Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. (Luke 10:5-7 ESV)
Regardless of what you think the term “apostle” means, at the time of this event in Jesus’ ministry, the term was derived from the verb used for what Jesus did, “sent out” seventy. So, if this is a special term for a special office for special people for you, keep in mind it meant something else before it ever meant that. This passage is part of the set of rules for those being sent out by Jesus.
In Luke, this is the second “sending”. The other writers have the sending of the Twelve, and so does Luke. They record some of these rules there, and Luke includes some there, some here, and some that make it into both. Luke is much more detailed in the rules in this second sending of so many more. And this passage is one of those places of greater detail.
There are really two elements that different here. First is the direction to bless the house with your peace. The second is about the eating whatever is placed before them. The third element of remaining in a single house is in both of Luke’s “sendings”, and Matthew and Mark.
The direction to bless the house with peace is interesting to me because of the way it’s described. “If a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on him,” means that there is this understanding that hospitable people may also be peaceable. If so, then the peace of the one following Jesus will rest there enhancing the peace. But it also says, “But if not, it will return to you,” which means that hospitable people may not be peaceable, but they are to remain anyway. Let the peace return means that the only peace in the house may be the sent-one, and they are to be okay with that. So, it may be a hard situation to be a part of, but they were to remain with it nonetheless.
The second element is repeated again in verse 8, eating whatever they set before you, but with a different emphasis. In these verses, eating what is “provided” is a command to receive because their work is worth the “pay” of a meal. Which means that “ministry” is understood by Jesus to be a sort of service worth a wage. That a debate continues to rage as to whether ministers should be paid or derive their living from it is really ironic. But that could be because sometimes ministry for some stops being a “service” worth a wage. When ministry becomes a regular routine where little is rendered to those “attending” then really nothing is gained, so where’s the return on the investment?
This is an embarrassingly easy trap to get caught in. Ministry can be hard, should be hard, and sometimes taking an easy path becomes not a momentary rest, but a ministry approach. Excuses are easy to come by, but the reality is that ministers can and do lose their first love of Jesus and His people. Think of what it would mean if the first element were also a part of ministry. If your “sheep” aren’t people of peace, let your peace return to you. But you still minister in peace, even when you are the only peace present. Can you imagine? When the going gets tough, you remain the person of peace. That gets difficult to sustain, and can only be done when ministering in the power of the Spirit, rather than ones own. But when done, is worth being paid for.
So, what do I see here? An excuse for not giving? If you saw that, you will be punished. You may see a reason to “garnish” wages, but not to limit giving, as you give to God, not to a minister. What do I learn of peace? If I am a man of peace and other aren’t, I am to remain a man of peace. Wherever I am sent, whatever I am sent to do, I go and do in peace. I share the peace, but retain it if it’s not received. The peace I have in my Master remains regardless of those to whom I minister.
I also learn that what I do for others as a servant to my King must be of value. I can’t simply go through motions, providing nothing enriching to their lives. As my Master enriches my life, I need to share that with those to whom I minister, not hoard it. As I do, there is a give-and-take of riches, spiritual for material. On the other hand, I have eschewed material gain for ministry. From my past experiences, I have lost my trust for any body of believers. From this passage I see that I don’t really have that luxury. Which I really don’t like, at all, not even a little. I get that though. The minister can then focus their attention to the ministry without distraction; and they are motivated to do good work (provide a marketable service?) because their living depends on it.
I feel like I’ve looked through the knothole and saw an at-bat I was trying to avoid seeing. I suppose that indicates growth, or at least does if I permit what I learn to sink in and germinate, take root, and grow. Well, what did you see through the knothole? Something easier I hope!