FREELY YOU HAVE RECEIVED, GIVE FREELY
I remember the few times I encountered Muslim preachers on the streets of Sydney and Melbourne. Their preaching was a mix of common sense, a mixed up knowledge of Christianity and the Judeo-Christian scriptures, and a good knowledge of the Koran and the Hadiths, all spiced up by a strong conviction and dedication.
What called my attention the most, it was the fact that all teaching and material was for free, and the copies of the Koran, a thick hard cover edition in English and Arabic that would cost not less than $100 AUS dollars, was given out for free.
In another occasion, an old English man, very sick and in his last years, long ago, when I asked him why he did not go to church, he said he was poor, and had no money to ‘pay’ for the services, clearly referring to the collection plate.
The Church as an organization has expenses, buildings, staff and clergy to support, apart from common everyday expenditures, not mentioning hospitals, schools and missions. Our Lord Jesus in fact taught us that the worker is worthy of his salary (Luke 10:7) and St Paul expressly said that the Preacher should be paid (1Corinthians 9:14).
All this is well, but we must never compromise the free gift of the Gospel, the message of salvation and the sacraments, which includes the Bible and catechesis, that God has provided freely for all humanity.
Christians acquire when they are baptised, the responsibility to share in the keeping of the Church and the gospel message. The primary source of income for the Church maintenance should be the offerings of the congregations, followed up by investments, even though offerings are less and less in modern times.
Schools, according to the social status they are designed for, make their own money, and so do private clinics and hospitals. Missions are supported from the total income collected by the Archdiocese plus donations, and clergy salaries in a similar way, or they should, but lately it has been left to the parishes to support their own ministers instead of the diocese in some places. But however all of these expenses are met, the delivery of the message of salvation and the sacraments must always be kept free.
YHWH did not charge money for his forgiveness to Adam, his deliverance of Noah or his promises to Abraham. Our Holy God did not collect tithes for the deliverance of Israel from slavery, neither Lord Jesus waited to get paid before preaching, healing the sick, resurrecting the dead or dying on the Cross.
Our Lord Jesus said clearly,
‘Freely you have received; freely give.’
‘What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs.’
If money is interposed between the Gospel and the person we aim to convert, he may be discouraged due to poverty or even may get a bad impression that Christians are only there to take their money.
Even though this may not be out intention, what we think it matters little to the man and woman on the street of no knowledge of Christ and the Church, and a bad result will come out of this, especially when these costs are extremely elevated, like when hundreds of dollars a head is charge to average earners by wealthy preachers for an hour of their time, to support their rich lifestyle while the unbeliever struggles to pay for his next meal.
Bible editions, catechetical material, preaching and celebration of sacraments, all of them, including Marriage, should always be available for free to all people, Christian and not Christians yet; from all social levels, even the poorest. Salvation is for all, not only the rich.
Sacraments can be celebrated at home or in the Church without pomp and ceremony, Bible editions and catechetical material by donations and from a portion of the total income of the Archdiocese, and schools for the poor and well as medical facilities, from a fraction of the total income of Church owned private schools, private hospitals and clinics.
There may be different ways to add to this, even if that may be taking a pay cut, or using normal lights instead of chandeliers or bishops cutting down on cooks, drivers or car models.
If this means a free delivery of Jesus Message that saves a human soul from eternal damnation, it is worth the sacrifice.