Yesterday we studied a short line from the Bible about a complaint against the Christians, accusing them of being partial. The more culturally integrated Jews, the Hellenists, were feeling that their widows weren’t getting free food from the Christians, while the more orthodox Jews were. If this was happening, it was clearly a mistake. The Christians couldn’t, with integrity, be so partial, and so here’s what they did:
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. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7 ESV)
We now see the problem was indeed the apostles, the leaders of the church. They were stretched too thin, trying to do everything, and things were falling through the cracks.
Their solution is to step back from the food distribution work, and focus on communicating the gospel (good news of Jesus Christ) effectively.
Now, priorities are tough, especially when you have to prioritize between two good things. This isn’t like deciding between preaching the gospel and having dental surgery.
Distributing food and preaching good news are two very good things, consistent with the message and life of Jesus. He both preached the good news of his kingdom and in some incredible occasions, served others by washing their feet, saving them from torture, feeding thousands, etc.
They kind of come across as arrogant leaders, don’t they? Without a lot of context, this one liner of their sounds like they consider themselves too important to wait tables. There is much talk about Servant Leadership today, and it seems like these apostles are forgetting the servanthood part.
However, they needed only to look to Jesus to see how he prioritized. One time the Bible says Jesus snuck away to pray. Here’s what happened: And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:36-39 ESV)
Jesus regularly placed a priority on communicating his message, rather than displaying it in every possible way. He didn’t heal everyone he met, or bother meeting everyone he could heal. Why? Because his message is that he is bringing a change to the world order, called his kingdom of heaven, that will heal everyone and everything, and we should repent and believe in him so we can participate.
Question: Draw a line with servant at one end, leader at the other, and a balacing point in the middle. Where were the apostles? Where was Jesus? Where are you?
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