In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a] among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:1-4 NIV

Let me say at the beginning, I am aware that these were two Jewish groups of people. However, “my people” and “your people” express the same favoritism sentiments. Complaining was happening that advantages were given to a particular class of people, not others. The poorest were not being treated equally. One group was being accused of showing favoritism. If you let your mind wander, you can imagine the jealous conversations spreading among the women, “they put more flour in her bag than they do in ours. Watch how they smile and are happy to see them and act snobbish to us.”

Offense can happen at any time and among even the closest of friends. It seems to happen at a different level when race and cultural differences are prominent. Today’s bible verse shows that the early church was not exempt from offending people. Although both groups of windows were Jewish, there was a distinct difference between the Jewish and Greek or Hellenistic widows.  The Hellenists were Jews who embraced Greek culture and were looked upon as sellouts. Let’s look at how the church dealt with the offense.

Recapping the story is essential. As the church grew, Hellenistic Jews (not the widows, probably men) took up an offense for their widows. The complaint was strong enough that it made its way to the apostles. Some think the church in Jerusalem could have been as large as 20,000 at this time. It is noteworthy to see that the disciples did not ignore the injustice. Their wisdom was to choose men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom to address the complaint.  This serving of the widows most likely included the handling of monies to feed them and the actual work of serving the food.

Three takeaways for awareness of racial offense of unequal funding.

  1. Not everyone is treated fairly. This does not mean that it was a conscious or intentional oversight. We all have hidden preferences that God reveals in situations like these so that we can make adjustments. No excuses were needed to defend what was happening…it just needed to be fixed.
    • Don’t ignore the complaints that others are bringing.
    • Greed and favoritism find expression in church culture – James 2:1 My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 
    • The presence of offense or favoritism does not negate that God is moving, and He is using people to advance His kingdom.
  2. Listening and addressing heartfelt concerns brings much-needed validation.
    • Preferring others as more important than yourself invites you to try to understand the why and how a person feels slighted.
    • For the offended, when you know that your hurt has been heard, it lets you know that help is not far away.  
    • If you are “the offended,” forgiveness is the ultimate resolution to bring healing to your heart. Forgiving does not excuse or condone the offense, it just cuts the cord of inflicted pain on your heart from the event. You release the offender from the obligation to bring the scales of justice to even. God does that part.
  3. God has men and women who can address the issue and bring healing to the offense.
    • The apostles’ answer to the complaint was to find seven men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.
      • In our culture today, we should pray for God to raise up men and women full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom to lead through the divisions among us.
      • These men were known by the group, respected by the group, and approved by the group.
    • This issue was solved after the men were approved and hands laid upon them.

No matter how broad the divisions are among us, I believe God can raise up men and women to lead us through the difficulties. Being full of the Spirit creates an atmosphere of humility, preferring one another, patience, strength, and joy. Wisdom from God shines through as the right choice for both parties makes its presence felt. 

 God has a plan, it is always a man or woman of God speaking, leading, and serving into the light of truth. I am hopeful because I believe God’s ways are higher than ours, His thoughts deeper than ours. Jesus’ prayer for oneness is mightier than our division.

May God raise up some Stephens and Phillips in our time. May we forgive others often.

May God’s wisdom appear fully in all areas of division and offense.

Blessings Love y’all