Acts 11:27-30 (ESV)
Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world (this took place in the days of Claudius). So the disciples determined, every one according to his ability, to send relief to the brothers living in Judea. And they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
Barnabas and Saul go on a mercy missions trip to Judea?!? Now there’s a twist.
Think about what an extraordinary action this is. It’s the middle of the first century. Christianity is still very new. Saul and Barnabas are in the gentile city of Antioch, where they were clearly sent by the Holy Spirit. They’re doing very important things there. Then some prophet named Agabus stands up and foretells by the Spirit that there would be a great famine over all the world.
Bam. Saul and Barnabas become mercy missionaries back to Judea.
And the famine hasn’t even happened yet. Also, while over all the world presumably only refers to the Roman Empire, it still includes Antioch.
OK, Americans, do you get this? The well-off sent aid to the less well-off because they knew they were going to need it, and they used their blue-chip people to do it. From a secular point of view, this is nuts – they should have delegated the job of truck driver to someone else.
Now the text doesn’t say why they didn’t send someone else, but obviously the Holy Spirit made that choice. This shows (yet again) the incredible unpredictability of the Spirit.
But the text does say why they sent the aid. There was going to be a need and disciples are responsible, every one according to his ability, to send relief. This is true despite the fact that they themselves may end up having a need too.
There is one limitation though; this is relief sent to the brothers. While there are plenty of Biblical references about helping everyone, this isn’t one of them. This is specifically about the responsibility to help fellow Christians in time of need. Still, it’s a firm example of how this responsibility is an absolute.
We need to come up to this standard.
But even if we wanted to step out in this way, who would we help? Notice that the Holy Spirit, through Agabus, helped answer this for Barnabas and Saul.
We’re not expected to just automatically know who to help, but we’re expected to act when we’re told.
And you usually have to ask to be told. Ask God to show you a brother in need. Then be ready to respond. Note: the answer can come through a phone call, email, almost anything.
You’ll know it when you see it.
The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here: