“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.” (Acts 6:1)
After the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, Peter and the other eleven apostles came to preach. At that time, many people repented and believed in the Lord, and they shared their goods with each other. As the number of followers increased, the Greek-speaking Jewish widows were ignored and their daily needs were not met. The Greek-speaking Jews complained to the church about this matter.
The situation of widows in ancient times was difficult. In Jewish society at that time, women were not even allowed to go out to work. After losing their husbands, widows would lose their source of income if they did not have other family members to help them. These widows either chose to remarry, or they needed to live on the gifts of the synagogue because in the Bible the Lord commanded the Jewish people to take care of the widows.
Although there were more disciples at the time, it was not only the Greek-speaking Jews who had widows, but there were widows among the Jewish people who spoke Hebrew. However, they were treated differently by the church in Jerusalem. The widows who spoke Greek were neglected, but the widows who spoke Hebrew were not.
One of the important reasons for the disparity in treatment was that the Hebraic Jews were responsible to supply and distribute the aid. These people would naturally feel closer to the Hebrew-speaking widows, but for those who spoke Greek, due to language and lifestyle differences, they would naturally feel some distance and cultural strangeness. It was precisely because of these distances that the church in Jerusalem ignored the widows who spoke Greek.
There are also many brothers and sisters in the church today who need our special care, not only their physical needs but also spiritual. Among these people, we are inevitably close to some and may feel estranged from others. Although they all need to be cared for, there are often cases of deferential treatment when we are caring for them. We may take special care of those with whom we are close, but we may show less concern to strangers, or even ignore their needs.
Christians may also neglect to love these strangers. Their love is not only incomplete, but the neglect is also inconsistent with the teachings of the Bible. Even selfish tax collectors can love those who love them. If Christians can only do this, how can they conform to God's will and receive God's reward? The Bible clearly teaches us to love our enemies, not to mention those brothers and sisters who are in special situations. If we want to truly follow God's teachings, we should not only care about those brothers and sisters to whom we are close, but also care about those brothers and sisters who are not so close to us.
(Note: The author is a full-time co-worker of a grassroots church in Fujian.)
- Translated by Abigail Wu