Rely on God and Travel Light – Matthew 10:8-11

What did Jesus mean when he told his disciples to not take money or extra cloaks and sandals on their mission to the villages of Galilee? Jesus told his disciples in Matthew 6:25, to not be anxious about their life, food drink or clothing because God will see to their needs. Matthew 6:25-33 is important background for understanding these commands for the short-term mission to the villages of Galilee.

Take no Cloak or sandals

“You received without paying; give without pay” is only found in Matthew and may mean something like, “you are not in this for the money.” Jesus freely gave his authority to the disciples and they are to exercise that authority without expecting payment.

First, Jesus tells his disciples to not take money or extra clothing on their mission to Galilee. These are the things one normally takes on a journey, but they will not need them because God will take care of them. Nolland suggests the three types of coins are significant. They may not bring any gold (rich provision), nor silver (middling provision) nor even copper (modest provision) (Matthew, 418). Mark’s Gospel only mentions copper coins, Luke has silver. Where to you eat when you travel a long distance? A decent restaurant? McDonalds?  A gas station?

Second, carrying a second tunic allows for a change of clothing, but also for warmth if the disciples need to sleep outside. (Clothing not wearing out in the wilderness, so no need for a second cloak?)

Third, “No sandals” is unique to Matthew, Mark allows sandals rather than boots or footwear for long walks (“sensible shoes”). Does Matthew mean the disciples are to travel barefoot, or to not take a spare pair of sandals? If they were to go barefoot, then the journey would be slow, perhaps they rely on God to protect them physically as they travel. (Sandals not wearing out in the wilderness, so you do not need a second pair?)

Fourth, a walking staff is not a luxury since a sturdy walking stick can also be used as a weapon if the disciples are attacked by animals or bandits on the road. The noun ῥάβδος can refer to a stick used for punishment, a rod.

It may be the case that these commands simply mean the mission is short-term and there is no need to collect the supplies one might need for a long journey (Wilkins, Matthew, 390). On the other hand, since Jesus called the people of Israel “sheep without shepherds” and then appointed twelve shepherds to go and tend to their needs, he is likely evoking God’s protection of Israel in the Wilderness and/or God’s protection of Elijah in 1 Kings.

The disciples are to rely on God for their food: the laborer deserves his food.  The disciples are workers in a harvest field, so the principle seems to be based on feeding one’s workers.

Is this an allusion to Elijah and Elisha? God provided for both miraculously, but also through the hospitality of others. A better background is the twelve tribes of Israel in the wilderness, god provided their food, water and clothing during the forty years in the wilderness.

This passage has been interpreted in various ways in church history. But Did Jesus intend these instructions for his disciples to describe how ministry ought to be done in all circumstances? In other words, did Matthew include this teaching of Jesus to give a model for how the Christian Church should continue Jesus is mission for his original readers?

Although I am certain that Jesus did not call us to build huge cathedrals made of crystal, nor are pastors called to be to live in mansions and drive to church in one of their mini luxury vehicles, I’m not convinced that this is a model for ministry. I’m not aware of any modern mission organizations that sends missionaries out to the field with no spare clothing, extra sandals, and no money whatsoever.

What is the application of this passage? Like the prohibition on teaching and preaching in Galilean and Samaritan villages, these commands about traveling light and relying on God refer only to Galilean mission Jesus is about to send his disciples on.

Although there may be some principles to be drawn from these commands in Matthew 10:5-15, this is not a model for doing missions today.

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