The early Christians were also diligent in giving to the poor. They loved doing it so much that they sold their very possessions and belongings and distributed the proceeds to the poor, each according to their needs. How often do you give money to a homeless person? Or even something similar like buying them a meal, or a cup of coffee if you don’t have any cash on you? How often do you get rid of your things you no longer need to the poor—like excess sweatshirts, old clothes, etc.? Too many people, even Christians, use the excuse, “Well, I don’t know what they’re going to use it for. I don’t know if they’re going to use it for drugs or alcohol.” There’s a difference between an excuse and an explanation. That is an excuse. Did Jesus tell us to only give to the poor when we best determine how they’re going to use it? Did He tell us to only give to the best intentioned poor person? No, He did not. We can never claim to know a person’s mind, especially one we don’t know at all. It is foolish to assume we know how a homeless person will use the money we’ll give them. All we can do is hope and pray. Many of us may be familiar with the example of the rich young man in Scripture—that particular young man who claimed to have done many things for Christ (and don’t we all make similar claims?), including having kept the Ten Commandments, and he asked Jesus how he can inherit eternal life. Jesus replied, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21). The point Jesus is making is not that we must sell all we own in order to inherit eternal life. He was exposing this man’s pride and sin that was preventing him from true discipleship. So, He exposes a choice we have to make: our love for money (self-righteousness) or relationship with Christ? Notice, however, what Jesus says after this, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 23)! And indeed it is! Here, this man appeared and claimed to have done many works for Christ, yet as soon as Jesus told him to extend grace towards others, the man was disheartened and walked away because he didn’t want to give up his things. Even if you make minimum wage and live well below your means, you are considered rich to homeless people and those who live in impoverished countries. By telling the rich man to go sell all of his possessions, it was as if Jesus was saying, “Your works mean nothing. Go, and be gracious to others, for by My grace I have saved you.” (Ephesians 2:8-9encapsulates this.) What good are your works if you don’t extend the grace of Christ toward others, the same grace by which He saved us?
Even with the young rich man He didn’t distinguish whom to give to. He simply said to give to the poor. It’s not up to us to distinguish who deserves what. In fact, none of us deserve anything, not even the redemption of our sins. Yet Christ still chose to die for the whole world (hence John 3:16), not a select few whom He felt deserved it. So how dare we have the audacity to decide which homeless person doesn’t “deserve” our giving. Likewise, St. Paul writes, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). Not knowing what they’ll use the money for is a poor excuse. You’re not omniscient; God is, so get over the fact that you don’t know. Decide in your heart how much you’ll give and give that amount. They’re always grateful even for a little. Do this not in reluctance or compulsion, but out of love and joy. If you keep looking for reasons to show someone mercy, you’ll never show them mercy because there will never be a reason. Mercy doesn’t need a reason to be established. Just look at God’s infinite mercy on us; we deserve nothing from Him, yet He gives anyway. We don’t deserve salvation from our sins, yet in His mercy God saved us. He had no reason to save us other than that He had mercy on us in His love. So if you keep trying to determine what a homeless person will use the money for, you’ll always be reluctant to do a kind thing and if you do give in reluctance, you do so under compulsion instead of love, joy, and mercy, and not with a cheerful heart.
The early Christians were in so much fellowship with one another that they went to church every day, eating together. Granted, we’re in much different times now and can’t really afford to go to church every single day because of what our jobs and other responsibilities demand of us. But even so, we can still put aside time to visit one another and eat together, and not only at annual or monthly pot lucks and a small breakfast in the fellowship hall before service begins. Due to their intense fellowship, God “added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (v. 47). Their fellowship and immense love for one another caused more and more people to be added to the Church! That’s pretty amazing. I have never seen a church so in love with God with so much love for one another with such an abundance of fellowship that it resulted in more and more people being added to the church. I have yet to witness such an amazing account.
Many lukewarm Christians today use the excuse, “I don’t need to go to church. I can just have a personal devotion by myself at home.” Or, “I don’t need to go to church to have a relationship with God.” Again, there’s a difference between an excuse and an explanation. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”People neglecting to meet together at church is not a new issue. Paul had to address it. People mistake church for being the building that you gather in. No, the church is God’s people. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27). The word “church” comes from the New Testament Greek word, εκκλησία (eh-klay-SEE-ah), which literally translated means, “the whole body of Christian believers.” God commands that we gather together so that we worship Him in unity (Psalm 122:1), follow the example of Christ by observing the Sabbath weekly (Luke 4:16), to hear God’s Word preached (Acts 10:33), for personal edification and instruction (Ephesians 4:11-14; Psalm 27:4), to be an example to others because our failure to attend church regularly can be a corrupting influence to others (consider the implications of Jotham’s actions in 2 Chronicles 27:2), and lastly: to have fellowship with Christ (Matthew 18:20). Sure, you can have private time with God, but Scripture makes it clear that when two or more people are gathered in His name (i.e. Church), He is always present.
Individualism is widely preached, exhorted, and celebrated in western culture. Through the influence of the media, music industry, and film industry, we are told that self-sufficiency and independence leads to a prosperous life. Unfortunately, many Christians have developed this individualistic mindset in their faith (which is indicative of those Christians who think they don’t need to go to church). As Christians, we buy into this cultural deception that it’s up to us that we prosper, forgetting that it is God who enables us to prosper (Psalm 1:1-3). We want to keep God all to ourselves; we don’t want to share Him with others. Self-sufficient prosperity never lasts and always leads to misery. We don’t want to be told how to spend our time or money or what we should think. I don’t know about you, but before I was Christian I was only concerned about myself. I only wanted to do what was best for me; I had no concern for others. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t need God in my life to know what I must and mustn’t do or to give me direction. You could’ve built a monument to my narcissism. It wasn’t until the Holy Spirit converted me that I began to think of others more than myself. And now, I recognize I need God in my life to know what I must and mustn’t do and that I need Him to give me direction.
The world can’t make up its mind what it wants to do. God’s way is certain. Like St. Paul points out, I wouldn’t know what it means to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet” (Romans 7:7). In other words, we wouldn’t know what it means to sin had the Law not revealed it to us, and we wouldn’t know about forgiveness and salvation had the Gospel not revealed it to us in Jesus Christ. Being Christian does not mean it’s about you; it’s all about God. How can we know God’s will if we don’t attend church as an entire body? And how can we know how to love, encourage, and support one another if we neglect to meet together as His Church? Not just once a week on Sunday, but also throughout the week in our developing friendships.
Garrick Sinclair "Ricky" Beckett first started his Christian writing on a blog titled "The Lutheran Column" where he hires proficient Lutheran writers to convey biblical truth. Along with the blog, he also writes poetry, string quartets in music composition, enjoys doing photography, reading, and playing video games. Ricky is a graduate from Concordia University-Ann Arbor from the Pre-Seminary program with a major in Christian Thought and a minor in Theological Languages. Currently, Ricky is a seminarian at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis as he works on his Masters of Divinity to become a pastor in the LCMS (Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).
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