A most amazing description of the early church is given in Acts 4.32: "Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. . . . There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles' feet and it was distributed to each as any had need."
The spirit of benevolence exhibited by the first Christians is truly extraordinary. Their focus was not directed toward themselves, but toward others--the poor, the hungry, the ill, the homeless, and the lost. Throughout the book of Acts, the church is seen in action, helping those in need, caring for those in difficult circumstances, and using their resources--all of their resources--to ease the suffering of those they encountered.
The spirit of benevolence exhibited in the early church is reflected in their sense of mission. The first Christians were fully aware of the lost condition of the world about them. The compassion that motivated them to care for the poor led them to reach out to those stricken with spiritual poverty--those estranged from God and distant from his grace. Indeed within a generation the Gospel of Peace had been carried from the hill country of Judea to the hills of Rome and beyond.
If Luke were writing the story of our modern times, would he portray the church as a people of compassion, motivated to address the needs, not of themselves, but of the poor and lost? Is our concern for the world about us, or are we focused on bringing comfort to our own lives? Consider: we have built nice, comfortable buildings used as places of assembly--indeed many such buildings grace our communities--yet many around the world are left to worship with much less comfort; and worse, many will go to sleep tonight without the benefit of warmth or security. Consider: we employ preachers and pay them handsomely--indeed in our communities several "professional" ministers are at work--yet much of the world is left without the presence of missionaries and proclaimers of the Gospel. Conder: we collect thousands upon thousands of dollars each year, money earmarked for the service of God's Kingdom, yet a large percentage of the collection is used for ourselves; and when we have been taken care of, we help the needy and lost with the leftovers.
I ask again: If Luke were writing the story of the modern church, would he portray us as a people of compassion, motivated to address the needs, not of ourselves, but of the poor and lost? Is our concern for the world about us, or are we focused on bringing comfort to our own lives.