“There was not a needy person among them” is an arresting thought. In my part of the country, especially in the warmer weather and at intersections and the end of highway exit ramps, there are needy people. Many hold signs asking for help.
When and how (although not whether) to care for others have been conundrums since the earliest days of the Christian faith. My study Bible on this passage notes that Christians took care of the needy among them. But early on, controversy arose over equity in the treatment of widows. (See Acts 6.)
This need of those I see asking for help on the roads contrasts sharply with my possession-filled life, notably railroad artifacts that delight my inner child. The scale models, lanterns, and hats are tactile delights but unquestionably unneeded possessions.
Did Joseph, whom the apostles named Barnabas, “need” the field he sold? Was it, in that agrarian culture, a luxury he did not need; or was the money laid at the disciples’ feet an extravagance from his liquidated old-age nest egg? Was it a field he had farmed or romped on, like the “Ball Field” we sold as we liquidated my late father’s property? We’ll never know.
What we do know is that this “son of encouragement” gave and that we are to give. As the hymn reminds us:
To give and give, and give again, what God hath given thee;
To spend thyself nor count the cost, To serve right gloriously
The God who gave all worlds that are, And all that are to be.*
*"Awake, Awake to Love and Work," Geoffrey Anketel Studert Kennedy, hymnary.org
Lord of encouragement, teach us to give as a tangible expression of your love that the needy among us being served, we may give glory to your name. Through him whose giving has secured for us everlasting life, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Easter promises us the possibility of new life in Christ, but what should that life look like? Scripture makes clear that one sign of union with God is unity with each other. How wonderful it is, the psalmist says, when there is peace among brothers and sisters. Unity and peace do not mean simply the lack of conflict but proactive care for one another. The Christians in Acts lived out this care in a practical way by giving of their material means to help one another. John in his epistle tells us that this fellowship is ultimately modeled on the fellowship we share with God and Christ, while in his Gospel, John teaches that belief in Jesus the Messiah is what binds us all together in this new life.
Read Acts 4:32-35. In what ways does your Christian community extend generosity to those within and those beyond the community?
Read Psalm 133. How do you experience God’s extravagant love for you? What is your response to this love?
Read 1 John 1:1–2:2. What experience of Christ have you “heard . . . seen . . . looked at . . . touched”? How do you share your experience of the risen Christ with others?
Read John 20:19-31. How do you relate to Thomas’s desire for tangible proof of the Resurrection?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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