Independent living and priority giving

Published 6:00 pm Friday, November 28, 2008

With Thanksgiving Day behind us and the Christmas season upon us, I sought the Lord for some simple truth that could affirm, inspire, challenge, guide and maybe even rebuke my readers and me.

Can you imagine the very last words from the deathbed of a man to his brothers being about independent living and priority giving? Well, that is exactly what the scripture for this article is about in Acts 20:32-38. You would do well to meditate on these verses. Knowing he would never see these Christian brothers again, the great Apostle Paul is giving, as if it were, his deathbed instructions to the leaders of the Church of Ephesus. He reminded them of his own example and his teachings. His closing words were about independent living and priority giving.

Concerning independent living, the Apostle Paul had the following to say. “I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions” (Acts 31:32-34). Paul’s desire was only for a simple lifestyle. He did not covet silver, gold or fine clothes for himself. His material goal was that the basic needs for food, shelter and clothing be met for himself and his companions. His personal plan was that through his hard work, with his own hands, independent living would be experienced by himself and his companions without a dependence upon others.

The Bible places a high emphasis on a simple lifestyle, hard work, personal responsibility and diligence resulting in material independence. The Apostle Paul even commanded the Church at Thessalonica “that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (1 Thessalonians 3:10). During this season of the year is an excellent time to emphasize the simple life style of our Lord Jesus as seen in his earthly parents, his birth, his home, the carpenter’s shop, his life, his teachings and his burial in a borrowed tomb.

Concerning priority giving, the Apostle Paul had the following to say. “In every thing I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ “(Acts 20:35). Notice that Paul said, “by hard work we must help the weak.” The Bible teaches that along with tithing we should also do priority giving. The Old Testament underscored God’s special concern for “the fatherless, the widows, the aliens, the poor and the deprived.”

The New Testament emphasizes priority giving to the widows, the fatherless, the poor, those in need of food and clothing, the sick, the stranger, prison ministries, missionaries and to others.

Beyond God’s holy tenth through our church, Louise and I do priority giving throughout the year because the challenge to meet basic needs of others is an every month reality. Ministries like the Salvation Army, Red Cross, a Christian radio station like WGIB, Chilton County Emergency Assistance Center, United Way and many other worthy and faithful ministries are priority to us. During the Christmas Season our priority is on our Denomination’s five thousand plus Foreign Missionaries. For over fifty years now we have saved up in order to give a gift to the Missionaries larger than the total amount to each other and all family members combined. For us it takes a simple life style, thrift and commitment. Many people, along with us, know that what Paul quoted our Lord Jesus as saying is true: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

At this time of the year and at this time in the nation’s economy, consider the Bible’s way of independent living and priority giving. For many persons, independent living is not possible. May God enable us and others to make it a priority to give time, effort and materially in loving support to those for whom independent living, at the present, is beyond reach.