Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. 2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers,pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. – Acts 6:1-7
Several times in my life I’ve had to make a choice. Would I attend seminary in St. Louis MO, or in Springfield, IL? Would I accept a call to Phoenix, AZ or remain at the churches I was serving in Vernal and Roosevelt, Utah? Would I root for the St. Louis Cardinals or the Texas Rangers when they faced off in the World Series? Sometimes you have to make a choice: Springfield, Utah, Rangers (the Rangers have never won a World Series Championship while St. Louis has won 11!).
Sometimes we think that life in the church is a matter of such choices: Contemporary or traditional worship? Reaching the lost or discipling the saved? Caring for the sheep, or seeking the lost sheep? Focusing on the mission or maintaining the traditions. Some people say you have to choose.
A look at this event in the Early Church proves otherwise. They show the clear application of Galatians 6:10, “Let us do good to all people, especially those of the household of faith.” The response of the church leaders to the complaint of the Greek widows was not to say: “Sorry. We can help only one group of people. You’ll have to choose.” Rather, they offered an opportunity for the people to provide care for all the widows so that the widows could be cared for, and the mission of God could go forward. The men they chose were key to caring for the widows and allowing for the mission to move forward unimpeded.
The result was just that: the widows were cared for, and the church grew. Even more significantly, now a number of priests became obedient to the faith. This is a truly remarkable moment. The message of Jesus was finally being embraced by the very ones who should have been first to believe!
Sometimes we do have to make choices. When it comes to caring for the saved and seeking and saving the lost we must do both. Having said that, however, it would be good to remember that those outside the church – the ones who need Jesus’ salvation, who need to be sought and saved – have few advocates inside the church. There are many who will speak for the members (mostly the members themselves!). As we care for one another within the church, our ears need to be tuned to listen for the voices outside who also may have needs which God has equipped his people to provide.
Jesus himself came to seek and save the lost – thanks be to God, for that includes you and me!