Editor’s Note: The AMI QT devotionals from February 17-19 are provided by the AMI Teaching Pastor Ryun Chang.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
While the adherents of capitalism wouldn’t be able to say, “There was not a needy person among [us],” that was the claim long made by the communists. But, once the iron curtain came down in Eastern Europe, we discovered that the communist leaders lived in nicer homes and ate better food, while the needs of the rest were barely met.
Not a few Christian leaders, unhappy about individualism and commercialized churches, have called for the church to return to the practices of the early church, like meeting at homes for fellowship. Nevertheless, none has been so radical to suggest that their followers sell their “possession and give to the poor” (Mt. 19:21) and worship God all day (Acts 2:42).
But, are we offering the Lord a lukewarm, lip service by not doing what Barnabas did—presumably selling all that he had and giving the profit to the church? Not necessarily. One factor that prompted the early Christians to go beyond simple generosity was their anticipation of Christ’s imminent return. Some actually claimed that “the day of the Lord has already come” (2 Thess. 2:2). But under the rubric of progressive revelation, the church, in time, would learn that that may not happen any time soon, which meant that they actually needed to live. Therefore, Paul told those who stopped working, on account of Christ’s imminent return and lived off of other people’s food (3:8), “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (3:9). So the normal Christian life isn’t living on the dole but working hard to provide for our daily sustenance.
But, that’s not the only reason, as Paul told former thieves, “Do something useful with [your] own hands, that [you] may have something useful with those in need” (Eph. 4:28). The fact that most of us aren’t that generous is why we need to be inspired by the early believers and their leaders who, unlike the communists, used every penny to help the needy instead of helping themselves. And who knows—while you’re reading this passage again, the Holy Spirit might convict you to literally sell everything to serve God. But for now, practice generosity.
I sing for joy to God our strength who has given me everything I need! It is my greed for more and envy of other’s possessions that have kept me from truly recognizing all that You have given me. Lord, now that I see this, motivate me to be decisive about sharing Your blessings in my life with those in need. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 49
Lunch Break Study
Read Amos 3:15-4:1: This is what the LORD says . . . “I will tear down the winter house along with the summer house; the houses adorned with ivory will be destroyed and the mansions will be demolished,”
declares the Lord. 1 Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria, you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy and say to your husbands, “Bring us some drinks!”
Amos 6:5-7: You strum away on your harps like David and improvise on musical instruments.6 You drink wine by the bowlful and use the finest lotions, but you do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph. 7 Therefore you will be among the first to go into exile; your feasting and lounging will end.
Question to Consider
- Amos prophesized during the reign of the evil King Jeroboam II in the 8th century B.C. (2 Kings 14:23-9). Based on this passage, what was the economic state of Israel at that time?
- Of course, it would helpful to read the entire Amos but based on this passage, what did the wealthy Israelites do with what God had given them?
- How would you summarize God’s reaction against those who refused to help out the needy with what God had given them? Are you doing better?
- The terms “winter house,” “summer house,” the houses adorned with “ivory,” “mansion,” “wine by the bowlful,” and “finest lotions” strongly suggest that this was a time of unparalleled prosperity. The irony, of course, is that God granted such prosperity despite Jeroboam II, who was an evil king. It was also under his reign that the territory of Israel was greatly extended.
- Instead of helping the poor and alleviating the sufferings of the needy, those who had been blessed by God oppressed the poor and crushed the needy, while they themselves lived it up in wanton pleasure.
- In short, God was not happy. Despite the fact that the Lord had blessed the Israelites who were being led by an evil king, they, instead of turning to God in gratitude, became more selfish, heartless and narcissistic. For that and other reasons, God sentenced them to an exile where they couldn’t live like that anymore. But God wasn’t being punitive; rather, He was being restorative (Heb. 12:10), so that they would learn to use God’s blessing in their lives to do His work.
As you near the end of this day, did you have an opportunity to be generous with your time, money (or possessions, like your car) and talent? Would you say that you are sharing God’s blessing with those in need? Pray about how you can do better tomorrow, so that people can see Christ through you (Heb. 12:14).