Published: 1 January 2024

Freely You Have Received


In my previous article I mentioned that we Christians are doing something that “distorts our message, undermines our credibility, and leaves us slaves to a master we aren’t aware we are serving.” What are we doing to shoot ourselves and our message in the foot? We have commercialized Christianity. Jesus said, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matt. 10:8), but we aren’t giving freely. We’ve found ways to make money from the gospel. It’s so ingrained in our culture we don’t even recognize we are disobeying Jesus. While we may be nearly oblivious to this “pulpit capitalism,” you may be assured that those outside the church see it very clearly.

This is the first article in a series about the failure of Western Christianity to obey Jesus’s command to freely give. This series will be a summarization of the book, “The Dorean Principle.” We need to regain a biblical perspective on ministry fundraising so that we can say along with Paul, “For we are not like so many others, who peddle the word of God for profit” (2 Cor. 2:17 BEREAN).

The Jesus Trade

Church is big money and big business. It is a sad fact that some churches today resemble a business more than the simple community of believers described in the New Testament. In fact, one prominent megachurch leader says “CEO” is a better description of his role than that of pastor or shepherd.1 Ironically, this statement is found on Christianity Today’s website in an article that I cannot completely access because it is behind a paywall.

Speaking of paywalls, it is common to find teaching ministries online that offer some biblical instruction for free but reserve the bulk of their material for paying customers. I understand, better than most, the time and effort that goes into preparing teaching material. The worker is worthy of his wages (Mt 10:10). Regardless, is charging Bible students for biblical teaching compliant with Jesus’s command to “freely give?”

Similarly, Christian musical composers, while creating music for church worship, usually copyright it. This means churches can’t use it freely and must either obtain permission or pay royalties. Authors and their publishers sell tickets to attend conferences and live simulcasts. These events come with highly restrictive stipulations about how churches and attendees can use and access the material. Some pastors are now charging for access to their recorded sermons! For more examples with insightful commentary, look at this page which describes “Christians Who Sell Jesus.” Is this what Jesus envisioned when He said, “Freely you have received; freely give?”

“Freely you have received; freely give”

Here were Jesus’s instructions to the twelve when He sent them on the limited commission:

5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go onto the road of the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. 9 Do not carry any gold or silver or copper in your belts. 10 Take no bag for the road, or second tunic, or sandals, or staff; for the worker is worthy of his provisions. 11 Whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy there and stay at his house until you move on. 12 As you enter the home, greet its occupants. 13 If the home is worthy, let your peace rest on it; but if it is not, let your peace return to you. (Matt. 10:5-13 BEREAN)

Emphasized above are two statements that, on the surface, seem to be contradictory. On the one hand, Jesus said that the message was to be given free of charge. On the other hand, He said the worker is worthy of his wages. I’ll elaborate more about this in future articles, but for now, suffice it to say that the recipients of the good news are not meant to pay for it. The material and financial support for those who do the preaching is meant to come from another source.

Does Jesus’s command apply today?

Some question if the command to freely give applies today. Was this a directive given only to the twelve for the limited commission? This is a legitimate question. Is this the method Jesus expected all His future followers to emulate, or did it only apply to the twelve? 

Some people claim that the command to freely give is tied to performing miracles. Since Jesus’s followers today lack that ability, it doesn’t apply to us. Again, this is a legitimate observation. It is an equally legitimate observation that those who take up this line of argumentation think that the statement “the worker is worthy of his provisions” is still applicable. These principles stand or fall together; you can’t have it both ways.

Who must “freely give?”

How can we determine if these instructions apply to us today? We’ll let Scripture interpret Scripture. In upcoming articles, we’ll look at other passages and find out who Jesus’s instructions to “freely give” applies to.


  1. Shelley, Marshall, and Eric Reed. “State of the Art: Andy Stanley on God’s Ways, Cultural Assumptions, and Leading.” Leadership (Carol Stream, IL), Christianity Today, Inc., March 22, 2006.