5 Unlikely Backers of God’s Work in the Bible


We often think of God’s work being funded by God’s people—but the Bible paints a different picture. Throughout Scripture we discover that God isn’t above using anyone—even those who oppose Him—to fulfill his vision.

Throughout Scripture we discover that God isn’t above using anyone—even those who oppose Him—to fulfill his vision.

Here are five unlikely sources of capital that God used to fulfill His purposes:

1. Terah, the father of Abraham

In Genesis 12, God called 75-year-old Abram to take his wife and leave his father’s home for a land that would be revealed to him. As we know, Abram became Abraham, and God used his descendants to birth the Jewish nation—and eventually Jesus himself.

God chose as the first patriarch a considerably wealthy man. We’re told that Abram departed with his wife, Sarai, his nephew, Lot, and all of their possessions and servants (Gen. 12:4). A short time later we discover that Abram “was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold” (13:2). He must have come from an extensively rich family.

This wealth would have to had come from Terah, his father. Terah was the ninth descendant from Noah, heralding from Ur of the Chaldeans (Gen. 11:10–32). Joshua gave us even more information about Abram’s and Terah’s background when he said, “Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.” (Joshua 24:2)

Through God’s revelation, Abram became the first Hebrew—and God began that work with pagan capital.

2. Pharaoh (Genesis)

Joseph’s story is one of the Bible’s most dramatic. He was the eleventh and favorite son of Jacob, and his brothers resented him so much that they sold him into slavery. Through twists and turns which include prison time, Joseph became the vizier to Egypt’s Pharaoh.

According to the Egyptian governmental structure, the vizier was the highest official to serve the Pharaoh. And it’s through this position that God reconciled Jacob’s family and provided for God’s people in the midst of a great famine.

It’s important to recognize that God provided for His people through Pharaoh, a leader who wasn’t simply a pagan but considered himself to be a god on earth.

3. Darius I, King of Persia

Zerubbabel was a descendant of David who facilitated the Jews’ return from Babylonian captivity. With the encouragement of two prophets, he rebuilt Solomon’s temple, (which Nebuchadnezzar II had destroyed decades earlier).

A descendant of David building a temple in Jerusalem is no surprise. But the funding came from one of the least likely sources.
It was during this time that Darius the Great was the third king of Persia. Historians estimate that 44% of the world’s population belonged to his empire. And through this incredibly powerful pagan king—and his willingness to give from the treasury—came the finances to finish rebuilding the temple and begin daily sacrifices.

“Moreover, I make a decree regarding what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the rebuilding of this house of God. The cost is to be paid to these men in full and without delay from the royal revenue, the tribute of the province from Beyond the River. And whatever is needed—bulls, rams, or sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, or oil, as the priests at Jerusalem require—let that be given to them day by day without fail, that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons.”—Ezra 6:8–10

4. Artaxerxes I, King of Persia

Nehemiah was a cupbearer for King Artaxerxes during the time of exile and was troubled that the walls of Jerusalem were still broken down. He asked for permission to return and rebuild the city, and Artaxerxes granted it. Nehemiah’s work defied great opposition from Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs, and Philistines, and yet the walls were rebuilt in 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15).

Not only did the king philosophically support Nehemiah’s work; Artaxerxes sent him to Judah as governor of the province with a mandate to rebuild. The king sent with him letters communicating his support and provisions of timber from the king’s forest (Nehemiah 2:6-9).

It was Zerubbabel and Nehemiah who facilitated the work necessary to rebuild Jerusalem, but God used pagan kings from Persia to bankroll the work.

5. The women who supported Jesus

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.—Luke 8:1-3

In first-century Judaea, a woman’s entire existence was lived out in the sphere of private family life. She could not testify in court, could not engage in commerce, and was separated from men in private, public, and religious spheres.

It’s been widely discussed that one of the daily prayers of first-century Pharisees required thankfulness for three specific things:

  1. That they were born Jewish and not Gentiles
  2. That they were born free and not slaves
  3. That they were born men and not women

Jesus and the disciples had needs that required some income, and He welcomed financial gifts from a cultural group that was basically categorized with Gentiles, minors, and undesirables.

God Can Use Anyone

God seems to delight in finding ingenious ways to meet challenges and overcome obstacles. This means that He’s willing to use people from a variety of different backgrounds to complete His work.

If you’re looking to grow your church, you need to keep your eyes open for opportunities—God won’t always provide for you in predictable ways. If you would like to talk with a church growth coach, please contact the CDF Capital team who can offer your church support with its Leadership Capital.


Leave a Comment