Tag Archives: Generosity

God’s People, part 249: Agabus

Read Acts 11:27-30

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”  (John 13:34, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 249: Agabus. There’s not much to be said about Agabus, as there are only several verses in the entire New Testament, all with in Acts, that are in reference to him. In today’s Scripture, we learn that prophets from Jerusalem were coming to the city of Antioch in Syria and prophesying to the people there. Before we talk about Agabus himself, we must first understand a little bit about Antioch.

Though there were other cities named Antioch in the ancient world, the one described in Acts 11 is the city was located in what is now the modern city of Antakya, Turkey. Syrian Antioch, as it is known by historians and scholars, was the seat of the governor of the Roman Province of Syria. This city was a major center of early Chrisitanity and it was traditionally first evangelized by Peter and, later, by Barnabas and Paul. It was a beneficial to be located because it existed along the silk road, the spice trade, and the Royal Road, making it a major travel hub.

Christianity utilized such routes and major hubs to spread from city to city throughout the Roman empire; thus, it is not shocking that the first major center of Christianity outside of Jerusalem would be Syrian Antioch. It also makes sense why Jewish prophets from Jerusalem would travel to Antioch, which was the region’s example of Hellenistic culture and Roman rule. Again, we don’t know much about these prophets, but every indication is that they were Jewish Christians.

Agabus was one of these prophets and he came to the city of Syrian Antioch in order to warn the citizens there that a great famine would be falling upon the entire Roman Empire. While, I am sure that many in Antioch laughed at Agabus and his prophecy, and Luke shares that it wasn’t fulfilled until sometime during the reign of Claudius (41-54 AD), the Christians in Antioch from taking him and his prophecy seriously.

The early Christians had plenty in Antioch and, out of concern for their mother church, they sent supplies to Jerusalem to ensure that they had enough to survive the famine. What an amazing act of faith and self-sacrifice. They didn’t horde what they had in order to make sure they were safe and sound; rather, they shared their resources with those they knew were less fortunate than them.

First, what a blessing that Agabus answered his call to warn people of the coming famine. Second, how amazing is it that the earliest Christians heeded that warning, even if others didn’t, and shared their resources with their sisters and brothers in Jerusalem. We should be challenged by this. We who are the church, we who are followers of Christ, should be willing to share what we have with other Christians who are in need. If we are to take care of those who do not currently belong to our divine family, we must first be willing to take care of fellow family members.

What a witness to the world we would be if we, as Christians, made such hospitality and mutual love a part of our identity. Such a church would attract people like a magnet, just like the church in Antioch attracted many to it. Imagine a world where we care for each other and, together, we care for the least of these regardless of who they are or what creed they do or don’t follow. Such a church would certainly begin to usher in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. Let us be such Christians who make up such a church.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
LOVE is the order of the day, every day, for all days.

PRAYER
Lord, humble me and create in me a loving, generous and hospitable heart. Amen.

FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Generosity

Read Galatians 5:22-26

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“A generous person will be enriched, and one who gives water will get water.” (Proverbs 11:25 NRSV)

In his letter to the church in Galatia, the Apostle Paul is writing to a community that is divided over the issue of male circumcision: should new Gentile followers of Jesus be counted as a part of the Jewish covenant without being circumcised, or should they have to be circumcised just as all of the Jews are circumcised. Being that Christianity at the time wasn’t a religion, but a sect of Judaism, this was a VITALLY IMPORTANT question. While Paul is opposed to making Gentiles be circumcised, he also is against divisive behavior regardless of which side it is coming from. In response to this division, Paul describes to the Galatian church what he calls, “The Fruit of the Spirit.”

FruitOsp_GenerosityFRUIT OF THE SPIRIT: Generosity. It is often said that the United States of America is a generous nation full of generous people. According to nptrust.org, 95.4% of households within the United States give to charity and the average household gives an average of $2,974 per year. What’s more, Americans gave $358.38 billion in 2014. Corporations gave a total of $17.77 billion in 2014 and foundations gave $53.7 billion. As can be seen in the statistics above, Americans give billions of dollars a year to charity.

Out of our wealth, generally speaking in comparison to much of the world, there is no doubt that we Americans give a ton of our money away; however, that is not the only measure of generosity. The Apostle Paul is not merely meaning that we Christians should be financially generous, throwing tons of money at charitable organizations; rather, generosity is a way of being and it involves much more than just our money. Generosity includes how we view and treat others. It includes mercy, justice, humility, and meekness as well.

If we truly want to look to someone to show what it means to be generous, why not look to Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ. He was somebody who did not have a whole lot of money to give, but was about as generous of a person one can think of. Where he lacked in money, he was rich in many other things. He gave of his time, his talents, his heart, his energy, and his life. Jesus took the time to listen to people, to have compassion on them, to spend his days and nights caring for them and teaching them to do the same. He healed people, sought justice out for them, engaged people (even if they were out to entrap him), and he forgave people for inflicting harm against him. In one short but totally true pronouncement, Jesus gave it all. He spared no expense, including the expense of his own blood, in order to see the arrival of the Kingdom of God through.

Paul is teaching us that, if we are filled with and guided by the Holy Spirit, we will be just as generous as Jesus was. We will learn to give our all so that others might experience the hope, healing and wholeness that we experience. If we are truly generous we will not only give our money to things, but we will be deeply engaged in the seeking out of social justice, we will be deeply engaged in loving and showing mercy to others, we will be deeply engaged in spending our time with others and invest ourselves in ushering the same Kingdom that Jesus opened the doors to nearly nearly 2,000 years ago. Be filled and be transformed with God’s Holy Spirit so that you might bear the spiritual fruit of total generosity in your life.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“True generosity is an offering; given freely and out of pure love. No strings attached. No expectations. Time and love are the most valuable possession you can share.” – Suze Orman

PRAYER
Lord, sow the seed of radical generosity within my heart so that I may bear that fruit in my life. Amen.