A distinguishing feature of God’s faithful servants has been their willingness to assist needy persons. (Job 29:16; 31:19-22; Jas. 1:27) After the outpouring of God’s spirit on the festival day of Pentecost in 33 C.E., for example, many who became followers of Jesus Christ voluntarily sold their possessions and turned over the funds to the apostles for distribution to needy fellow believers. Their generosity made it possible for those who had come from distant places for the festival to extend their stay in Jerusalem and continue to benefit from the teaching of the apostles. (Acts 2:41-47; 4:34, 35) The Jerusalem congregation also arranged for distributing food to needy Christian widows and, later, seven qualified men were appointed to see to it that no deserving widows were overlooked in the daily distribution.—Acts 6:1-6.
Years afterward, the apostle Paul, in his letter to Timothy, pointed out that the congregation’s relief to widows should be limited to those not less than sixty years of age. Such widows were to be persons having a record of good works in the advancement of Christianity. (1 Tim. 5:9, 10) However, it was the primary obligation of children and grandchildren, not of the congregation, to care for aged parents and grandparents. As Paul wrote: “If any widow has children or grandchildren, let these learn first to practice godly devotion in their own household and to keep paying a due compensation to their parents and grandparents, for this is acceptable in God’s sight.”—1 Tim. 5:4, 16.
There were times when Christian congregations shared in relief measures in behalf of their brothers in other places. Thus, when the prophet Agabus foretold that a great famine would occur, the disciples in the congregation of Syrian Antioch “determined, each of them according as anyone could afford it, to send a relief ministration to the brothers dwelling in Judea.” (Acts 11:28, 29) Other organized relief measures for needy brothers in Judea were likewise strictly voluntary.—Rom. 15:25-27; 1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 9:5, 7.