But the church was growing, and family living was changing, and with the new growth came new problems, with many people coming to faith from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. They spoke different languages; they had different outlooks on life (Acts 6:1-3). This is the setting of this text: a problem occurs when widows of Greek-speaking Christians are not receiving what the Hebrew-speaking Christians are receiving when the food was being allocated (Acts 6:1-4). It was as if some of the widows were not being allowed to come to the family dinner table.
Now remember that the apostles had been working on sharing their resources with everyone as anyone had need (Acts 2:45). Remember, too, that the early church had adopted many of the practices from the synagogue, assisting widows and caring for the needs of the most vulnerable, for instance, just as the Law had commanded and as Jesus had done in his ministry (Deut 14:28-29; Lk 14:12-14).
But what we see in this passage is also how the apostles found a creative way of addressing the problem. To be sure, we don’t know how the problem arose. It may have been the result of racial prejudice. Or it may have happened as a result of greed on the part of one of the groups. Maybe the food was running out. Or maybe the apostles had just neglected the process of distribution. Maybe they just were failing to keep up with all the growth that was taking place. Or maybe it was good intentions run amuck. Whatever it was, it created an opportunity to demonstrate the gospel. After all, this would not be the last time the church would have to deal with tensions between Jews and Greeks, between “haves and have-nots.”
Each Sunday as Christians, we gather around a table that is ultimately a table of abundance, not scarcity. It is a table where we seek to share, not neglect – a table where, when God abides, people receive and are fed – a place where we welcome and, in doing so, proclaim the gospel! As Christians, we seek to find ways of meeting the needs of others on the one hand and share the gospel on the other. It is the special calling of the church to do so – to offer hope to a broken and hurting world. Amen.
Pastor Andy Kinsey