Larry Woods asked a while back about what is right and wrong as to the disciple’s approach to charging money for various types of service.
Jesus himself is responsible for some of the ambiguity on this subject for on one hand he said:
“Freely ye have received, freely give,” Matt 10:7 but then he also said “the labourer is worthy of his hire.” Luke 10:7 & Matt 10:9
Spiritual workers through the ages have interpreted this a number of ways. Those with a paid ministry say that receiving a wage is fine because the laborer is worthy of his hire yet they still assist and preach freely to the poor. They teach for free but work on voluntary donations.
Unpaid ministries say we should teach and perform service yet the workers receive no wage at all except what is necessary for administration.
Still others believe it is fine to have an actual mandatory charge for people should pay for what they receive.
This is one of those dilemmas that will not be solved by looking at black and white detail. Instead the servant must understand the underlying principle governing the material recompense of servants in the world.
When speaking of giving freely and receiving payment Jesus was talking to disciples that he sent out into the world who traveled from place to place and town to town. To understand the scriptures on this one must understand how people in that age related to such travelers.
At that time in history we have to realize that they had no entertainment available as we do now. Also if a person wanted to learn something he couldn’t just order a DVD, check out a book or turn on educational TV.
Some of the large population areas had theaters and gathering centers which provided entertainment but for the general population avenues of entertainment, as we understand it, were sparse.
So instead of watching TV, reading books or attending a Tony Robbins seminar what did the people do to entertain or educate themselves?
This vacuum was filled by traveling teachers and entertainers and many people in that day made a living by traveling from town to town and presenting themselves as living books.
Here’s how it worked. Since most people could not read or have access to the great works, this need was filled by individuals who specialized in memorizing certain books, stories, plays, philosophies or whatever there was a demand to hear. If a certain book was popular an entertainer may memorize the whole story pretty close to word for word. He would then practice his delivery to make the story as interesting as possible and then travel from town to town.
Various communities had a network so word circulated as to new travelers showing up and what their subject was. Because people were hungry for entertainment and not too much was available each new traveler usually was able to gather a pretty good audience, especially if his delivery was good.
Many of the travelers gathered around themselves whoever would listen and then accept donations. Others with a good reputation would only entertain a paid audience. Both groups had the same goal – to make a good living – but approached it from two different angles.
By today’s standards someone standing at the center of a crowd reciting a Tom Clancy novel would not seem like good entertainment, but for that age it was a real treat to hear stories and teachings from afar.
The disciples of Jesus had the advantage of having a unique message and since Jesus was becoming well known it was probably easy for them to gather a crowd wherever they went. Jesus instructed them to not charge a set fee but to freely give as this would bring the largest audience wherever they went. But then he told them “the labourer is worthy of his hire” meaning that it was fine to go along with the custom and accept donations so they would have the funding necessary to continue their work.
In other words, the disciples of Jesus handled fundraising after the manner of the customs of the traveling entertainers of that era.
If Jesus were here today would he handle raising funds the same way?
Probably not because the situation is much different.
The Key to correct thinking on this is not to try and exactly duplicate the past but to ask what is the fairest and best way to proceed.
Here is what I have concluded.
If you have a product or service that you have created by the sweat of your brow you can sell it for whatever the market will bear. There is no negative karma in doing this for you are doing your part in making the machinery of society work. If you provide discounts or give donations to those in need then positive karma will be the result.
If you have spiritual teachings and desire yourself and the participants to get as close to the Spirit as possible then you will want to place as little emphasis as possible on money. Energy follows thought, so if fees involved are as high as the market will bear then thought and energy from the teacher and audience will be diverted to the material side.
It thus helps the teacher to keep thought and energy directed to Spirit and give service freely when possible and charge minimum or reasonable fees when needed.
I know of people who see themselves as spiritual servants who charge $1500 for an hour of their time. Others go the other extreme and insist there never be a charge. These are usually ineffective and never have the money available to do the work.
Most will agree that accepting free will donations applied to the work is normally a harmless approach.
Conclusion: For work in the material world charging what the market will bear is fine. But if the goal is to center consciousness on the spirit then do whatever it takes to keep attention on the spirit by either relying on donations or charging a fee that all can afford.
Take our yearly gathering, for example. We have expenses involved so we charge a reasonable fee. When we become aware that someone is hurting financially we will offer a discount or free admission. No one I know of has ever been turned away because of lack of money.
In about two thirds of the gatherings we have come out almost exactly even and about a third of them we have come about a little ahead. I don’t recall any of them losing money.
Not charging at all can place too much attention on money because of the lack of it and charging too much can do the same. The key is a common sense middle way.
Copyright 2011 by J J Dewey
3 thoughts on “Spiritual Work and Money”
Good post and yes many have become suspicious of anyone who charges a fee but when they look at it and use their common sense they will know that every one has some kind of expense and a middle way approach of not over or under charging is needed.
Unfortunately many people are suspicious of anyone who charges a fee for any kind of spiritual work or teaching. But few realize the expense involved in the, time, money, and work it takes to gain the knowledge to produce something worth offering. To many charlatans have ruined it to a large extent for the real servants.
Great post JJ