Hi, welcome to Redeem the Commute. I’m Ryan, your host for the daily challenges.
This week our daily challenge theme is Pioneer Priorities. We are looking at how the very first followers of Jesus and their leaders, the apostles, managed to prioritize when they had a number of competing, equally good options vying for their time.
On Tuesdays we usually look at a longish passage of scripture, but today we’ll study one line, and then more tomorrow.
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. (Acts 6:1 ESV)
There were at that time two different cultures within Judaism. The Hellenists were the ones who were “like Greeks”. They were probably culturally very much like those from other nations around them, which had all been influenced by the Greeks at one time or another, even though they weren’t actually Greek themselves. The Hebrews were those who might have clung more strongly to the origins of their faith, culturally and religiously. Think of visiting today’s New York City, or even North Y ork – you’ll meet some cultural Jews who are like any other New Yorker in outer appearance, and you’ll also find Hasidic Jews who dress, act and speak differently than others, with a whole range in between.
As you can imagine, this caused some tension at the best of times. And it seems that the Christians sharing food with those in need, particularly widows, had caused a problem for them.
In that culture, a widow was extremely vulnerable, particularly if she was without children. She had few means to raise any money, with no standing in a very hierarchical and patriarchal culture. Christians seem to have had a particular concern for widows throughout these early years of the church.
But there was concern over whether the Christians were being partial to one group of widows or the other. Maybe it was perception, maybe it was an accident because the new church leaders were stretched too thin, but I can’t see why it would have been on purpose.
Either way, it certainly looked bad, and some damage control was required. They had a message for everyone, and a mandate to care for everyone, and no reason to be partial. This wasn’t just about publicity, it was about living out their actual message and core identity as followers of Jesus.
Tomorrow we’ll see what they did in response.
Question: Why do you think the Christians were accused of being partial, and neglecting the Jews who were more culturally integrated?
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