One question that fellow Christians sometimes ask us is, “How can I help to contribute financially to abolition?” We very much appreciate believers who feel moved to contribute in some way, and if this describes you, then thank you for your heart in the matter.
As a movement however, we generally tend to shy away from accepting or asking for funds from believers who are not otherwise actively involved in seeking justice for the fatherless. Because the abolitionist message can be offensive to various groups of people, we often try to work as “tentmakers” (Acts 18:3) to remove any stumbling block that would hinder people from hearing it in a favorable light.
Paul used a similar strategy as he worked to spread the gospel.
This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink…or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living?
Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop.
If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more? Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ…
What then is my reward? That in my preaching I may present the gospel free of charge, so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel. For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them (1 Corinthians 9:3-19).
Effectively, Paul made a decision to work with his hands as a tentmaker, rather than request funds from the believers and churches that were planted because of his ministry. He understood that the gospel is inherently offensive (Galatians 5:11), and rather than lay a stumbling block in front of people, he chose to sacrifice his own rights as a minister of the gospel, and work with his hands in addition to working with his speech.
Abolitionists face a similar problem. Our message is inherently offensive to many kinds of people. First and foremost, as believers who are actively engaged in sharing the gospel, we face the same exact circumstance as Paul regarding the offense of the cross; we don’t want unbelievers to be stumbled away from Jesus by any requests for money that we might make. In addition to sharing Christ with lost people however, we are also challenging the Pro-Life movement to address the abortion holocaust from a more biblical foundation, and we are challenging fellow believers to live in greater obedience to Jesus’ commandment to love our downtrodden neighbors.
As a result, our overall message often gets lost when people become offended by it. Rather than place a stumbling block in front of those who need to hear what the Bible says in these various areas, abolitionists generally try to act as tentmakers, paying our own expenses so that the message of scripture can have its greatest impact. That doesn’t in any way mean that we look down on people who go the direction of fundraising; perhaps one day we too will need additional finances from fellow believers. However for the time being, it seems best to avoid that option, for the sake of the preserving the message.
If you really, really want to contribute, consider joining or starting an abolitionist society. Money is an easy thing to give; it is far more difficult to sacrifice time, demonstrate compassion, and speak boldly an unpopular truth for the sake of the kingdom of Christ.