I was asked recently by a friend about the wisdom of sending couples and/or families off to the dangers of certain foreign countries to do missions work. After all, if God provides a man with a family, doesn’t God expect that family to be adequately cared for? Below is my response…
The situation, as you describe it seems to be between two opinions. First, there is the desire to pursue a missionary endeavour in some dangerous field. Second, there is the desire to protect the wife and family which God has entrusted me with. I don’t see these desires in competition with each other. If I am to fulfill the obligation scripture lays upon me to share the gospel with those who have never heard (Rom.10:13-15), then it will require some effort to operate outside my comfort zone, even my safety zone. However, I must be certain that if I am going to pursue God’s calling that I give some consideration to the risk involved. I do not make a plan and begin to build without first counting the costs (Luke 14:28).
Materially, am I expected to provide the maximum benefit to my family that I can enjoy as North American? I could make considerable more money in the “secular” workforce (although I consider myself well paid), yet I have a sense that I am doing what I must do because God has directed me into the ministry. Now, the likely response here is that I must provide a reasonable measure of safety and material provision for my family, yet what is reasonable? I often sense a need to do more for my family, and yet I can never completely shield my family from risk. So I try to balance my desire to see the ministry progress – I guess you might say I am pursuing a calling – and my family has had to sacrifice for me to pursue that calling. Is this unfair or unscriptural – I don’t think so. True, my children didn’t have much say in the affair. But, we could still argue that God directed us into ministry and then gave us children, so he must have thought we would be able to provide for them, else he wouldn’t have given them to us.
It seems as if the security and safety of family should be paramount, but I think something else should capture our hearts, and it is a vision for God’s glory. God’s glory in my life is paramount. Making that more than just words is challenging. God’s glory can certainly be – and is – accomplished by providing safety to my family, but could also be accomplished in my suffering. God’s best for us is not always a life of comfort and ease (see Heb.11:32-40). In fact, there are times when God causes me to suffer (1 Peter 5:10).
On the whole then, I think the concern regarding security and safety is certainly a wise one, but it is only one factor among many. You are right in the sense that if I have a wife and children, I have a responsibility to care for them, so I better count the cost. But once the cost is counted, I may sense that God is leading me to a place of increased danger, and so I want to follow His leading, despite the risks.
God never says that single people should bear the burden of carrying the gospel to those who have never heard. God wants all of us involved. That means some will have to go (married and single). Paul’s point in 1 Cor.7 is not that married people can’t or shouldn’t minister in risky situations, but that their effectiveness is hampered to a certain extent.
Truthfully, we are too glib about these kind of decisions, and that’s not my intent. My intent is to balance the concern and need for safety with a realization that God, by times, intends for me to go beyond what is the norm. Let’s both pray that the sovereign God who established the boundaries of our habitations (Acts 17:26), would superintend our lives so we go only where he leads us to go – and that we might consider the effect our decisions might have on our family!