In Galatians 2:1-10 the apostle Paul was writing to establish credibility with a church that he had founded. Our understanding of the situation is limited; reading his letters is often like listening to one side of a phone conversation. But it’s quite obvious that he felt his standing was under attack by established church leaders, and he wanted to respond. So he recalled his visit with Peter, James, and John. After 14 years in Christian ministry he went to see them, and they extended the right hand of fellowship to him. They offered their blessing to his ministry. The one qualifier was this: They wanted him to remember the poor. To the extent that Paul was ever catechized by church leadership, this was what was impressed upon him. And he was eager to do it. He didn’t need to have his arm twisted.
Other places in the New Testament give evidence to how this was carried out. In several of his letters he made reference to the collection for the poor saints in Jerusalem. The most detailed writing on it is in II Corinthians 8-9. He also made mention of it in his letter to the church at Rome (which was written to a group of Christians he had never met – in Romans 15:25-28).
This might seem unwise. A ministry leader who is repeatedly bringing up money can turn people off. But Acts 11:27-30 demonstrates that it was not just Paul. A prophet named Agabus had a vision: Famine was coming, and it would be big and bad. Church leaders responded by being proactive and administering a relief collection, and Paul and Barnabus were put in charge of it. How was this to be done? I Corinthians 16:1-4 was given in answer to some kind of question about the procedure for it. Paul’s gave the following stipulations:
I say this to a large degree because we know that what comes around goes around. Things will change over the years. Paradise and Magalia are on the rebound. I see signs of it all over. And the time will come when things will be well for us and the disasters will be happening in other places. Then we will have the opportunity to be generous towards needs of others. As we have experienced blessing, so we’ll be prepared for God to use us to be a blessing.
Grace and peace to each of you,
Pastor Andrew McHenry
I am a husband, a Congregational pastor, and a native Kansan currently living in Thermalito, California. In the past I have also been a prison chaplain and a youth pastor. Interests include reading, railroads, prog rock, KU, and the KC Royals. Opinions are my own and are not necessarily those of organizations I have been with.