By Ward Shope
I will never be a philanthropist – at least not in the usual sense of the word. Most famous philanthropists in American history made or inherited boatloads of money which they then passed on to several causes they chose for the betterment of the common good. I’d like to do that. But I don’t have the resources to build a hospital wing or to underwrite a program to battle poverty.
Yet a lack of resources does not stop anyone from being generous. As Anthony preached October 7 on the marks of the early church (Acts 2:42-47) and the believers’ commitment to one another, he mentioned how their sense of attachment with each other (fellowship) was partly characterized by an overwhelming generosity that left none in need.
If you think about it, many who were present at Pentecost were out-of-towners. They hadn’t really planned on staying in Jerusalem for the long run. They were so hungry to understand the gospel and to spend time with one another in life and worship that they just didn’t want to go home. Maybe some believed it would never end.
But that raised a practical issue. None of them came in their Airstreams. The Spirit’s appearance took them all by surprise. Needs were inevitable and so were the opportunities to be generous. “You don’t have any food? We’d be glad to share what we have.” “Do you need a place to crash? We’ve got a sofa and an air mattress your family can use. Or maybe you can sleep in our bed and we’ll take the spot on the floor.” Those in Jerusalem were just as eager to have the travelers with them as the travelers were in staying with their newfound brothers and sisters in Jerusalem.
The givers in Jerusalem weren’t rich people trying to solve the world’s problems with their money. These were personal gifts, given out of a sense of shared life together. The empathy of their love naturally moved them to offer what they could to those who simply couldn’t make life work without it.
Nor was it just about money. It included the equivalent of that in our culture. But the generosity was fueled by dynamic, growing relationships in the gospel. Each of them was more concerned about the others than they were about themselves – practically as well as spiritually. “Is it better for you to stay in Jerusalem to grow in the faith rather than to return home in isolation? Absolutely! Please stay with us! We know it benefits you – and us too.”
I don’t know what this looks like for us at New Life in 2018. Some among us are quietly doing things very close to this. These believers are looking at some very practical needs that brothers and sisters in our church have and are generously giving their time and resources for their spiritual and physical benefit. Because while generosity usually includes material resources, it finds its origin in a gospel that is carried by the Spirit of God and drives us into deep relationship with one another. Pray with me for a deeper work of the Spirit within our fellowship.