By Gabriel Ojo

If you have not asked yourself this question as a missionary, there is a high possibility that someone has asked you before. It is even possible that someone had told you with conviction that tentmaking is the biblical model of supporting a missionary. People who say this are quick to tell us Jesus was a carpenter and Paul was a tentmaker.
So, let us look at them one after the other.
Jesus Christ
Was He really a carpenter?
Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us? So they were offended at Him. Mark 6:3 (NKJV)
Is this not the carpenter’s Son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? Matthew 13:55 (NKJV)
These are the two instances where Jesus’ carpentry background is mentioned, and they are parallel accounts. That is, both report the same events. So who was the carpenter, Jesus or Joseph?
Well, going by the tradition of the time, it is very possible that both of them were carpenters. If Joseph (Jesus’ earthly father) was a carpenter, there is the likelihood that Jesus took after him.
But did He support Himself in ministry with His trade?
Even if Jesus was a carpenter, there is nothing that suggests that He continued carpentry work when He began His ministry. He couldn’t have continued His trade when He had called His disciples to leave their trades to follow Him. If others had to leave everything to follow Him (Mark 10:28), it would have been morally wrong for Jesus to hold on to His own trade.
So how was He supported?
When He was in Capernaum and needed to pay temple tax, there was the miracle of money from the fish’s mouth. There was also miraculous feeding of multitudes. But He also received support from people.
Some time later Jesus traveled through towns and villages, preaching the Good News about the Kingdom of God. 
The twelve disciples went with him, and so did some women who had been healed of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (who was called Magdalene), from whom seven demons had been driven out; Joanna, whose husband Chuza was an officer in Herod’s court; and Susanna, and many other women who used their own resources to help Jesus and his disciples. Luke 8:1-3 (GNT)
He could have lived off supernatural provisions like these all through (and I believed they happened only occasionally), but He received support to show us a pattern.
Though originally trained in the Jewish law at the school of Gamaliel, Paul was later involved in tent-making. Very likely, he must have embraced tent-making as a missionary to Asia Minor and Europe.
So why did he choose tentmaking? Was it out of necessity or because it is simply God’s way?
To answer these questions, I will examine two of the instances where Paul’s extra job was mentioned.
In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul talked about how his team labored night and day to support themselves. They did this so as not to be burden to the young church, though they had the right to be supported by them (1Thessalonians 2:9; 3:7-9).
Just like Paul, many missionaries know that it is unwise to burden new believers with request for support.
Thessalonian believers’ work ethic.
Apart from not wanting to be a burden, Paul also wanted to correct a misconception in the Church.
Strangely, many people in the church had believed they needed not to work. Why they came to this conclusion is not clear, but they were living off the few responsible members of the Church. This was becoming a huge problem and Paul thought the best way he could teach this church to work hard is by modeling it himself.
Insufficient support
Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessity. Philippians 4:15-16 (NKJV).
Clearly Paul received support while in Thessalonica. So apart from the reasons above, the fact that the church generally at that time had not come to understand her responsibility towards missionaries must also have been partly responsible.
While in Corinth, Paul found Aquila and Priscilla who were also tentmakers. He stayed and worked with them (Acts 18:1-3).
Let’s consider a few things.
Every Sabbath
In Acts 18:4, it appeared Paul’s ministry in Corinth at the beginning was carried out only on Sabbaths. That means he had six free days every week. If I were Paul, I probably would have found good use for the free days.
Because places are different, how we minister in different places also differs.
Corinth was a commercial center, a mix of individuals of different ethnic background. It was a busy and dynamic city. Since the only day he could get to meet the people was Sabbath, he needed to work the remaining days. 
Besides, he wouldn’t have impressed the industrious people of Corinth if they perceived him as being idle or lazy. So, I believe his trade was strategic.
There are also places today where missionaries will not be given visa if they call themselves missionaries. In such places, missionaries live there as professionals or business owners.
Robbed other churches.
Did I commit sin in humbling myself that you might be exalted, because I preached the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you. 2Corinthians 11:7-8 (NKJV)
This further shows that tentmaking was mainly a strategy to keep ministering to the people in Corinth. While there, he raised support, not from one church but churches. I wonder why he chose to use the word ‘rob’. But I think it conveys the fact that he actively and intentionally raised support.
He raised support from them
When we read Paul’s epistles and find him telling a church he didn’t depend on them while he was with them, we need to understand that he was referring to the time when the church was in its formative days. To use that as the basis for saying tent making is the preferred model is wrong.
Most support raisers like Paul, will not raise support from the people they minister to, at least, not at the earliest stage of their Christian growth. Just like Paul, they will rather ‘rob’ other churches in order to keep ministering to them.
But when Paul felt the church was now spiritually mature, he asked them for support.
And in this confidence I intended to come to you before, that you might have a second benefit – to pass by way of you to Macedonia, to come again from Macedonia to you, and be helped by you on my way to Judea. 2Corinthians 1:15-16 (NKJV)
Not only did he raise support to live and minister in Corinth, he also raised support from the Corinthian church to minister elsewhere.
There is no doubting the fact that the debate is not going to end anytime soon. But when faced with the question again, I believe you are now empowered to form a biblically sound opinion on the matter. So, let me just ask you now again, which is biblical; tentmaking or support raising? 
This blog has been republished with permission from Gabriel Ojo.
Link to the Original Article: https://ministrysupportsolutions.com/which-is-biblical-tentmaking-or-support-raising/


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow by Email