Speaking the Truth in Love

Poverty, a Persistent Problem in Judea

  [Brent Smith is the preaching minister of the Trenton Church of Christ in Trenton, Tennessee.]

In the book of Acts, Luke reveals that there was ongoing poverty among the Christians in Jerusalem. From the Day of Pentecost when the church was established and for decades afterward, special offerings and collections were needed to help feed, clothe and shelter the poor saints. Why?

Image result for christians giving to poor widowsTo some degree, the poverty was a timeless humanity issue. Jesus himself noted this when he sat at table in the home of Simon the leper (Matt. 26.11). There always have been and always will be those who struggle with life challenges and need help. There were many widows in the Jerusalem church who were left alone and without retirement savings, a pension or Social Security benefits (Acts 6.1-6; Jas. 1.27). However, there must have been something else going on.

To be sure, the problem was not laziness. The apostles would have frowned on that. Benevolence toward lazy Christians would have been discouraged or even forbidden. Christians wouldn’t have sold their houses and pieces of land so that they could support people who refused to work.

Image result for christians perscecutedSo what was the problem? These Christians were persecuted. They were Jews living in the Jewish community that had killed Christ. The first Christians were a pariah, a byword among fellow Jews. As such, they lost employment and business opportunities. Gentile Christians in other Roman provinces did not face similar persecution until the second half of the first century.

What would happen in the church today if a Christian couple who owned a bakery were sued because they refused to decorate a cake for a lesbian wedding? What would happen if the elders were jailed because they refused to allow the church building to be used for that wedding? What if the preacher was arrested because he refused to perform the ceremony? What if your boss found out that you were a member of that church and fired you? Real poverty might quickly become an issue.

Professing faith in Christ made many of the disciples in Jerusalem poor. But they were also rich. They had a deed for a splendid home in heaven, a home that no one could take away.

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