now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the hellenists arose against the hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. and the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. [acts 6:1-2]
after pentecost, the gospel went out everywhere, and the hellenists–greek-speaking jews–heard the gospel and were turning to Jesus, but they felt that their widows were being neglected when sharing in the kinds of generosity that were being experienced among other groups of christians.
as movements grow over time, they experience growing pains, but the church isn’t just any organization: it is different–Jesus has promised to sustain his bride, the church, and he will use his means to love her, sustain her and protect her and provide her until the end!
so when the hellenists present a complaint, the disciples gather to discuss what they should do. the issue of “food” comes up today all the time–and it causes conflicts among christians even today:
how should we feed the sheep?
with the word of God? (preaching, bible study)
with physical food? (mercy ministry, food banks, money to help the homeless, caring for those with disbiliites, orphans etc.)
we could endlessly debate where to spend the resources, or we could acknowledge that the answer is certainly, biblically, both.
we are commanded to preach the Gospel. (spiritual food)
preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. [2 timothy 4:2]
but you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. [1 Peter 2:9]
and Jesus came and said to them, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.e name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that i have commanded you. and behold, i am with you always, to the end of the age.” [matthew 28:18-20]
how then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? and how are they to hear without someone preaching? [romans 10:14]
but we are also commanded to care for the needy. (physical food)
religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. [james 1:27]
so then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. [galatians 6:10]
contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. [romans 12:13]
if a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? [james 2:16-17]
then the King will say to those on his right, ‘come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. for i was hungry and you gave me food, i was thirsty and you gave me drink, i was a stranger and you welcomed me, i was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, i was in prison and you came to me.’ then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? and when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? and when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ and the King will answer them, ‘truly, i say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ [matthew 25:34-40]
the early disciples had to reconcile these ideas, to not neglect the physical needs or the spiritual needs of others. and in formulating a solution, they discovered God’s ordained means to serve the body–with those who are also in the body! these disciples are not saying that serving tables is something that is below them, but with the rapid growth of the church, there is a need to have those who are dedicated to preaching the word and those dedicated to serving tables. we don’t have a ‘class system’ in Christianity–quite the contrary: take some time to read 2 Corinthians 12:14-26!
so as you spend time in the presence of the Lord today, come to him with open hands and open heart–and ask “how can i serve in the body of Christ?” where are you gifted, talented, and plugged in? where have others noticed your giftings? what convictions of the Holy Spirit, informed by the Word are pulling at your heart? where can you serve the body, even in unglamorous, mundane things? are you just a consumer? how can you help ensure that the body does not neglect those in need?
forgive me for neglecting Jesus’s bride, the church–let me walk in the Spirit daily and rid me of my selfishness. remove any barriers i may have in my heart that keep me from serving the body. forgive me for squandering the talents you have given to me and let me be obedient to your call! give me a heart of serving that points to the glory of your son, Jesus Christ!