study of the distribution of scarce resources. Christians cannot subscribe to this type of scarcity consciousness because the Bible teaches us, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein (Ps 24:1).” Having created all things, whether ex-nihilo or building from already existing materials (Heb 3:4; 11:10), the Lord is able to provide for His kingdom work, above and beyond all we could think or imagine (2 Cor 8–9). He is sovereign and sits in the heavens, doing as He pleases with His economies (Ps 115:135:6).

It is every Christian’s heart’s desire to finish the race of faith, in order to hear the judgment, “Well done, good and faithful slave (Mt 25:21, 23).” Faith is a key aspect to faithfulness. Our trust in the Word of God, which presents to us the promises of God, manifests in works (Jas 2:14–26). These works were prepared beforehand by God that we might walk in them (Eph 2:10). God’s eternal decree and sovereign will must be done. He will do it (Ps 37:5; 57:2; 138:8; Is 26:12).

There is a scenario that unfolds as we correlate certain passages. For instance, Jesus taught His disciples to pray for the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). Later, the Apostle Paul reported such a financial deficiency that he and his crew reverted back to their trade as tentmakers (Acts 18:3). We are struck with lament when we consider the conundrum. Why when there is ever a labor shortage for kingdom work does the finest example of Christian labor, Paul, report that he could not sustain himself in what God called him to do (2 Tim 2:4), so he left the kingdom work for worldly work. It was the Macedonians, the poorest of believers, who gave to Paul to meet his needs and return him to his rightful place in stewarding the Gospel entrusted to him (Phil 4:14, 16).

This disconnect between supply and demand is nothing short of a travesty, albeit in the providence of God, who works it all together for good for His called beloved (Rom 8:28). Not everyone is called to the remunerated ranks of ministers, but there is a purpose for the financed minister of God’s Word. Those who love God’s Word and have a calling to preach and teach it should have financing, even a double portion (1 Tim 5:17), from the church/churches.

The laborer is worthy of his wages (Lk 10:7). Just as the farmer receives his share of the crops (2 Tim 2:6), so the minister of spiritual things rightly receives material things (Rom 15:27; 1 Cor 9:11). Simply put, the churches benefit when men are fully dedicated to study the Word of God, to pray, and to faithfully minister the Bible (Ezra 7:10; Acts 6:4).

Most Christians are not given over to the study of the Bible in the same way as the priests and Levites, the prophets, and the apostles. In fact, a man of God should be tested in the matters of Bible knowledge (2 Tim 2:15), the formation of sound doctrine (1 Tim 4:6; 6:3; 2 Tim 4:3), and his gift and ability to teach both doctrine and theology (1 Tim 3:2; 2 Tim 2:2). No church should be cheap or lax in its call for the man of God to come and help them. In fact, a case could be made that every church budget should be dominated by the preacher/teacher line items, especially salary.

The economic promise of God is to supply all of the individual and church financial needs by His grace (2 Cor 9:8). God’s grace is the provider for God’s will to be done, in the matters of church and church worker needs (2 Cor 9:11). Remember, a double portion is allocated to church elders who are especially apt to teach God’s Word (1 Tim 5:17).

So, we again visit the Great Apostle as he labors with his hands at making things for the world’s trade market. Something sinful was hindering the proper funding of his missionary evangelism and preaching ministry (1 Cor 4:12; 9:6–7, 11–12, 14, 18; 2 Cor 11:27; Phil 2:25; 1 Thess 2:9; 2 Tim 2:6).

From the clash of praying for laborers and the sidelined ministers who are forced back into the world, let us consider a few things.

First, God is sovereign in both supply and distribution. Therefore, where there is any kind of hindrance to His economy, there is undoubtedly sin and a lesson to be learned.

Second, impaired giving by Christians is a red flag for worldliness (love for the world), which is to be rejected (1 Jn 2:15–17). When the financing of God’s Word being distributed is handicapped, men will be occupied with other things by choice or necessity. The result of material deficiencies will no doubt be the deficiency in Gospel distribution ministries (spiritual things). The cyclical trend will spiral downward and the judgment will be lampstands removed (Rev 2–3).

Third, consider your local church budget and as much as possible, remove line items that are not directly facilitating the ministry of the Word. Invest heavily in finding the most faithful and gifted men of God to call to be your minister(s).

Fourth, elevating the office of teaching elder will have the additional effect of young men being inspired and equipped, in their love for God’s Word, and for the ministry to which many of them will be called because of the intentional environment of faithfulness, where slaves of Christ are happy to echo the prophet Isaiah, “Here am I, send me.”

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

June 1, 2022

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher