How High to Set Your Budget

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!
— Matthew 11:18-19

Imagine John the Baptist submitting his budget to the mission committee at a church:

“Wow, John, you’re frugal—locusts and wild honey don’t cost much!!”

Now imagine Jesus submitting his budget: “Wow, Jesus, your line item for eating with tax collectors is quite high!”

Today, mission-workers, leadership teams and Boards debate how at what level to set staff budgets.  But let’s take the emphasis off money and think about gospel advance.

In describing his funding, Paul said, “I do all things for the sake of the Gospel….” (1 Corinthians 9:23). If living meagerly advanced the gospel, Paul gladly did it. If living generously best advanced the gospel, he gladly did it. He knew “how to live with humble means and…. in prosperity…I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).

What should a ministry lifestyle look like? How about this guideline? 

Set your budget and lifestyle such that you are at maximum gospel fruitfulness in life, family and ministry.

Gospel advance is the issue—what economic level advances the gospel best in your situation?

But this gives the opportunity for extravagance. Some gospel-workers own two cars and the latest computer gadgets. In some cultures, that appears extravagant, and maybe it is. But it might empower the mission-worker to most effectively advance the gospel.

At the other extreme, living too meagerly can harm the gospel. At a Midwest university, Christian students avoided coming to the campus pastor’s home. Nor did they bring their non-believing friends. Why not? “He lives so poorly, we are embarrassed,” they said. “And he ‘trash-picks’ on trash pickup day in the neighborhood.”

This is not a money question. Choose the budget that best advances the gospel in your situation. Never mind what others do or don’t do. Like John and Jesus, you will be criticized either way.

Prayer: Father in Heaven, sometimes I am caught in the trap of envying those who have more than I do. Help me to live in such a way that my work is not hindered by poor funding nor ostentatious living. I am willing to live humbly, and I am willing to live in prosperity. May my lifestyle advance the gospel! Amen.