A few weeks ago I was reading Mark 6:7-13 (from the Moravian Daily Texts), where Jesus sends his disciples out on a ministry trip, saying “Take nothing for the journey but a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in your belts…” He sends them out in complete dependence on the provision of God expressed through the kindness of strangers.
Dependence comes before stewardship. It’s much like the first step in disciple-making where the disciple is dependent on their teacher or leader because they don’t even know what they don’t know. Jesus wants us to trust Him like a child trusts the parent first…because He is TRUSTworthy! It is His best plan for us to learn in innocence rather than suffer the effects of prideful INdependence.
It’s interesting that later, when he is about to be arrested and crucified, Jesus reminds them of this (“When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” – “Nothing,” they answered), and then tells them the exact opposite (“But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one”).
In that our dependence and trust in what God says is directly related to how trustworthy we believe He is. We will only trust what someone says to us if we believe their character is such that they have our best interests at heart. But it is definitely one of the first things we learn as God’s children.
First he says don’t pack any provisions, just trust God. Later he says get a bag and pack some provisions, be wise. First you learn dependence and faith, then you learn wisdom and stewardship. It seems like learning them in that order is important.
For example, consider the journey of the Israelites after they came out of slavery in Egypt. The way that God provides for them is an expression of daily bread for daily need: every morning there’s enough manna on the ground to feed your family for the day. You go to bed with nothing, trusting that God will provide another day’s food tomorrow. They are learning raw faith, utter dependence.
However, after they enter the promised land, the manna stops. Now it’s time for them to learn to cultivate the ground and be wise stewards of the land they’ve been given. They are provided for in a more “indirect” way through the food that the land will produce, but they will need to exercise sound judgment and work in the fields to see the harvest come. Early on they learned raw dependence. Later they learned wise stewardship.
I was also reminded of Jesus telling his disciples to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” It’s probably pretty important to learn to be as innocent as doves before learning to be shrewd as snakes. If we learn shrewdness first it may be difficult to learn innocence later.
It seems that when you walk with Jesus in the kingdom, first you learn to live by faith, then you learn wisdom. If we try to walk in wise stewardship before we walk by faith, we will walk in fear and call it “wisdom.” We will behave faithlessly and call it “responsibility.” We’ll also be unable to discern true faith from arrogance or recklessness. You can’t learn true wisdom and stewardship until you’ve learned faith and dependence.
Think about the rich young ruler, too: the first discipleship task was to give all his wealth away and follow Jesus. Perhaps later Jesus would have taught him how to invest his wealth for the good of the poor or something, but first he had to learn simple faith. Sadly, though, he turned down the greatest internship opportunity ever because he couldn’t bring himself to engage in the first lesson.
This bears out in my own life as well. It seems that faith is always the first lesson, because it’s so easy for faithlessness to look like wisdom to our untrained hearts. Early on I was driven by faith and did take steps of faith with remarkable results, but as those steps of faith grew larger, I enquired of my church leaders for wisdom & counsel (as I was taught to do). As they were a lot older than me they gave me ‘wisdom’ that put doubt in my heart in regards to my ‘faith steps’. The consequence being I followed my church leaders’ council rather than the still small whisper of the Father’s voice. Clear & simple enough I sadly now realize it was disobedience on my part in not following the Father’s voice that has led to serious difficulties that in hindsight would not have happened had I followed Him first & foremost.
Have you noticed this pattern in your own life?