The Church’s Response To A Social Problem
“Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.” (Acts 6:1, NKJV)
“Buhay Kristiyano’y di haleluya lang
Maging bahagi ka ng pagtulong sa lipunan
Manalangin ay tama din naman
Lalo na’t may gawa at di lang sa salita, ha..”
The lyrics above is part of Butch Charvet’s song entitled Buhay Kristiyano’y Di Halleluya Lang. It is a commentary of the kind of life a Christian should manifest. Christian life should not be limited to lip service. One must see to it that he responds to the needs of the community where he belongs. Christians should match their words with actions.
An article “Where is the Church?” written by Rigoberto D. Tiglao was published in The Manila Times online edition last March 25, 2020. It claims that the Catholic church maintains billions of pesos in banks. Part of the article states, “Where are they now when tens of thousands of human lives are being snuffed out by a disease (referring to COVID-19 pandemic) they are not doing anything to fight?” The article suggests that “they can open their vast facilities…and house and feed the metropolis’ homeless, who could starve because of the lockdown. They can use their huge funds…to provide the protective equipment needed by frontline medical staff caring for those infected by COVID-19.”
In the book of Acts chapter 6, we read about how the young church responded to a social problem – distribution of food to the widows.
Luke’s purpose in writing the book of Acts is found in 1: 8. That is, to show the expansion of the Gospel from “Jerusalem” (1:1-6:7), to “Judea and Samaria” (6:8-9:31), “and to the ends of the earth” ( 9:32-28:30), under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit. Acts 6:1 concludes first panel (1:1-6:7) which is about the Gospel in Jerusalem. It functions as a transition, setting the scene for the next panel (6:8-9:31 – the Gospel in Judea and Samaria), the first expansion of the Gospel outside of Jerusalem.
The Church Responds To A Social Problem
“….there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution.”
Hellenists (Click Hellenism) were Greek-speaking Jews or Jews from Diaspora (Click Diaspora) who had returned to live in Jerusalem. Many Hellenists returned to Jerusalem in their old age to die and be buried by Mount Zion. Since they were not citizens of or native to Jerusalem, when they died, their widows had no regular means of sustenance.
Israel was mandated by God to take care of the widows (Deuteronomy 14:29) who had no other means of support and therefore no one to care for them. Because many Hellenists returned to Jerusalem, a disproportionate number of widows lived in Jerusalem, thus an urban social problem arose. The church responded to such a problem by taking care of these widows through a daily distribution of food.
We also see here three main tasks of the church: prayer, the ministry of the word of God and waiting on tables (distribution of food) which was the root of the tension between the Jews and the Hellenists because of the influx their widows as mentioned above. The disciples managed to balance the tasks by appointing seven men who were among the Hellenists group to serve on tables. In this way, the disciples did not just focus their time on prayer and the word of God, they were also able to match their word with action.
Though Acts 6:1 may not viewed as a biblical precedent or a repetitive pattern, we can safely say that the church today can use it as a model or example. Helping the needy is always the right thing to do though the mode may differ. Jesus did not just teach and preach, he fed thousands of people, healed the sick, and raised the dead.
GMA News Online reports that a number of Metro Manila Catholic churches and convents have opened their doors to provide shelter for medical frontliners as the country fights the unseen enemy, COVID-19. The Christian evangelical church Victory turns its BGC, Taguig City building into a temporary housing facility for frontliners working in St. Luke’s BGC and Rizal Medical Center, as reported by CNN Philippines. We would like to see more churches from different Christian and non-Christian groups responding to the present social problem.
Fee, Gordon D. & Stuart, Douglas. How to Read the Bible Book by Book. A Guided Tour. Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature, Inc., 2002.
Fee, Gordon D. & Stuart, Douglas. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Manila, Philippines: OMF Literature, 2003.
Keener, Craig S. The IVP Bible Background Commentary. New Testament. Quezon City, Philippines: Christian Growth Ministry, Inc., 2010.
Zondervan NASB Study Bible. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1999.