All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.
Things have been busy in my life. I’ve just started a new job as a Training Information Management Systems Officer with the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and I’ve just finished 2 weeks of induction. Its been a steep learning curve and I’m learning to live day by day on the grace of God.
A friend of mine has moved in with us. She is a single soon-to-be mother who is having trouble with finances. We’ve got an extra room, and she needs a place to stay. Perfect! Thats exactly why God has blessed us with a house – so that we can bless others in need who have nothing to offer us back. We’ve been getting mixed reactions from people. While most are proud of us for helping out a friend in need, others caution us about inconveniences to us. I’ve found wisdom and encouragement in both responses.
To those who caution us about inconveniences: We’ve found that people are generally willing to help, as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them. They would rather contribute money, food, clothing… anything as long as its not them she is staying with. There is always “someone else” who can house her, but when everyone says “someone else” will do it, who is that someone? Sara and I decided that we are that someone. We as a family want to be marked by generosity and an open heart.
To those who are proud of us: we’re only doing what we’re called to. That is the model that the early church exemplified. We’re really not doing anything more than that. We say “to God be the glory”, because none of what we have to offer is truly ours anyway.
I’m still sorting out my schedule with all this going on. Until then, I suspect my posts will be irregular.
Then they too will answer, Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not give you whatever you needed?
The sheep on his right whom the King described as righteous asked the question. The goats on the left whom Jesus described as accursed asked the same question. They both earnestly did not know when they had seen the King in need! There was no connection between Jesus and their brothers and sisters in need. Had they made the connection, things might have been different. But exactly which of the hundreds of people we meet daily is a brother and sister in need? How do we tell a genuine need from a fraud? Was it my Dad who needed $700 for investing in his business? Was it my brother who needed $350 for his bills? Maybe it was the beggar on the street looking for some spare change?
Once while we were waiting in a taxi queue (in Singapore), we were approached by a lady asking for some money. She said that she is an ex-convict who is currently with an organization helping other convicts like herself and proceeded to show us some legal papers. She shared her life story of a good-for-nothing husband who is still serving his prison sentence and told us that she has a young daughter to look after. She has trouble looking for a job because of her criminal record but she has been trying. After the lengthy story, I wasn’t convinced that my contribution to this woman could make any difference and I didn’t feel right giving her any money. So I rejected her and walked away. My wife on the other hand stayed on to listen to her and asked for her name. She started a conversation with her and gave her $10. She also prayed for her and then we went on our way.
While I thought that it was certainly possible for her to find a job and that it wasn’t worthwhile providing a small donation without a more long term solution, my wife thought that $10 was a small price to pay to help someone on need, show some acceptance to her and have the opportunity to pray for her. However, we later found out that this lady was a fraud. The organization she spoke about didn’t exist. We had no way of verifying if the story we had been told about her husband and daughter was true.
Who was right and who was wrong? Was the woman wrong? Was I wrong? Was my wife wrong? Maybe we all were wrong! I am certain that the lady had a legitimate need. Even though she went about defrauding people of money, she needed the money. But giving money to her would encourage her fraudulent behaviour and promote criminal activity. What is right and wrong? These are real world issues for a generation that is called to love people practically with a generous spirit.
There is no easy answer, but by the grace of God, may we be counted in His flock.
If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:17-18
- “If anyone has material possessions”, the author makes no exclusions in this message since everyone has some sort of material possession (v17)
- “sees his brother in need but has no pity on him”, here brother is better translated as “fellow Christian” (NET) as a general term for any genuine Christian who is in the community (v17)
- The use of the word “pity” isn’t quite correct, I find other translations more helpful – “closes his heart” (ESV) or “shuts off his compassion” (NET); that paints a much stronger picture of what goes on in our hearts, it is an intentional deadening of our compassion
- “how can the love of God be in him?”, an obviously rhetorical question to which the answer is clear to the author – the love of God simply cannot be in such a person (v17)
- “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” an exaltation for all his disciples whom he calls “children” (v18)
- “actions” or “deeds” (ESV/NET) gives the idea of actual work; the direct opposite of not working or simply speaking
- “in truth” seems like a strange thing to say here, but if you connect the sentence together, it makes sense to “love… in truth”; the author exalts us to love with a genuine love (Romans 12:9)
The implications here are extremely strong. John says that the love of God cannot be in a person who does not love with his actions by sharing / giving of his own material possession to a fellow Christian who has a need. Such a person is described in v15 as a “murderer” who “hates his brother” and has “no… eternal life in him.” That makes it absolutely impossible for us to receive the love of God and not give of ourselves to love others. Love that doesn’t move a person to action is not genuine love at all, it is non-committal, false, superficial love.
In context, the author says that if God has loved you to the extent of giving His own life, you should also give your own life to others. This is done practically by filling a fellow Christian’s lack with your much. It is impossible for a person who has the love of God to not do so. It requires an intentional shutting off of our heart to do so.
My father always told me “talk is cheap”. This is exactly what my father meant. Love that does not act on a fellow Christian’s need it is not love at all.
Father, give me a heart like yours. Let me look at how you gave and how much you gave and follow your lead. I admit that it is easy to cling on to possessions, help me to hold on tightly to you and loosely to the blessings you abundantly pour on us.