Monday, 9 December 2019

Christian Healing Ministry Should Be Free for Those in Need

We know from the Gospels that when the Lord Jesus was on earth, supernaturally healing people formed a big part of His ministry.  The apostles and non-apostles also joined Him in healing work (e.g., Luke 9:1-6; 10:1-12).  Then, later, after the Lord had ascended to heaven, apostles and non-apostles continued with this work (e.g., Acts 3:1-10; James 5:14-15).

Nor should we expect anything different today.  The idea, accepted by some Christians, that God ceased working healing miracles sometime in the first century is a big mistake and fits very poorly with the Bible. 

For a defence of the position that healing ministry should take place throughout the Christian era, see my article: God Wants to Use Christians in Miracle Work Today.

Jesus and the early Christians

Something that we need to understand clearly about the healing ministries of Jesus and the early church is that there is no evidence that they ever charged people for this.  Healing ministry was free for those in need.

In fact, we are told in Matt 10:8 that when the Lord sent out the twelve to heal, He said to them: 
“Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, expel demons.  Freely you received.  Freely give.”

Nothing in the New Testament leads us to think that any early Christian ever acted outside this principle of giving freely to people who needed healing.

It is true that some who were helped then chose to give financial or practical support to those who had helped them (e.g., Luke 10:8).  But there is no evidence that Jesus or early Christians ever charged people for ministry or that they put any pressure on people to give them money or anything else.  Instead, they gave freely out of love, without asking for anything in return.

Those today who charge for healing ministry

Something that really gets under my skin is Christian healing ministries today that charge people for healing sessions. 

There are several things wrong with this:

(1) Those who do this are failing to follow biblical practice. 

As I have noted, in Matt 10:8 Jesus commands the twelve to give healing ministry freely, and there is no good reason for thinking that Christians today shouldn’t also follow this command.

Importantly too, the Bible teaches us how to act not only by giving us commands but also by giving us the example of the early church to follow.  And nowhere in Scripture is there any suggestion that any early Christian ever charged anyone for healing ministry. 

(2) Love is right at the heart of the Christian faith, and love involves giving freely to people without expecting anything in return. 

I suspect that many of those who charge for healing ministry have a poor understanding of the love of God or the love that is required of believers.

(3) No healing ministry today is going to result in everyone who is ministered to being healed.  And when people are not healed but charged a fee anyway, it often greatly damages the reputation of Christians and the Christian faith in the eyes of non-believers. 

(4) Many of those who seek healing ministry are unable to work due to illness or disability.  This means that those who receive this ministry are often among the poorest in society. 

There is something especially nasty about people claiming to be Christian healers who charge money from suffering people who are poorer than themselves. 

(5) Healing ministry requires faith (e.g., Matt 17:19-20; James 5:14-15), and it is ironic that those who ask people for money to do this ministry seem to have such little faith that God will meet their financial needs.

Those today who put pressure on people to give money

There are many in Christian healing ministry today who don’t go as far as charging for healing sessions, but who nevertheless put pressure on people to give money.

All too often, the websites of healing ministries try to persuade readers who are seeking healing to donate money.  Sometimes this is even done on the home page.  And frequently suggestions are made about how much people should give if they are able. 

This sort of practice is not as bad as actually charging people for healing ministry, but it still leaves a very bad taste in the mouth.  It also goes wrong in all five of the ways that I listed above.

Workers deserve wages

It is true that workers deserve wages (e.g., Luke 10:7; 1 Tim 5:18), and this is a principle that applies to healing ministers as much as to any other Christians.

I don’t intend in this article to discuss how healing ministries are funded.  However, I will say that if people who have received healing ministry really do want to give to those who have helped them without being charged or pressured, there is nothing wrong with that.  This is what we find in Luke 10:8 and by implication in Matt 10:10.

What healing ministers should never do, however, is charge people who are seeking healing or pressure them to give money, whether before or after they have received ministry.

Some suggestions

Here are a few suggestions for how healing ministries operate in the area of finance:

(1) As I have said, a healing ministry should never charge or pressure people for money. 

If this means that the ministry can no longer function, then stop the ministry.  Take it as a sign from God either that He doesn’t want this ministry to exist, or that He wants to pause it until it can operate without charging or pressuring people for money.

(2) If possible, on the website of the healing ministry don’t even have a link that people can click on to donate. 

I understand that this will not always be possible, and I don’t want to condemn those who do have a link for donation.  But if the ministry can get by without asking for donations, that is a great thing to do. 

(3) Where a website does have a link for donation, make it as discreet as possible.

(4) When people click on a link for donation, have a few paragraphs that say something along the following lines:

·       Explain that you would love not to ask for donations, but you really do feel that you need to do this. 
·       Stress very strongly that healing ministry is free and that no one is under any pressure whatsoever to give money, whether before or after receiving ministry. 
·       Give no suggested figure for a donation. 
·       Say that you would rather a person doesn’t give than gives reluctantly. 
·       Suggest that people who receive ministry and who would like to donate wait a few months until after the ministry, to make sure that they still feel the same way.

(5) Take a decision that everyone in your healing ministry who is paid for this work will have a personal income that is lower than the average income for people living in that country.  Say on your website that this is your policy. 

Drawing people to Christ

As God’s people, one of our big purposes is to draw people to Jesus Christ and the salvation that is in Him.

When Christians give freely out of love to people in need, including to those who are ill or disabled, this is bound to draw some to Him. 

By contrast, charging people for healing sessions or pressuring them to give money is bound to put some off coming to Him.  Everyone involved in healing ministry needs to make sure that they don’t fall into this trap.

See also my articles:

Is It Always God’s Will to Heal Christians?