Spiritual Work (28-04-21)
Bible Reading: Acts 6:1-7
In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, "It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Murmurings and discontent are part of life today and, it appears, they were part of the life of the early church.
In Jerusalem at the time of the early church there lived Jews from different backgrounds. There were the Hebraic Jews, born and raised in the area, who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic, and there were the Hellenistic Jews, who had come from neighbouring countries, who had settled in Jerusalem, and who spoke mainly Greek.
Amongst both of these groups there were widows who were supported by a daily distribution of food from the local church. Food banks, if you like. The murmurings were about the fairness of the distribution of the food, focussed around racial lines.
The disciples met to sort out the problem and, mindful of their commission from Jesus to preach the gospel, they appointed seven others to oversee the fair distribution of food to the poor.
At first glance it might seem that there was a distinction in the church between the spiritual work and the practical work, but that was not the case. Look at the qualifications required by those who would be ‘waiting on tables.’ The disciples weren’t looking for people with experience of working in a restaurant or of having passed a food hygiene course, they were looking for people who were full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
Within the church, every role is spiritual, and every role is important. Whatever we are doing in the name of the Church we need to do with the anointing of the Holy Spirit and with wisdom.
The consequence of the appointment of the seven showed wisdom on behalf of the disciples. Not only did the proposal please the whole group, but the church grew as the disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly.
This was not just about the distribution of food by the Church, it was about the distribution of ministry within the Church.
Fill me afresh, Lord, with your Holy Spirit and with wisdom, that I may be equipped to serve you in whatever way I can.
Teach me to dance to the beat of your heart