WWJD at the Buffet Line

Acts 6:1 “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” (ESV)

This text has always amazed me and it continues to amaze me!!!

Just think about the context…


(a)   Jesus had recently risen from the grave and ascended into heaven – God’s plan of redemption, reconciliation, restoration and rulership was recently completed and established ;


(b)   Jesus had recently endued the church with the Holy Spirit and with power;


(c)   Thousands had come into the church, and many are still flocking into the church in Jerusalem (Acts 6:1a);


(d)   Sign, Wonders and Power of the Holy Spirit on display like never before in the Church and in the Marketplace


(e)   The Church is on its way to obeying the New Commandment of Christ – John 13:34-35 which reads…”As I (Christ) have loved you (all you disciples) love one another…by this the world will know you are my disciples…”(my paraphrase J)


BUT WAIT!!! In the midst of all these wonderful Holy Spirit-Led REVIVAL in the Church and in the Community…there is a MAJOR conflict!




None other than in a buffet line at a church fellowship dinner!!!


In the midst of revival and rejoicing there is CONFLICT at dinner…


Hey, ever think about where people get ticked off the most in our local churches (plural)??? You guessed it…usually at a church fellowship while waiting to get served at the buffet line or while serving at the buffet line!!! Wow! Imagine that!!!


In Acts 6:1 we see that the Jewish society in the first century had a system to help needy local Hebrew widows. However, Greek widows were particularly needy as they were not native Judeans and did not have relatives to care for them. A lot of older couples came to die in Jerusalem so that they could be buried there. There has been much discussion about who exactly the “Grecian Jews” were. The traditional view since John Chrysostom (c. 347–407 CE) has been that they were Greek-speaking Jews while the Hebraic Jews spoke Aramaic.  These cultural differences also resulted in differences in attitude and outlook. It was likely that these Grecian widows were not deliberately discriminated against. But sometimes things happen in the church – we slip up! The cause of this “slip-up” was the sudden increase in the number of disciples (Acts 6:1a). In an active and expanding church movement it is quite possible for the minority to be IGNORED! But that is still wrong! This “slip-up” contributed to the complaining that took place in the church (Acts 6:1). The word translated “complained” (gongysmos) in Acts 6:1 is an unpleasant word used in the Septuagint (LXX –Old Testament in Greek) for the murmuring of the Hebrews against Moses in the desert (Exodus 16:7; Numbers 14:27).


Think about it…the new Church in Jerusalem in Acts 6:1( in the midst of revival) was now in danger of splitting along racial and cultural lines due to conflict at the  buffet line!!!!


BTW, the Apostle Paul a few years later runs into a similar problem at a buffet line in the Church at Corinth… 1Corinthians 11:33: “So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another…”


You see…the house churches in Corinth were well known for their fellowship meals. In this setting Paul is ticked-off (in the Spirit of courseJ) at the fact that wealthy believers are so self-centered and self-absorbed that they leave no food for their poor brothers and sisters. The NIV translates Paul’s words in this way: “Each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else.” It reads literally, “Each goes ahead with his own supper.” Instead of sharing in a kind of “pot-luck” or “pot-blessing,” and ensuring that all people get plenty to eat and drink, some gorge themselves and get drunk at the expense of those who come later or have less. OMG Jude 12 also appears to reflect and address a similar problem.


Here is a piece of pastoral wisdom… Whenever & wherever Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does!!!


Some people, on observing this bad behavior in a religious setting such as a church, conclude that there is nothing different about the church since it appears to be just like the world. Same Selfishness! Same Sin! No different!  


Ah…but wait… there is a difference between the world and a Christ-centered church…a BIG difference…and that is the fact that…just as a hospital collects the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the church collects sinners. Many of the people outside the hospital are every bit as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised. It’s similar with sinners outside the church. So, Christian churches are not, as a rule, model communities of good behavior. They are, rather, places where human misbehavior is brought out in the open, faced, and dealt with. Conflict is often the result of sin and the consequence of living in a fallen world. In the church where the broken, the sinful and the lost gather, sin brings about conflict. People in the church will experience conflict. It is the essential part of God’s redeeming plan. It is in these conflicts that we will learn to know our needs, acknowledge sin, recognize truth and perfect our faith.


So why are there conflicts at buffet lines, church concerts, and Benny Hinn/Joel Osteen/TD Jakes/Joseph Prince/Billy Graham Crusades where seats and food are limited???  Remember: “Where two or three gather, there will be conflict!” Why? Because in our public gatherings with food & fellowship, selfishness, sin and shortcomings are revealed! It is as though our “default button” gets pushed, and out jumps the “carnal nature”…areas of unbelief and misbehavior are turned up!!!


Whenever & wherever there is a shortage and/or distribution of food and water, some sin nature deep within our collective souls gets stirred up…you see this in the Desert Journeys of Israel (Numbers & Exodus)…you see this trick when the devil tries his First Temptation of Christ (Luke 4:3-4)…you see this when Christ tells His disciples NOT to be solely driven by their base-human need for food and drinks (Matthew 6:31-32)…you see…when people gather together, there is always a collective self-centered drive from individuals to satisfy their base human need for food & water… and this selfish fear-based drive causes people to ignore the less fortunate (1Cor 11:33) or overlook the minority (Acts 6:1)…or simply be rude and sinful toward one another while serving or being served…


So, what’s the solution when we Christians GATHER??? Solution: When we go ANYWHERE in this world… work;  home; church or marketplace…we MUST make a FOCUSED & CONSCIOUS & a FIRM EFFORT to OBEY the way of the Holy Spirit by the Holy Spirit outlined for us in Philippians 2:2-4:  “Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” (The Message)

So, in customer-service terms (at TSH) this means…


·       People are the most important in our church - we celebrate people!

·       People are most deserving of the most courteous and attentive-loving treatment we can give them… so be sensitive to peoples’ needs and feelings… be flexible!


Now let me conclude with a story from God’s own country…Iowa…Field of DreamsJ


In Iowa there was a storm that had flooded out a major city. People were gathering their goods to save what they could. One of the policemen saw a sight that touched his heart. He saw a little boy carrying another little boy on his shoulders, all while still trying to carry goods and luggage and everything else. The policeman went over to help the boy and said, “My, you’re trying to do too much. You’ve got all these bags and then you’ve got that boy on your shoulders. It’s too much weight for you. It’s too heavy.” The little boy looked at the policeman and said, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.”


TSH, when you know somebody is your brother or sister, it makes it easier to bear their weight and carry them ….Last week I wrote that the Talmud teaches us a remarkable lesson: ″Welcoming strangers [Hebrew: hachnasat orchim] is a greater mitzvah (work of charity) than welcoming the Shechinah [God’s Presence]″ (Shabbat 127a). Our true spirituality and love for the Lord is seen in how we carry our brothers and sisters in spirit and in truth. Philippians 2:2-4 commands us:  “Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” (The Message)  


Let us put away individualism and self-centeredness, and collectively create sacred communities of welcome and celebrations – giving one another the most courteous and attentive-loving treatment, especially when we are waiting or serving at the Buffet Line.


·       Tony Evans' Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes

·       The NIV Application Commentary

·       The Message Bible

·       Modern Men's Torah Commentary