This letter is an explanation of something we find very important in our relationship to you as our ministry partners. It may seem like a lot to digest at one sitting but we are hoping you can read it and understand how we see you as such an important part of our ministry here at FamilyLife through a concept called The Triangle Principle.
Please notice this graphic here. I want to explain this concept to you in three parts. Each part will explain one of the parts of the triangle.
Your commitment to us and involvement in our lives has truly blessed us! I want to share something from the Word of God that has helped me understand the relationship between you, our Ministry Partner, and us as your missionaries. I call it the triangle principle.
The triangle principle is a very freeing principle and it is straight out of the Scriptures. First, if we look in the first five books of the Bible, we find that God Himself set up a system of support for those He chose to serve Him in a full-time manner. Who were these full time ministers? God called them the Levites. In other words, He wanted the Levites to spend all their time serving Him without any other obligations (Numbers 1:2-3, 47-53). He had special tasks for them: carry the tabernacle, to care of it and encamp around it. They were the moving company for God. Every time the camp of Israel moved they had to take down everything and pack it up.
Remember the TV show called MASH with Alan Alda? MASH stood for Mobile Area Support Hospital. Well, the Levites were God's MASH unit (Mobile Area Sanctuary Helpers). Furthermore, any place they settled, the Levites had special arrangements to camp around the tabernacle. Each of their divisions settled on each side of the tabernacle, and each division had a specific part of the duty of tending to the tabernacle (Numbers 3:21-38).
Who were in this MASH unit? He called out the tribe of Levi out from all the other tribes of the Israelites to serve Him full-time and to be His MASH unit for the whole nation. He was mindful of their commitment to them and made provisions for their needs. How could they make any provisions for themselves if their full time job was to tend to the tabernacle? Once in the Promised Land, others could farm the land and grow crops or learn a trade and provide for themselves, but what would be the source of living for the Levites? Well in part two, we will explore this as we look into the relationship between the Levites and God.
Have you every started reading Leviticus only to say, what is this all about? Why was God so preoccupied with sacrifices? I don't understand it. Well, hold on, because Leviticus is very crucial to this question of the Levites and God’s provision for them. In the first seven chapters of the book of Leviticus, God instructed the Israelites to make certain sacrifices to God for various reasons: whole burnt offering, the grain offering, the fellowship offering, the sin offering, and the guilt offering. Until I was introduced to this portion of Scripture correctly, I assumed, as many others have, that the priests and Levites used all of the offering or sacrifice as the sacrifice to God. But why was there a ‘whole burnt offering’? As we proceed through this study we will see that is not true.
The sacrifices that God instituted for the Israelites were for them to be able to relate to and maintain their relationship with God. These offerings consisted of a great variety of different kinds of food, and it was always the best. In other words, when it says in the Bible that they had to provide animals without blemish, they were the best or when they celebrated the festival called Firstfruits, they brought what was the best of the best: grains, or an animal from the herd (a young bull), or an animal from the flock (a ram, a lamb, a goat, a male goat, a female goat, a dove, a pigeon). That is quite a variety of food: grains, meat, flesh, even skins and other organs from the animals.
Now who instituted this system? God. Why did he institute it? For the Israelites to worship Him!! Did He take care of the Levites who were His servants? Yes and Amen!! How did He do this? Take a look at next section.
In this section of the Triangle Principle, I want to explain the way God took care of His own (the Levites) as He provided the way for the Israelites to worship Him. I wanted to emphasize the relationship between the Israelite and the Levite regarding the sacrifices. God is a marvelous and creative God. The sacrificial system He instituted had a twofold purpose. Primarily it was the vehicle for the Israelite to relate to and worship God. But He also had the Levites in mind.
God has always said that giving and receiving were primarily vertical relationships – not horizontal. As one reads through Numbers 18 (note especially vs. 8-32), one finds that each sacrifice was carefully apportioned. Part was used for the sacrifice to God while the rest was reserved for the Levites. Whoa! So this completes the riddle of how God would provide for those who have been called to serve Him.
But notice, this system was built so that, in the case of both the Levites and the Israelites, they were giving themselves to God and not to each other. The Israelite was bringing his sacrifice to God in order to worship Him. On the other hand, the Levite was wholly dependent on the Lord as He was wholly serving Him. As the Levites took in the sacrifices, they kept a portion of the sacrifice for their own needs, as God commanded. If you look at the Scriptures again, you will notice how God has instructions for the Levites on what parts to sacrifice but also what parts to keep!
Allow me to apply this to our relationship with you as our ministry partners. God has been so faithful to us that we know that God is providing for our needs. We receive each of your gifts as if it is from the hand of God. And conversely, we see that each gift you give is an act of worship toward our great God, the creator of us both.
This pattern set up by God did not stop when the sacrificial system came to a halt back in the first century. Notice in the Gospels that Jesus did not provide for Himself, He was supported by others (Luke 8:1-3).
Even, Paul, who is often known as a tentmaker, practiced this principle. In 2 Corinthians 11:7-9, Paul was supported by other churches in order to be able to minister to the current congregation. He made a strong case for his own support even though he didn’t want to get any support in 1 Corinthians 9:1-18. By making his case, it is essential to notice that “the Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their living from the gospel”. So in my own study of the Scripture, I have come to the conclusion that Paul didn’t intend his tentmaking to be his full time occupation, or to fully support his ministry. His longing was to minister, he only would use his tentmaking temporarily in order to be able to get back to ministering full time. After you read Acts 17, read Acts 18:1-5, and you will notice that Paul immediately gave up his tentmaking as soon as there were other provisions for him. He knew the Lord wanted him to minister in His name full time, just as the Levites did.