Should We All Live Like Missionaries?
The Christian lifestyle shows what we value
Even as we strive to live lives that exalt Jesus and have an impact for the Kingdom, it’s easy to sidestep this question. How should we think about our Christian lifestyle? As I thought about this article and the titling of this article, I noticed something; when we think about the term missionary, it’s easy to come up with a vision for what a missionary lifestyle might be.
Because they are given to sharing the gospel and advancing the Kingdom, most missionaries live on a minimum amount of money. Every dollar is used carefully, and often they go without the “extras” that many consider essential. They may not own a house or have an adequate retirement plan or drive a reliable car or be able to fund college for their children.
Missionaries are folks that forgo comfort and financial security and depend on God’s care as they spend their lives for the gospel.
I also noticed that there is no lifestyle “picture” that comes to mind when I just use the word, Christian. A Christian can, in theory, be someone who is barely able to meet their minimum expenses or someone driving very expensive cars, owning two or three homes, regularly going on fabulous vacations, and having a fully funded and overflowing retirement account.
Thinking through Christian lifestyle consideration has many problems:
First, the Bible doesn’t give a specific answer that stops the conversation about any one person’s lifestyle. It’s not like the “don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal” words of Jesus found in Matthew 19. The Bible is not directly going to tell us how much to pay for a house or spend on Christmas presents or what car to buy.
Second, it’s not appropriate for someone like me to create the absolute definition of what a Christian lifestyle is and what it is not. We must lean on the Bible here.
Third, the cost of basic living varies from town to town, state to state, country to country. Reducing this down to specific numbers and commands doesn’t work.
Having said this, the real problem here is that, because we are weak people prone to distraction and idols, it can be easy to want a weak salvation. It’s easy to want a salvation that radically changes our eternal destiny but doesn’t interfere with our lifestyle or our life’s real mission. We want to share in the rewards of Jesus’ death without actually dying with him and being dead to the attractions of this world. We can get all emotional while we sing about how all we need is Jesus while we really are longing for much more. The heart is indeed deceitful above all things (Jeremiah 17:9)
When it comes to money, it’s easy to demand specific commands that cover every possible situation or we feel little compulsion to go without and live our financial lives for the sake of the Kingdom. Unlike the missionary who understands that full commitment to God’s mission brings with it a walk-by-faith lifestyle and a stewardship mindset, we often feel exempt from this because, after all, we’re not missionaries. Instead of asking, “How can I give more (not just talking about money here), the question we ask is, “How much can I keep for myself and still feel like I’m a good Christian?”
It’s as if our theological thesis when it comes to money is, God has called some to dedicate themselves to the gospel and live by faith and actively depend on him, while he has called others to live in excess and accumulate more than they need. Now really, who would agree with that?
Scripture has plenty to say about a Christian lifestyle:
The little verse we all know – Matthew 19:19 – Love your neighbor as yourself, has massive financial implications. Just ask yourself; how, from a financial perspective, do you love yourself? And what would it look like to love others this way?
Then there’s the story of the rich man in Matthew 6:19–21:
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. … No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
We do gravitate toward what we treasure, right? If we love football, we will rearrange our schedules so we can watch the games. If we love our husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend, we will want to spend time together. A love for our job will result in a temptation to work more than we should. If we treasure money, accumulating for ourselves or buying stuff like cars, clothes, vacations, etc. will have a high priority.
And the thing about treasuring money, it’s incompatible with serving God. There is mutual exclusion here. Treasuring Jesus and his mission will, by definition, oppose a self-focused, longing to treasure money. And treasuring money is in opposition to embracing Jesus. We will love one and not the other. The Christian lifestyle is about loving Jesus and loving our neighbor.
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31) What would it mean for you to think about “all things money” to the glory of God?
So, therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:33) In response to this verse many think, “I will renounce everything if that’s what God calls me to do.” But renouncing everything here is entirely reasonable after experiencing the beauty of the gospel. And, besides, everything we have is a gift to be used for God’s glory.
The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. (Matthew 13:44) Finding Jesus should eliminate every idol we have.
So, how do you think someone who has experienced the mind-blowing mercy of God should live?