The Book Stop Blog is featuring excerpts from The TIME Approach to Grief Support by Edmund Ng and WinePress Publishing.
In contrast to the punishment promised to those who show no concern for others, the Bible tells us that God will be pleased with us if we are committed to caring for the widowed and others who are in need. Acts 9:36–43 gives us the story of Tabitha (also known as Dorcas), who lived in Joppa. The passage says that she reached out to the poor, especially the needy widows, making them robes and other clothing. When she became sick and died, the widows were with her, crying over her death. The disciples called for Peter. He came, prayed for her, and she was brought back to life.
For a simple woman to find her place in the Bible for reaching out to the needy and caring for widows, it must mean that God is specially touched by such concern. Indeed, her Syrian name is not only mentioned, but also the translation of her name is stated. The Greek interpretation of Dorcas is “gazelle” or a Christian woman of beauty. We are indeed beautiful in God’s sight if our hearts are open to the cries and struggles of widows and other grieving people.
Just as Jesus raised His good friend Lazarus from the dead, God used His choice servant Peter to do the same for Tabitha. To her, this must have been a mark of divine approval upon her life. God’s special favor and blessing will be upon those who have compassion for widows and others who are needy and hurting.
Another part of Acts (6:1–7) tells us that in the days of the early church, the Grecian widows were being overlooked. Then the church leaders reorganized themselves so that the widows in their midst could be taken care of in a better way. The end result was the rapid increase in the number of disciples!
One may ask, how is caring for widows related to church growth?
We first note that the book of Acts is indeed a book on church growth. Six times in this book, the passages tell us that the church grew: three thousand here (Acts 2:41), five thousand there (Acts 4:4), and the number of men and women increased (Acts 5:14; 17:12). However, it is only in the first seven verses of Acts 6 that we become cognizant of the rapid increase in the number of disciples.
If a minister or pastor of a church is asked to make a choice between having a great number of members who are just Christians and only having a quarter of that number, but of members who are true disciples, the answer is obvious. Our Lord and His twelve disciples turned the world of their time right-side-up. Disciples are Christians “sold out” to God, who are obedient to all of His commands. This includes His command to comfort those who mourn.
There are many spiritual and church management principles that one can glean from the short passage in Acts 6:1–7, but we cannot run away from its context. The context tells us that as the early church showed a greater concern toward caring for widows, the church grew quantitatively and qualitatively. This growth was not the result of touching the hearts of the few individuals who were widowed. It was God who gave them the growth. He blessed them with growth because they were touching the very heart of the One who called Himself the defender of the widows.
God will bless us individually as Christians and corporately as a church when we start to care for widows, the fatherless, and others who are bereaved. Only when we do this will our church be a step closer to the biblical model of what God intended His church to be!
To Continue Reading
The first excerpt in the series: