An American cliché runs, "Charity begins at home." Unfortunately, the fellowship of a local congregation is frequently the most difficult place to do good in the right spirit. This may be partly because of such misguided expectations that Christians "shouldn't have such problems," "shouldn't be causing such offenses," "should know better than that," or many other accusations about character and personality flaws that we might make.
We draw back and become weary for many reasons that appear justified: There is so much opposition to good plans for doing things. There is so much to do and, it seems, so few to do it. There are so many calls upon our time in other legitimate areas. There is all too often so much ingratitude among those whom we try to help that we become disheartened.
God has called the weak of this world, and we have brought our character weaknesses and odd personality traits with us into the church. We see people in the church who are so depressed it seems they never have a bright day. Others have cups overflowing with troubles, and they want to dump on any willing to listen. The sick, poor, foolish, weak, cynical, stubborn, critical, cutting, arrogant, aggressive, vain, discouraged, suspicious, pompous, hypocritical, and sarcastic are in every congregation. As the cartoon character Pogo said, "We have met the enemy, and they is us!"
But God calls upon all of us to "strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees" (Hebrews 12:12). We are to open our hearts wide in listening and generously give the benefit of knowledge, understanding, comfort, exhortation, inspiration, hope, and encouragement from our experiences, especially to those in the church. At the proper time, we can give correction in meekness, considering our own weaknesses. He commands us to open our hands wide to the poor, and He says it will be as though we are loaning the money to Him. We are to "be there" for them, not as a "know-it-all," but as a "maybe-this-will-help."
Can we not be kinder in our evaluation of another's character? If we hear a derogatory story about a brother or sister, should we not ask ourselves, "If someone heard this story about me, would I not want him to disbelieve it until he searched it out and made quite sure that it was true?" Is there not as much wickedness in believing a lie as in telling one? If we are always ready to believe derogatory stories about others, what does that say about our minds? That is hardly a kind attitude described by chrestotes, the Greek word for kindness. Will such an attitude produce unity, peace, and warm, loving fellowship?
No slanderers would exist among us if no one received or believed slander, for when there is no demand for an article, no one will produce it. If we will not believe evil reports, the discouraged talebearer will leave off his evil practice or take it elsewhere.
What if we are compelled by the facts to believe the report? A kind person shows his kindness by not repeating it. He will reason to himself, "Though this thing is true, and I am very sorry, why should I spread it to others?" It is the Christian's responsibility not to expose the brother to further disgrace unless it be absolutely needful—as sometimes it is—but always to deal with the brother in the most gentle, kindest manner possible. As the Golden Rule is commonly recited, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
God's instruction here is that "as we have the opportunity, let us do good to all men." Regardless of their station in life, regardless of whether they are in the church, this high requirement stands fast. His only modification is that our brethren in the church have a higher claim on our resources. A teaching we can glean from the Parable of the Good Samaritan is that the Samaritan did not inquire whether the wounded man was "one of his own." The only criterion was that he needed an act of kindness performed for him in his desperately weakened situation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness
In its broader context, Galatians 6:1-10 has spiritual matters more directly in mind than physical needs. This does not deny that there are times to help out physically, but the chapter begins with, "If one sees a brother in a fault. . . ." This the real foundation of the charge in verses 9 and 10. It is concerned primarily with spiritual matters, where the church's problems really lie. The church's problems are spiritual in nature.
In terms of the ministry, from the top of the administration on down, its emphasis must be on "feeding the flock." If there is a spiritual problem within the church, and we are charged first with taking care of the church, then it means that the administration of the church has to shift gears and take care of that spiritual problem first. It has first priority, not the preaching of the gospel to the world.
John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)
If somebody who was known to you—maybe even somebody who was close to you—came up to you, and seemingly with no provocation whatsoever, punched you right in the nose and you fell on your backside—of course, wondering "What in the world is going on?"—the chances are that the very first emotion that would hit you would be one of surprise. "What did I do to deserve this?" You would be ready to gather yourself together, and get up on your knees. As one foot is pushing you up off the ground, and just as you get up again—wham!, right in the ol' kisser. By now, the attitude is beginning to change. It is no longer surprise. You begin to feel the color coming up in your neck, and maybe the hair standing on the back of your head. Anger is beginning to surge into you.
Nonetheless, you get up again. Just as you get on your feet—wham!, right in the nose again. By this time the anger is giving way to rage. Still, you gather yourself together and stand up again, and, wham!—you get hit right in the kisser again, and down you go. Now the rage is beginning to give way to another reaction. Another emotion is beginning to enter your mind, and you are beginning to think, "When is he going to quit? When will this end? I can't stand it much longer."
But you drag yourself again, just as you confront the problems that hit your life. You gather yourself and you get up. Just about the time that you get steady on your feet, whoop!—right in the kisser you get hit with another one, and down you go. Eventually, brethren, you are going to come to the place where you think, "I don't care what he does any more. I just wish he would stop." You will have reached the point of apathy. You no longer care.
That was described by Abraham Maslow, and it is a true cycle. It is a series of emotions that we go through when we are hit by a seemingly unending set of pressures. We eventually become apathetic to what is going on around us, and we stop caring.
That is what happened to the people in the book of Hebrews. It was not a bloody persecution. It was constant pressures being applied to the mind: Economic pressures, health pressures, persecution on the church pressures, social pressures, family pressures—you name it—one coming right after the other in a wave that never seemed to end. We need to confront this because things are not going to get any better! The pressures are going to continue to build. We had better have a Resource that we can go to in order to weather the storms of psychological damage that might be inflicted upon us because we have nothing to resist the tribulations (pressures) that are coming upon us.
Apathy has an effect: we not only no longer care about life itself, but we no longer care about God. It begins to wane.
Apathy makes a person feel tired, like not doing anything. But there comes a time when we have to 'buck it up', and sacrifice ourselves, and push ourselves, and do right things that we do not want to do, and not allow the weariness to overtake us. That kind of psychological weariness can make us sick of body, so that we will not be able to do anything.
Doing good is a witness that God wants from us. He knows how much we can bear, and He wants to prepare us for the things that are coming. So trial upon trial upon trial is going to come upon us. It is part of the preparation that we have to go through, to see whether or not we are going to endure to the end (Matthew 24:13).
John W. Ritenbaugh
Hebrews: A Message for Today
We are to be doing good, and we are especially instructed to perform those acts for the members of the church. Remember, it takes a church to produce prepared, well-rounded sons of God. The church is the vehicle that God has given us to learn these things. God has put within the church all the factors, materials, and opportunities we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It Takes a Church
By paying to God what we owe Him (that is, His tithes), He rewards us with blessings. Christians often find their third tithe years to be abundant with all types of blessings and invaluable lessons learned. These are not always material blessings, however. Storing up spiritual treasures in heaven is far more important than physical prosperity. God does not promise to make us wealthy but that our relationship with Him will prosper. Such eternal blessings are far greater than any temporary physical blessings we could receive.
Martin G. Collins
Tithing: Third Tithe
The word communicate in the King James version means "to share"—as the New King James has it—"to associate, partake, participate, distribute; to impart." We who are being taught are to impart to those who are teaching. Adam Clark, commenting on the phrase "communicate to him that teaches," remarks:
Contribute to the support of the man who has dedicated himself to teach the work of the ministry, and who gives up his time and his life to preach the gospel. We do not expect the schoolmaster to give up his time to teach our children the alphabet without being paid for it, and can we suppose that it is just for any person to sit under the preaching of the gospel in order to grow wise unto salvation by it and not contribute to the support of the spiritual teacher? It is unjust!
The Expositor's Bible Commentary's entry on Galatians 6:6-10 reads:
Three uses of money are mentioned: 1. the support of the teacher in a Christian congregation [first tithe]; 2. the use of money to build up the Spirit rather than to feed the flesh [This is an arbitrary categorization. I would dare say, however, this is a perfectly lawful use of the second tithe]; 3. the spending of money to help others, particularly Christians [the third tithe fund]. The reference to the one who is taught in the word does not imply a fully developed oral instruction system, such as prevailed in the church later on, but it does point to a class of paid teachers at a surprisingly early date. Paul's policy was apparently to preach the gospel without receiving money, preferring to earn his living as a tent maker. But this was pioneer work. As soon as possible he seemed to have established a more fixed structure.
The apostle Paul did not want anyone to come and say to the Corinthians or to anyone with whom he was working, "You know, he is just teaching you so he can get your tithes. He just wants your money!" Paul did not want this.
In I Corinthians 8, Paul says, "I would not eat meat at all if it were to offend anyone. I would not eat meat for the rest of my life." This is the same principle in which he is instructing the Galatian brethren. Paul did not have an office to run, a car to maintain, or things of the administrative sort we usually have today. The point is that Paul would not accept monetary compensation in order not to offend anyone.
John O. Reid
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Galatians 6:10:
1 Corinthians 15:58
1 Timothy 5:8
1 Timothy 5:8