“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” Heb. 13:16.
I. The Teaching
The Lord Jesus Christ commands His own to love one another; obedience to His command shows to the world that we are His disciples (John 13:34-35).
John exhorts us to demonstrate the truth of our professed love, in practical deeds of sacrifice and kindness to our brethren (1 John 3:16-18).
James points out the futility of offering purely verbal comfort to the needy (James 2:15-16).
Peter reminds us to express our love for one another in ungrudging hospitality, remembering our responsibility as God’s stewards (1 Peter 4:8-10). Paul teaches that we who enjoy ministry from God’s word, should share all good things with those who minister; and furthermore, that we should do good unto all men, in particular, our brethren (1 Cor. 9:14; 16:1-3. 2 Cor. 8:9. Gal. 6:6-10). He instructed Timothy to teach that we should be ready and willing to do our good works with liberality and generosity (1 Tim. 6:18).
II. The Examples
The Lord Jesus Christ is the supreme example of sacrificial sharing. He has shared our human likeness and form (Phil. 2:7-8. Heb. 2:14) ; also our infirmities and temptations (Heb. 4:15). Ultimately, He was even made sin (2 Cor. 5:21); and not merely shared the burden of our sins, but actually bore them in His body, on the tree (1 Peter 2:24), as He laid down His life for us (1 John 3:16).
The New Testament writers also exemplify the sacrificial sharing which they taught. John proved his love for the Lord by obeying His dying request; he took Mary, the mother of Jesus, into his own home and shared it with her (John 19:26-27).
James, Peter, and John, leaders in the church at Jerusalem, all shared in a ministry of exhortation to Christians concerning the needs of the poor; needs which were often met in a most practical and sacrificial manner in the early church (Gal. 2:9-10. Acts 6:1-3).
Peter shared his boat with the Lord at the lake of Gennesaret (Luke 5:1-11). It is probable, too, that he shared his home with the Lord, and with Paul, as well as with his mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-3; Gal. 1:18).
Although he was a mission-ary-preacher, Paul laboured with his own hands (1 Thess. 2:9. 2 Thess. 3:8. 1 Cor. 9:15) ; and he shared the fruit of his labours with his companions (Acts 20:34).
Some Old Testament saints exemplify this same spirit of sharing. Abraham readily and willingly used his home and resources to entertain three men with gracious hospitality (Gen. 18. Cf. Heb. 13:2). Moses chose to share ill-treatment with the people of God (Heb. 11:24-29). The widow of Zarepath believed Elijah, and gladly shared her last meal with the man of God (1 Kings 17). The Shunammite woman and her husband made a room and furnished it specially for Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-11).
Other New Testament saints shared their goods and facilities with the Lord and His people. Martha received the Lord as a welcome guest in her home (Luke 10:38-42). Barnabas sold land and donated the proceeds to the common fund at Jerusalem, thus sharing the burden of caring for those in need (Acts 4:34-37). Luke became a most loyal travelling companion of the apostle Paul, thus enabling Paul to share the Christian fellowship and companionship which he loved and craved (Col. 4:14. Phil. 24. 2 Tim. 4:11). Aquila and Priscilla shared their home with Paul while he was in Corinth (Acts 18:1-3), and with the church while they lived in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:19). Philip, too, entertained Paul and his company at Caesarea (Acts 21:8). The Philippian Christians frequently shared with Paul the financial burden of his gospel ministry (Phil. 4:10-18) ; they also shared sacrificially in caring for the needy saints in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:1-5). Epaphras, Aristarchus, and perhaps others, shared Paul’s imprisonment, possibly on the basis of a voluntary system of rotation (Phil. 23. Col. 4:10).
III. The Results
Sacrificial sharing brings a personal blessing to the individual Christian who is ready to follow the teaching and the examples given in scripture. Of greater importance is the blessing which others experience through realizing that we love them and care for them enough to sacrifice on their behalf. Of greatest importance is the fact that our sharing with one another constitutes a sacrifice which is pleasing to God (Heb. 13:16. Phil. 4:18).
The Lord Jesus Christ endured the cross for the joy that was set before Him (Heb. 12:2); God has highly exalted Him, and crowned Him with glory and honour (Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 2:9). In addition, we, His sheep, share His divine life as a result of our Shepherd’s sacrifice of His life (John 10:10-11; 17:2-3, 21-23). We, His redeemed, share His divine wealth as a result of our Saviour’s voluntary poverty (2 Cor. 8:9). Most important of all, however, is the fact that He has pleased the Father (Mark 1:11. Matt. 17:5), and brought great glory to God (Phil. 2:11), through the offering and sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:14, 28).
The examples of others illustrate the same, blessed, threefold results. What a joy John must have experienced in sharing his home with Mary, the closest human relative of the Lord Jesus Christ! What a comfort Mary must have experienced in the shelter of that home, where Christian love and understanding would facilitate the healing of her sword-pierced soul! What pleasure must have filled the heart of God as He saw the disciple whom Jesus loved, fulfilling the dying request of His beloved Son!
When Peter shared his boat with the Lord, and followed His instructions, he was immediately rewarded with an astonishing catch of fish. Better still, however, Peter was told that he would henceforth catch men; thus he became a means of blessing to multitudes amongst both Jews and Gentiles. Inasmuch as Peter’s life and service were subsequently characterized by an outstanding fruitfulness, we can be certain that all of his sacrificial sharing was most pleasing to the Father (Cf. John 15:8).
When Paul laboured in the gospel ministry at his own expense, he was immediately rewarded with a sense of satisfaction in having proclaimed the gospel without cost to others (1 Cor. 9:18). Better still, however, the Lord amply met Paul’s needs in various ways through the ministry of His people, with the result that the apostle was sustained and enabled to carry on a minstry of preaching, teaching, and writing, the influence of which has no remotely similar parallel in the history of the Church. Best of all, Paul’s willingness to share sacrificially, constituted his whole life of service an offering to God, in which He could not fail to be well pleased (Phil. 2:17. 2 Tim. 4:6-8).
The scriptures record, in some measure, the blessed results of the sacrificial sharing of many other saints of God. James gave to Paul the right hand of fellowship, exhorting him to remember the poor, while ministering to the Gentiles. In return, Paul exhorted the Gentile Christians to assist in the support of the needy Jewish Christians in Jerusalem when their time of trial arrived. James’ extension of fellowship to Paul was thus returned to James in full measure (1 Cor. 16:1-3. 2 Cor. 8; Rom. 15:25-27).
In sharing his home with strangers Abraham experienced an unusual season of communion with God. Furthermore, he became a blessing to others through his intercessory prayer; God did not destroy the righteous with the wicked in Sodom (Gen. 18). God was no doubt well pleased with Abraham’s life and testimony, for He is not ashamed to be called his God (Heb. 11:16).
Moses shared ill-treatment with the people of God, and subsequently became their greatest leader and deliverer. The widow of Zarephath shared her last meal, but in return received an abundance of food and the restoration of her son. As a result of her ministry to a man of God, the Shunammite woman was given a son, whose life was restored also.
Martha welcomed the Lord into her home. As a result, she was taught to serve the Lord without anxiety; her sister Mary enjoyed listening to the words of the Lord; her brother Lazarus was raised from the dead; many of the Jews believed in the Lord; and the Lord received a precious anointing from Mary (Luke 10:38-42. John 11; 12:1-11).
Barnabas shared the proceeds obtained from the sale of his land, and later became a key figure in introducing Paul to the Christian church and ministry. Having shared Paul’s journeys and persecutions, Luke has been able to leave us one of the most valuable documents known to the Christian Church, the book of the Acts. Although Aquila and Priscilla are somewhat minor characters in the history of the Church, theirs will be a great reward for having received an apostle into their home (Matt. 10:40-41).
The examples cited indicate that the priestly service of sacrificial sharing is open to us all. Every one of us, including the youngest Christian, may enjoy the inestimable opportunity and privilege of sharing with our brethren in a great variety of ways. We can share our material blessings, such as homes, food, clothing, cars, and money. We can share in the service of the Lord by caring for His servants, assisting them in their labours, and sharing their many burdens. We can share in the trials of His people by standing with them in persecution, comforting them in sorrow, and supplying their wants in time of need.
If we realize how much the Lord Jesus Christ has loved us, we will love Him in return (1 John 4:19). We will then give ourselves completely to the Lord (2 Cor. 8:5. Rom. 12:1), and we will make our love known to our brethren in Christ (1 John 4:7-13).
Our sacrificial sharing will then bring great joy to our own hearts; great blessing to others; and great glory and pleasure to God our Father.