There are many needy people in the world and if you are able, it is great if you could assist some of them. Naturally the problem is whether the funds reach the needy. We have seen in our country that this is not always the case … as bookkeeper was found guilty of defrauding the Unemployment Insurance Fund of more than R11 million intended for use in the Temporary Employers / Employees Relief Scheme (TEARS) funds. The person who committed this fraud was charged with 39 counts of fraud and found guilty. This is just one example of funds not reaching their intended destination. I am sure that this would be true in many countries not just our own. Although I have said this before I need to repeat it … many Christians have a conscience when it comes to people standing at Stop Streets or Traffic Lights or walking in Mall Parking lots begging for money. Most of such people are able to secure grants from the State … or they use the money they beg for, for drugs or alcohol. As a rule and principal, I will seldom give to people like this as the Bible calls me to Tithe and pay Taxes. The taxes support the Social Welfare of the State and the Tithes support the Church’s work. As we proceed with our passage from yesterday in the Book of Acts, we find a statement:
Ac 4:34 There were no needy persons among them.
What does this mean in the context of Christianity today? Our reading is:
Ac 4:32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
1) There were no needy persons among them. The Early Church members suffered enormous loss because of them following the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. Many lost employment; were kicked out of the synagogue [literally losing all hope of support from Judaism] and some were booted out of their family or marriage. The stigma of being Christian meant losing their livelihood. This is the reason I stated that true communism is linked to true capitalism (See verse 32). There was no ability to approach the State or the Synagogue because they were seen as deserters … people who defected, turned their back on God and the Jewish Religion. They were now part of a New Kingdom, under the reign of King Jesus and living according to a new set of rules that is called The Gospel as opposed to what was called The Law. Where the Law dictated rules to live by, even how to care for the poor, the Gospel extended and expanded these … not in a forced manner but in a way of gratitude to God for salvation through Jesus Christ. If you struggle with a guilty conscience because you have not helped the needy … let it be because you have not helped the needy in God’s Kingdom. Equally it is true and important to say that there are many who sponge on the love and support of the Church. Where the Church’s leaders ought to be on the lookout for such people, all members ought to as well. To abuse the Church’s and Christians’ kind hearts is sinful because when this is done, the real needy ones are overlooked. Our model must be to follow:
2Th 3:6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example. We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to make ourselves a model for you to follow. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
2) Christian charity is not forced. Although tithes and free will offerings are (I believe) mandatory, other giving is not.
Ac 4:34 For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.
(1) From time to time … have you notice that in your hour of need God provides? From personal experience over the last few months I have experienced God providing … from time to time. Not only to make our budget work, but getting the house ready for the market … as soon as the pot was empty, God provided in the most amazing ways.
(2) Out of their own free will, those who had extra houses and fields sold these to meet the needs within the new community of God. They were not forced, but the love for Jesus in their hearts and the gratitude for their salvation drove them to care for the needy.
(3) They trusted the Church leadership to use the finances given at their discretion. Some do not trust their Church leaders and perhaps in some cases this is valid, but in the Early Church the leaders were trusted. This is the reason they brought the proceeds from their sales and placed it at the apostles feet … meaning … for use within the Body of Christ.
(4) The leaders then distributed the finances to “anyone” who was needy. That is to anyone within the new community of God who needed assistance. Why did they do this? Because the apostles had spiritual discernment. God guided them to give to those who were genuine. When the leaders are spiritual the people will trust them.
Our Father, thank You that in small ways we are able to assist brothers and sisters after tithing and offering, given in love. Mercifully help us discern those who are true and those who are chancers. Help our Church leaders too with wisdom. Amen.