The widows were being neglected. Well, only a particular group of them were not getting their needs met. One group had a history with the believers. So they were fed first and were happy with their care. The other group had no background in the Church, and they were being overlooked.
It is an ugly picture of the Church not meeting the needs of people adequately. And isn’t that, after all, the most significant thing the Church should do? The people who follow Jesus serve others in love, especially those who are part of their congregation. This community of believers should be ashamed. Their leaders must have been an uneducated and uncommitted group of lazy Christians to make this mistake.
Well, this story is told to us in the book of Acts in the New Testament. The leaders of that Church were the twelve Apostles that Jesus left behind to carry on his ministry. Chapter six tells us the story in one verse, and then the following verse states, “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.'” (Acts 6:2 – NIV 2011)
I thought meeting the needs of others was the highest calling in the Church. Believers are to serve in the name of Jesus, so shouldn’t the Apostles drop everything and feed the widows to set an example for the Church?
They make a statement that seems so counter-cultural to many Christians. They are not willing to neglect the “ministry of the word” to wait on tables.
The Apostles felt their most remarkable ministry and highest calling was to teach people what Jesus said and what his life meant for them. They appear to value Biblical education over all other ministries. They would not spend less time preaching and teaching to meet the everyday needs of the widows.
This seems wrong until you understand one thing: People’s greatest need is for Jesus and his salvation. If you feed people and they die without Jesus, the believers have failed. If people are getting their physical needs met, but not their spiritual needs, the Church has failed. People’s greatest need is to get right with God through Jesus Christ. Every other ministry comes after that one area of emphasis.
The solution was a plan that allowed the Apostles to keep preaching, and other Christians would meet the widows needs. The result is that the word of Jesus spread, and the Church grew. In the process, it sets a precedent for the Church of the future. Serve people, but make sure their soul is fed along with their body.