Missions by its very nature is extravagant. God in the greatness of His love was the first missionary--in the Trinity there are both the sender and the sent. The lengths to which God was willing to go to save his creation are without measure.
In the same way, contemporary missions continue to be a costly venture--both in human capital and financially. The command to make disciples of all nations entails great sacrifice by the body of Christ.
When considering this cost, some respond, unfortunately, like the disciples did in Matthew 26 when the sinful woman poured the jar of alabaster ointment onto the head of Jesus. The responded indignantly, suggesting that it was being used wastefully and that the cost could have been used to meet a more tangible immediate need. In the case of Judas, his protest was motivated by his own selfish greed rather than any real altruism.
In an article recently posted to the Gospel Coalition website, 'Five Things Every Pastor Needs to Know About the Church Budget,' Pastor Jamie Dunlop writes, "Your budget is probably the best record of what your church really values. More than your website, more than your glossy brochures, more than what you say you value."
Churches often have missions or the Great Commission prominently featured in their values or mission statement; but all too often, it gets the short end of the stick in the church budget. There are of course outliers, some amazing churches that give 30, or even 50 percent of the church budget to missions, but these churches exception rather than the rule.
In fact, when looking at all the money that ends up in church offering plates--only 2% of it, according to reliable sources, ends up ever leaving the United States. Of that 2%, only 2% ends up being used to reach the lost in the 10/40 Window, where 90% of the world's Unreached Peoples reside.
Unfortunately, when times get tight, the mission budget is often the first thing to be cut or curtailed. With all of the immediate needs in the church--the long-overdue roof repair, summer camps, that sound in the church van's engine--missions doesn't just seem like a far away concern, and all too often it is.
For that reason, missions giving appears to many a luxury; and I would suggest that it is. There are a million other things a church could spend its budget on, and giving to missions is a sacrificial act of worship on behalf of the entire body, committing to setting aside a tithe to minister to people who are far away from Jesus in a different place, who speak a different language, from different cultures and backgrounds.
I cannot tell you how many times I have had well-meaning people suggest to me that rather than encouraging people to give sacrificially to the Lord's work among the nations, that I should instead just get a job in Japan. While Paul took the initiative to be a tent-maker, he also pointed out that a worker is worth his wages.
In many cases, I have often wondered what motivates another person to make this suggestion, whether they really think it is a good idea, or whether they are prompted by their own selfishness or greed, because they know deeply in their hearts that they are not trusting God with their finances. Ultimately, thankfully, I am not the Judge; but more often than not, it seems, these people are disinterested in missions as a whole. This becomes a convenient excuse--I know, because I used to be the person making it.
One of the things that kept me from taking the plunge into faith missions as long as I did is because I assumed that most people were just as greedy and selfish as I am in my flesh; thankfully God has proven that not to be the case too many times for me to count. Again and again I am awed by the generosity and sacrificial character of God's people.