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. 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 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.’ Acts 6:2-4 (NIV)
Acts 6 records a situation in the early church where a problem arose. Some people felt they were not being treated fairly when it came to the distribution of food. When it was brought to the attention of the apostles I’m sure the people expected the apostles to solve it. The apostles could have have taken the view that as it was a problem they had to solve it themselves, by mucking in and ensuring that everything was done fairly. A very hands-on approach.
Of course they could have solved the problem this way, but chose not to. The verses quoted above from Acts 2 raise a number of issues for us.
Firstly, the apostles recognised their own calling and what they should devote their energies to. In this case they recognisd that for them to get involved in solving the problem directly would take them away from ‘… prayer and the ministry of the word.’ So the lesson is – don’t get sidetracked by some legitimate issues, concentrate upon the area of service God has called you to and equipped you for.
Secondly, look at the qualifications needed to ‘… wait on tables …’ in the early church. The apostles called the whole church together and asked them to choose from among their number seven men who were ‘… known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom.’ You might think that this would make them over-qualified for the task in hand. Yet this is what the apostles asked for. The lesson for us in the Christian church must be not to separate what we see as the spiritual from the secular tasks. In other words, irrespective of the task we need someone to fulfil, it is their standing before God that is of primary importance. Has the person committed their life to Christ? Is it clear that the person is full of the Spirit and wisdom? So above everything else, the person’s spiritual standing is the primary qualifier, followed by their gifting.
Thirdly, there is the issue of gender roles. I’m sure some of you reading this will be thinking – the apostles asked the church to choose seven men for the task; surely this type of thing is women’s work. If you think that, look again at the text. Yes it is true that the apostles asked the church to choose seven men, but ask yourself why. Was it to reinforce the role of men in the church and leave the women out? I don’t think so. Personally I think it was to point out to men that they should not think any task beneath them. I have seen too many churches where women’s work is defined by doing administrative tasks, cooking and serving meals. If we were to follow the example of the early church, it would be the men who would be asked to do these things.
In summary, don’t be sidetracked by issues that pull you away from your God-given calling; don’t understate the spiritual qualifications needed to serve God; identify those around you who are gifted for the task; show men and women that no task is beneath them if God has called them to it.
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