If I was to ask people to name a female disciple of Jesus, I’m sure that most would say Mary Magdalene. However, Mary Magdalene was not the only one. In fact, Luke 8:2-3 mentions two others in the same breath as her- Joanna and Susanna. They, like Mary, both have much to teach us on the issue of economic empowerment within the Kingdom of God. Let’s see what it is! Feel free to listen along to the rest of this devotional, if you prefer. You can also download and share the audio below:
A disciple can be defined as “a person who is a pupil or an adherent [follower] of the doctrines of another”. So when we speak of the disciples of Christ, especially those who lived during His lifetime, we are referring to people who were taught by Him and abided by His particular teachings. Aside from the twelve disciples, Mary Magdalene is one of the most famous ones. However, according to Luke 8:2-3 Mary Magdalene was not Jesus’ only female disciple. She was also not the only one who He healed of “evil spirits and infirmities,” precipitating a decision to devote herself to Him. This was actually also the case for other ladies like Joanna and Susanna.
Jesus’ ministry centred mainly on ushering in the Kingdom of God or heaven; hence He spread this gospel by travelling to different cities and speaking about it (as seen in scriptures such as Matthew 13). Jesus also demonstrated the power of the Kingdom of God through the many miracles that He performed, such as healing lepers, the blind and those who were possessed, including our spiritual mothers. However, despite the supernatural quality of His ministry, there were practical needs that had to be covered both for Himself and His followers. One example of this is food, which the Bible goes into specific detail about in scriptures like John 6:5-7. As such, people like Joanna and Susanna “provided for Jesus from their substance” in order to maintain the momentum and success of His cause. In other words, they supported His ministry financially because of what He had done for them and as a result of their subsequent relationship with Him - another trait that they have in common with Mary Magdalene.
One of the commandments which Jesus gave the church was the Great Commission, in which He basically passed the baton onto to us to “preach the gospel” and spread the concept of the Kingdom of God as He did. Most people tend to think of preaching the gospel as traditional mediums such as evangelising, hosting church services or meetings but part of Jesus’ call to spread the Kingdom of God was to be like yeast or "leaven". That means infiltrating and influencing the world’s systems such as education, health, finance, media and entertainment, for example. However, such ministry, just as with Jesus’, requires practicalities like access to funds. For as Solomon once said, “money answers all things” because, the truth is, that we live in a world in which money is necessary for building anything of substance.
Through Joanna and Susanna, we learn not to be “so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good” as they demonstrate that it is our responsibility, as the church, both to maintain and advance the Kingdom of God on earth. They also show us that we should support those that God has called to be at the helm of such ministries, whether this is through traditional means (such as paying tithes and offerings in church or for missionary trips) or different means (such as theatre events, art or business ventures). This means that part of our service to God is and should be to work to ensure that we are in a position to be able to give freely to godly causes, as Joanna and Susanna did, which requires the economic empowerment of God’s people.
So what about you, lovely? Do you realise that the things that you spend on are reflective of the things that you care most about? For Jesus said “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t take care of your practical needs or even spoil yourself- we all need that once in a while and it would be highly hypocritical of me if I claimed otherwise. What I am saying, though, is if you care as much about God; His kingdom and people as you say you do, don’t let that love be “in word or tongue [only], but in deed and in truth”. Joanna and Susanna did this by giving of their substance. Whatever your substance is, start from where you stand knowing that every little helps. The fulfilment of the Great Commission needs you just as much as it did them.
Now, I know that the subject of money can be seen as quite taboo in some Christian circles, I hope that this devotional has succeeded in showing you some aspects of why this is not so. To a full understanding on this topic of becoming economically empowered for the sake of the Kingdom of God: