It did more than stun me, it disturbed me. Mainly because it made a lot of sense. It's hard to argue with the logic. Had I, in my intentions to be obedient to the Great Commission, actually become a bad steward of God's resources?
Now, I know it's not healthy to give handouts to foreign churches, create a system of dependency, etc. But set that aside for a moment and consider this... Lord-willing, in July, I will go with a team of 12 to minister among an unreached people group in Africa. Between the 12 of us, we will spend at least $25,000 just to get there, and another $10,000 on top of that for lodging, meals, etc. That's money we could send directly to the missionaries on the field to buy Bibles, horses, medical supplies, etc. How do we justify that? Is our mere presence for a few short days really worth the expense?
According to 1 Corinthians 16, the answer is "yes."
In that passage, Paul instructs the Corinthians to collect an offering for the struggling church at Jerusalem (800 miles away). One would think since Paul would later return to Jerusalem that he would deliver the offering for them. Or if not Paul, perhaps one of the many merchants sailing from Corinth to the coast near Jerusalem could be recruited to make the delivery.
But, no, Paul has something else in mind. He tells the church at Corinth to approve some of its own members to deliver the gift themselves. Keep in mind, we can get to India twice as fast as they could get to Jerusalem. It seems a lot to ask! And from a logical standpoint, it seems unnecessary. Why then was it important to Paul that they deliver the gift themselves?
Paul knew that the benefit of personal interaction between the Corinthian and Jerusalem Christians was more valuable than any time, energy, or expense that was spent making the long journey. And, really, don't we know this already? There is something special and supernatural about the fellowship of the saints. In particular, there is a powerful spiritual dynamic that takes place when believers from different cultures worship and serve together. God often uses this dynamic to bring people into His Kingdom.
Sometimes what makes little sense from a logical standpoint, makes perfect sense to God. Our math and God's math don't always match up. Don't ever dismiss that. Particularly when it comes to short-term missions. If you have the opportunity to travel to a foreign context and worship and serve alongside fellow believers, then do it! It's worth every penny!