Weekly Bible Devotional
“Change the World: Feed the Hungry”
Scripture for This Sunday: Acts 6:1-7
Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. 2 And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.3 Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, 4 while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” 5 What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. 6 They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them. 7 The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Notes on The Text:
Sometime between the years 75 and 100 CE, somewhere within the Mediterranean world, the Acts of the Apostles was written. This is the second volume written by the same author of the Gospel of Luke. The goal was not just to tell of the story of the ministry of Jesus but also to tell the story of the communities of Jesus after his death and resurrection. Acts is the story of the birth of the Church and its spread from Jerusalem to Rome and from its Jewish roots to its Gentile (non-Jewish) branches/communities. Acts contains sermons/speeches and events. In Acts, we hear how the disciples tried to continue the mission of Jesus and his vision for the kingdom of God. The book records both stories of success and struggle and how the church dealt with them. In this episode from chapter 6, the early church was facing a problem. There were too many tables to serve and not enough people to do it. In addition, some people were grumbling that the leaders were ignoring the needs of the Hellenists (the Greeks) among the assembly. The leaders were accused of a bias to help those who were the hungry among the Hebrews more than those who were among the Greeks. The issue was complex. The people were questioning the motivation of the leadership of the church. There were racial divisions and competition for resources. The leaders could have felt overwhelmed by all the needs around them and the brewing conflict. Instead, they came up with a powerful and yet simple solution. They put the solution in the hands of the people themselves to discern together who was called to leadership from their midst. They gave them some guidelines about the kind of people to be appointed: They needed to be full of the Spirit and of wisdom and of good character in the community. The solution had to come from the people themselves who are led by the power of God’s Spirit. The beautiful thing about this story is that it became the starting point for the ministry of deacons in churches all over the world. The twelve apostles realized that God was calling them to increase the number of people who are called to lead and to have a ministry that is solely focused on compassion, care, and feeding the hungry. The original deacons, the seven, were selected to serve tables.
What the disciples did was establish a sustainable system that helped address the needs of the hungry in their community. The people themselves decided who these leaders would be, and the leaders were focused on the feeding of the hungry. The ministry was relational, sustainable, and focused.
This week we continue the “Change the World” series with the challenge to feed the hungry as one of the tools God uses to change the world. This is not an easy challenge when we look at the problem of hunger in our world today. We could feel overwhelmed by the statistics: The number of people going hungry in the world is 821 million which means that one in 9 people does not have the minimum amount of food they need. 45% of all child deaths are related to poor nutrition.
There are many causes for hunger such as inequality, poverty, waste of resources, war, conflicts, crises, natural disasters, global warming, conflicts, and distorted world trade.
The variety of reasons for hunger makes it really hard to find solutions. That is why people often disagree about the solutions. That is also why as we look at God’s challenge for us to feed the hungry, we have to consider how we can do this in ways that are long-term without becoming cynical or overwhelmed. We can learn from the example of early Christians. Instead of focusing on the hunger challenges and our political disagreements of how to find solutions, we can see the potential for creative solutions by sharing what we have and responding to the call to serve.
Mike Slaughter writes about the lessons we learn from the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand people, “When it comes to food distribution, many see the problems and limitations. Good intentions and a desire to help were plentiful then as they are today. It’s the implementation that is the tough part. The lesson from Jesus was to share the food that’s available: be thankful for what we have, and then have faith that we have more than enough to share with others. The disciples saw hunger. Jesus saw it too. The difference was that Jesus acted in faith, just as we can today.”
The “Change the World” quest this week is to look at the groups in your community feed the hungry. Learn about one of them and how we might support their work.
Prayer for Discipleship:
God of love,
source of mercy and compassion,
weave your dream for the world
into the fabric of our lives.
Remove the scales from our eyes
and lift the indifference from our hearts,
so that we may see your vision –
a new reign of justice and compassion
that will renew the earth.
Transform our lives,
so that we may accomplish your purpose.
Anoint us with your spirit
that we might bring good news to the oppressed,
bind up the brokenhearted,
and proclaim release to the captive.
Give us a new urgency
and a new commitment
to feed the hungry,
clothe the naked,
shelter the homeless,
and visit those who live in isolation.
Help us to reach out to those
whom no one else will touch,
to accept the unacceptable,
and to embrace the enemy.
Surround us with your love,
fill us with your grace,
and strengthen us for your service.
Empower us to respond to the call of Jesus –
to deny ourselves,
to take up our crosses,
and to follow.
Make us your disciples.