STUDY 1 SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE Romans 12:13 & Galatians 6: 1 – 10
Many years ago I remember a jingle from the radio which ended ‘ when the clock strikes three – everything stops for tea’. Of course the jingle was altered from the original song from the 1935 comedy film ‘Out of the Pantry’, as the original song referred to four not three. Although I’ve never seen the film, I expect it was a dig at the opulent social culture of the time as ‘Afternoon Tea’ had become very popular between the wars, and whether you took afternoon tea was a reflection on your social status, as it was mainly linked to the ladies of the manor!
It was definitely a British thing, and Hotels and Tearooms began to serve afternoon tea for the ladies. Yet in France a similar trend was happening that was known as the ‘Coffee Society’, the ‘Beautiful Ladies’ as they were known began meeting in Coffee Houses. As its popularity increased, it began to find its way into the homes of the not so wealthy. Tea had become the national drink of the U.K. and women’s magazines began publishing recipes to encourage the normal housewife to have afternoon tea in their home. This was when the wedding presents of best silver and china came out of the display cabinet, and cake stands were filled with different treats. A cake-stand with different cakes on it doesn’t shout out Bible Study to you, but it did to me, so over the next few months we will look at different cakes that should decorate our spiritual cake-stand when we meet for fellowship with each other and more importantly with our Lord.
Our first study is headed, ‘Share And Share Alike’ and I chose this heading because that is exactly what our cake tonight implies, and it is called ‘Cut and Come again Cake’. Cut and Come Again cakes are similar to fruit cakes, only lighter in texture and flavor. They keep well, which is how they got their name. Once baked it would be placed in a sealed container and each time someone visited the cake would be sliced and served. It became popular during the war and afterwards, as communities supported one another. The women stayed at home and baked and always had something in the tin...just in-case. Those women had great community spirit, they’d meet at the wash-house and blether as they got their washing done. They’d talk to their neighbours as they hung the washing out. They knew everyone in the community and would help each other out, and when someone appeared upset on the doorstep, you would hear the words, “come away in,” and the kettle would be on the stove. The cut and come again cake would be cut and served with a cup of tea, and sympathy and comfort were offered. Perhaps Paul had this kind of community spirit in mind when he said in Romans 12:13 (NIV) Share with God’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality.
Share with God’s people who are in need and practise hospitality seems a very straight forward request, but Paul is asking these people to show love for their brothers and sisters in Christ in two different ways. Now at the time of writing this, Paul was very much aware of the political tension and persecution going on in Rome, therefore it’s no surprise that he is asking them to look after each other. But I also believe he is challenging them on their Christian stewardship, why? Because what he is asking of them is to put others before themselves.
Basically Paul is saying to them, “okay if you claim to love the people in your church, then show it.” You see both these challenges are an invasion of privacy, yes it’s fine to meet with people on a Sunday, but you can’t stop loving them on a Monday! In other words He wants them to show their love, first by spending money, and secondly, by allowing people into their home. In fact very much like the community spirit I talked about earlier, but he wanted to see the same happening in church.
Now you’ll notice that he is only addressing the Christians here, but perhaps it’s also his way of saying that they need to get their fellowship sorted with one another, before they can take it beyond the church. The church in Rome probably wasn’t small, the people wouldn’t necessarily know everyone who attended, but Paul was telling them to make sure they went out of their way to get to know them. Paul saw helping one another as a top priority in church life, and that comes across in his letter to the Galatians too. Galatians 6:2 (NIV) 2Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.
Carry each other’s burdens! Well Paul knows when to hit below the belt, and he doesn’t mince his words! In other words he is saying there is no such thing as going solo in the Christian life. We can’t live in isolation in our church – many of us would like to, but as a Christian, our responsibility is to support one another. Paul is making it quite clear that Christian discipleship involves carrying the burdens of others in our fellowship. The word burden is translated in the Greek as Baros – meaning a heavy load or weight. So what he is saying is that we take the full weight of the burdens that are weighing the other person down. In other words we get underneath them and give them our support, and yes that may be by offering them a cup of tea and a piece of cake, but it also means listening to them and offering help.
Church is community, and community involves the consideration of others before ourselves. When people are faced with problems, whether they’re big or small, we need to realise that they matter to that person. If we turn our back on them, then we’re basically saying to the person that we don’t care about them. Yes, it may take us out of our comfort zone, yes, it may be an intrusion into our own space, and yes, it may take up some of our precious time, but as the verse says, that in doing so we will fulfil the law of Christ.
So, what is the law of Christ? Well, if we go back a chapter it is explained.
Galatians 5:14 - 15 (NIV) 14The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” 15If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
Of course we are used to living with ourselves, each day we live with our own faults and sins, and probably overlook them too, but in verses 3 & 4 Paul is warning us not to think we’re better than others. Galatians 6:3 - 4 (NIV) 3If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else.
It is so easy for us to develop the critical spirit syndrome. It’s no mistake that the word syndrome begins with sin! Why should I help her after what she did to me. She is the maker of her own problems. What she did is unforgivable. I wouldn’t waste my time on her. Yes, I could go on and on with the excuses on why people carry grudges, but if anyone has a reason to bear a grudge then it would be Jesus. He could make the same excuses about us, but He doesn’t. Instead He took all our sins to the cross, and forgave us.
You can sit there and make all the excuses you want, but if you keep on biting and devouring each other then you will be destroyed by each other. Why? Because you are playing right into the devils hands! Okay we might not like some people in the church, but God doesn’t ask us to like them, no He asks us to love them! Let’s not pull the wool over our eyes on this one, if we don’t love our neighbour in our church fellowship, then we have to question our love for God and our commitment to the church.
Fulfilling Christ’s law is loving each other, and if we can’t love and care for each other in the church, then we’ve very little chance of doing it beyond the church. So what is love? Love is impatient, love is heartless, love is jealous, arrogant, proud, rude, selfish, angry, keeps a note of all the hurts. Love takes delight in evil and rejects the truth, it doesn’t protect, never trusts, is never optimistic, and can’t be bothered putting up with anything that’s difficult! If all these things were love then we’d have a problem receiving God’s love, for God’s love is the opposite.
1 Corinthians 13:4 - 7 (NIV) 4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self–seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
You see, when we’re asked to love one another then we’re taking God’s character, and passing it onto others. When we give love, we do it unselfishly and without question. If we are to carry one another’s burdens, then it has to begin with forgiveness in each one of us as individuals.
Paul explains this in verse 2 because he’s speaking about a forgiving spirit and carrying one another’s burdens. Yet in verse 5 he begins to personalise it for us. Galatians 6:5 (NIV) 5for each one should carry his own load. So now he’s telling us that we should have a responsible spirit, and carry our own load.
It’s interesting to note that the word translated for load in Greek, is different from the word translated for burden. The Greek for load is phortion (for-tee-on) which basically means something that is carried. In other words we’re responsible for our own burdens and problems! So we act like responsible disciples, we don’t moan about our troubles, or feel sorry for ourselves. In fact, what he’s saying is that we just get on with it! Paul expects us to face our difficulties and trust in the Lord, but he is also saying that a responsibility like this will help us grow in grace.
Now I know that’s a bitter pill to swallow, but as I’ve said before we sometimes go through difficulties so we can rely fully on God, and trust Him in every situation, and it does help us mature in our faith and build our relationship with God. Yet Paul has very carefully put a safety net out for us, just in-case our problems become too much to cope with on our own, and yes, it takes us full circle, and back to verse 2 Carry each other’s burdens. So what does that say to us about fellowship.... that it’s a two-way relationship, not only do we accommodate other people and their difficulties, but we have to be prepared to share with others too when we’re finding it hard to cope. Once again we see there is very little room for a solo Christian.
There may be times when we feel we’re trying our hardest to accommodate other people and their problems, but it seems our efforts are in vain. Paul has understood this too for in verse 9 he has words of encouragement for us. Galatians 6:9 (NIV) 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
Let’s not become weary in doing good. How many times have we wanted to give up, especially when we’re trying to help people but they don’t seem to want it. Do we feel that we’re wasting our time, and more to the point, are we wasting God’s time? This verse is all about stickability, in other words patience, stamina and staying power.
Now let’s be honest here. If you try to help people and they don’t want it then they’ll accuse you of interfering. If you don’t help, then they’ll accuse you of not caring, and sometimes they’ll accuse you of not caring while you’re running around after them in circles, it seems a no win situation. No wonder Paul is calling on us to have patience and stamina, and this is our Christian family! Paul is basically saying stick it out, for God will in his time, reap the seeds of compassion you have shown.
Paul is also saying in verse 10 that we don’t force ourselves into a situation for that would be interfering. Galatians 6:10 (NIV) 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
This verse is all about opportunity and priority. If we are truly wanting to serve God by helping to carry the burdens of others, then we have to be prepared to wait until God presents those opportunities for us. It’s not up to us to make the opportunity, but if we see someone in need, it is up to us to pray about it and ask God if he wants us to help. If it’s right, then He will open the door of opportunity for us. It’s important that we only go forward as the spirit of God leads us, otherwise we can do more harm than good. It’s also important that we put our priorities in the right order, yes we are instructed to help all people, but he says especially those in our church family.
How we treat our fellow brothers and sisters in our fellowship is the best testimony of our love for Christ to the world outside. If we go around moaning and groaning about people in the church, then that is not a good witness for God. How you deal with your Christian family will be noticed by your friends or colleagues outside the church, and not only does it damage the reputation of your church, but it damages your own reputation amongst those people, for what they see will be a hypocritical approach to your Christian friends, and you’ll soon begin to lose their trust, because they’ll start wondering what you say about them behind their back. However if we show love to one another, then the love of Christ will go way beyond the walls of the church.
Our top priority is our church family, to reach out to those who are struggling and help them through. Now this is easy for a small church, but as a church grows it becomes more difficult. But that’s not an excuse to sit back and do nothing. We need to get to know the new people that come into our church, we need to show hospitality to them. Yes invite them for meals, meet them for coffee for you never know when they’ll come knocking at your door upset and distressed. That will be the time to put the kettle on and offer a slice of cut and come again cake. Of course it may be the other way round. People you don’t know that well in the fellowship, may well be the people God chooses to open their door to you and help you out sometime in the future.
It’s all about loving our church family, and John spells it out so well in 1 John 3:18 (NIV) 18Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. Yes we can show love with words of comfort and sympathy, but more importantly John is saying that actions speak louder than words. Living as a family isn’t always that easy, but let’s not allow the devil to destroy what God has brought together, a fellowship of His people who show His love in action by practicing hospitality to their brothers and sisters in Christ.
1. Romans 12:13 (NIV) Share with God’s people who are in need. Practise hospitality. Basically Paul is saying to them, “okay if you claim to love the people in your church, then show it.” Recognising people who are in need in the church is not easy because most of the time they don’t want others to know of their struggle. Discuss ways which would help us as individuals recognise those in need in our church, without it becoming obvious to the people who need help.
2. With time and money being an issue for many Christians these days we may find that practicing hospitality is a hard challenge to meet. What, if any, are the ways in which we could share the hospitality thing, and could this problem also be addressed by our study groups?
3. Paul is making it quite clear that Christian discipleship involves carrying the burdens of others in our fellowship, yet it is so easy for us to develop the critical spirit syndrome especially if we have been hurt by these people or their problems are self-inflicted. What effect does having a critical spirit have on the body of Christ, and what can we do to eliminate this critical attitude from our thinking?
4. Galatians 6:5 (NIV) 5for each one should carry his own load. So not only do we carry one another’s burdens, but we also have to carry our own too! Is it possible that the way we react and deal with our own problems, shows others how we’d react to their problems and struggles? Think of some examples where this might be the case.
5. Galatians 6:10 (NIV) 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. “As we have opportunity!” Waiting for God’s opportunity means we don’t interfere! What steps can we take not to interfere even when we want to, and allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit of God?
6. This passage is telling us that our top priority is caring for our church family. This is much easier for a small church, but with a growing church this becomes more difficult. How can we overcome the problem of not knowing who people are, and are there ways in which the corporate church family can help us get to know each other better than we do?