According to Their Ability
“At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.” – Acts 11:27-30 (NRSV)
Greetings, fellow disciples of Jesus,
When the church in Antioch became aware—through the Word of the Spirit—that a severe famine would be hitting Judea hard, they acted. Together they decided that each disciple, according to his or her ability, would send relief. These offerings were collected and sent by the church leadership to Judea, by the hand of Barnabas and Saul.
By the Spirit’s grace, the Jesus followers in Antioch had been made aware of the impending problem. Through godly counsel and deliberation, they got busy addressing the problem. Through Spirit-led generosity, they gave of themselves—”every one according to his ability” (RSV)—to bring relief to those most impacted by the problem.
The disciples did not all give the same amount. The church leadership did not establish a base level at which every person was expected to give. Some gave more, some gave less; every one gave according to his ability.
How much is that? How did a disciple go about determining what he or she was able to give?
No one told them how much to give. It was a personal decision. We’re not given details on how they made their decisions, but I suspect that they approached the matter with much prayer. And math.
Each disciple likely looked at the resources with which he or she had been blessed, accounted for the responsibilities with which he or she had been entrusted, and determined how much he or she truly needed to fulfill those responsibilities.
In our age, we disciples of the Lord Jesus are made aware of needs close to home and around the world on a moment-by-moment basis. Truly, the needs are great. From the relatively mundane (funding payroll and paying the utilities at our local congregation) to the comparatively exciting (funding relief efforts when disaster strikes and paying for the education of children in developing nations), opportunities for giving abound. How does a disciple discern the amount and the recipients of his or her offering?
We do well to follow the godly counsel St. Paul gave to the Church in Corinth:
“Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia. On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come.”
– 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
– 2 Corinthians 9:7
Where is God calling you to offer your gifts of finances, time, and talent? How much are you able to give? As you work to determine the answer to these questions, consider praying the following hymn of consecration.
“Take My Life, That I May Be”
Text: Frances R. Havergal, 1836-1879, alt.
1 Take my life, that I may be
consecrated, Lord, to thee;
take my moments and my days;
let them flow in ceaseless praise.
2 Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love;
take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee.
3 Take my voice and let me sing
always, only, for my King;
take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from thee.
4 Take my silver and my gold,
not a mite would I withhold;
take my intellect and use
ev’ry pow’r as thou shall choose.
5 Take my will and make it thine,
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is thine own,
it shall be thy royal throne.
6 Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store;
take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee.
The Lord be with you.