Close your eyes. Now conjure up the image of your perfect supporter. Piece together the identikit of that person.
Let’s start with age: similar to you? Or perhaps older (but not too old).
Background: again similar; helps if they get your cultural references surely?
Next, circumstances: probably on a reasonable to good salary with a steady job.
Faith: maybe you’d want someone who is solid in their faith?
Now fill in some of the other areas such as health, financial and social status until you’ve produced your masterpiece of invention.
There’s just one problem – it’s not generally how God works when he funds his family business. While we tend to apply our own value judgements on who would make a good supporter, God has other ideas.
We read in Luke 8: 1-3 about the financial support group that Jesus gathered round him:
After this, Jesus travelled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the Kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Mary (called Magdalene) from who seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Suzanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means.
No wealthy businessmen or pillars of Jewish (male) society. The ministry of Jesus and his disciples is supported by a group of women from a wide range of social circumstances. What brings them together is gratitude for healing and the need to be part of God’s continuing work. In a counter-cultural move, Jesus affords them the dignity of accepting their support.
The fact is, supporters come in all shapes, sizes and circumstances and God allows his blessing to flow through all the members of his family.
A few years back when I was living on support, I was only too familiar with the feeling that I needed permission to use supporters’ gifts to do something fun or relaxing (no matter how needed). It was liberating when someone blessed me with the instruction to use their gift to do something I would simply enjoy. So when I saw a family in one of my supporting churches who was struggling financially, I wanted to do the same for them: give them a gift to be able to do something fun and light together during a tricky time. I too wanted to be part of blessing people and of God’s continuing work.
Sadly, it didn’t go quite the way I’d planned. My gift was nearly rejected and only accepted reluctantly. The family saw a Christian Worker with slender means and protested that they should be giving to me rather than the other way around.
It left me with a mixture of feelings: I felt undignified rather than dignified. It made me feel like I don’t qualify to give, only to receive. That somehow I’m not good enough or rich enough to give.
On that occasion, the blessing and joy of giving was almost taken away from me. So in my heart I returned to my reasons for giving, not their response: to bless, to be part of the family, to be part of Jesus’ call to generosity, in gratitude for all I have, and to keep my own heart soft towards money.
No doubt Jesus’ disciples must have questioned why Jesus accepted gifts from such unconventional sources. And no doubt have learned to throw their cultural assumptions out of the window every day they followed him.
So cast aside the identikit of the ideal supporter and see who God brings to support and bless you with his generosity. They may be unlikely in your eyes but certainly not in his.