Sharing Things with Others
1. Explain the difference between worldly and Christian hospitality.
Christian hospitality expresses love; worldly hospitality expresses pride. There is a vast difference between the two. One is prompted by love and kindness, the other by pride and selfishness. Worldlings practice hospitality “in front of men in order to be observed by them.” They often expect recipients to make repayment. ‘I will share a dinner with you, if you will share a dinner with me’ is the essence of the world’s hollowhearted hospitality. But how different the Christian! He shares things with others not because of pride or a desire for repayment but out of deep love for God and man. So while the worldling gives to a man for what he has, the Christian gives to a man for what he is—his neighbor, his brother. The time is soon coming when every living human will follow this Christian course of hospitality and thus be like his Father in heaven.—Matt. 6:1, NW.
2, 3. (a) What feeling manifests itself when one receives the truth? (b) To what full extent have the sheep, in contrast with the goats, responded to the message of the King’s brothers?
2 Having received Jehovah’s bountiful spiritual provisions, the right-hearted person feels the urge to be hospitable and to share his material things with others—all for the end result of sharing the good news with others. Was it not the sheep in Jesus’ parable who shared things with the King? Said the King to the sheep: “I became hungry and you gave me something to eat, I got thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you received me hospitably; naked, and you clothed me. I fell sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to me.” How could the sheep do all this for a heavenly King? “Truly I say to you,” said Jesus, “To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”—Matt. 25:35, 36, 40, NW.
3 In the parable’s fulfillment, during this time of the end, how true it is! To get the good news preached the King’s brothers, the anointed remnant, have put up with persecutions and hardships. Who came to their aid? The goats? Never! They refuse to share anything, not even sympathy or time, with the King’s brothers. They would no more render help and relief to the King’s spiritual brothers than they would to the King personally if he were upon the earth. But the sheep, grateful for the spiritual riches brought them, respond not only with hospitable aid to the remnant of Christ’s followers but with even more: heart allegiance to their Brother, the King. And so because of the aid and help rendered to the King’s brothers, the King says to the sheep: “Come, you who have my Father’s blessing, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the world’s foundation.”—Matt. 25:34, NW.
4-6. While the Devil’s system of things is still in existence, how can we show that we have the true love of God?
4 Sharing things with others, especially with those who are true Christians, obviously has the King’s approval and recommendation. Since the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom is not yet finished, there is still opportunity for sharing things with others to aid them, whether of the remnant or the other sheep, in carrying on the Kingdom work. “Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith.”—Gal. 6:10, NW.
5 That the doing of good to our brothers embraces the sharing of material provisions there can be no doubt. For in describing true love, the apostle John said: “Whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassions upon him, in what way does the love of God remain in him? Little children, let us love, neither in word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.”—1 John 3:17, 18, NW.
6 As love is more than a wag of the tongue, so is an active expression of love: hospitality. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you.” Hence, one with true love shares things when help is needed; he does not weigh the goods so long that he never shares anything or if he does, it is too little, too late. Since we are still in the Devil’s world, sometimes our brothers, through no laziness or fault of their own, find themselves in desperate need. The cause may be a storm, a flood, a fire, an accident, sickness or persecution. If one sees his brother in such need and withholds help, when it is in his power to give it, “in what way does the love of God remain in him”?—Prov. 3:27, 28, RS.
SHARING “ACCORDING TO THEIR NEEDS”
7. What is the Scriptural view of sharing things? To follow the admonition what must we overcome?
7 To share things with others at the right time and in the right amount, we must battle and overcome the human tendency to be forgetful and thoughtless. Engrossed in his own sphere of activity, each man tends to become unmindful and unalert to the needs of others. So Christians are admonished to keep an eye “not in personal interest upon just your own matters, but also in personal interest upon those of the others.” “Share with the holy ones according to their needs.” “Be liberal, ready to share.” “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others.”—Phil. 2:4; Rom. 12:13; 1 Tim. 6:18; Heb. 13:16, NW.
8. With whom can we especially share “according to their needs”? Why is this not favoritism?
8 Because of devoting full time to preaching the good news, some brothers may be more in need than others. It is to the needs of these that there is often opportunity to minister. This is not favoritism. It is the Scriptural rule, preserved for our learning at 1 Timothy 5:17, 18 (NW): “Let the older men who preside in a right way be reckoned worthy of double honor,” or, as the footnote adds, “a double reward.” Who especially are worthy of this “double reward”? “Especially those who work hard in speaking and teaching. For the Scripture says: ‘You must not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain’; also, ‘The workman is worthy of his wages.’” You know those who work hard. It is not difficult to tell. To take a personal interest in these and to share with them “according to their needs” and yet according to our means is proper and well pleasing to God. It is not favoritism when we render such “double” hospitality to circuit and district servants, missionaries, pioneers and others “who work hard in speaking and teaching” the good news. It is God’s will.
9, 10. (a) What did the apostle, when writing to the congregation, say concerning those who preside in a right way and who work hard in preaching the good news? (b) As with the first-century Christians what privilege is open to us today?
9 The apostle often recommended that certain ones, because of their work, be received with generous and understanding hospitality: “I recommend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a minister of the congregation which is in Cenʹchre·ae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the holy ones, and that you may assist her in any matter where she may need you, for she herself also proved to be a defender of many, yes, of me myself.” Paul knew that Phoebe, “a minister” of the Cenʹchre·ae congregation, was a hard worker and that she had often shared her provisions with others, yes, with the apostle himself. Now he recommends that she be received by the brothers in Rome in a manner in which she has received others, “in a way worthy of the holy ones.”—Rom. 16:1, 2, NW.
10 When the governing body of the first-century Christians dispatched special servants to congregations to minister to their spiritual needs it was the privilege of the brothers concerned to extend hospitality. It is the same today. The governing body sends out special servants, such as circuit and district servants and Bethel brothers to assist congregations spiritually. It is the privilege of the congregations to receive these special servants “in a way worthy of the holy ones,” and to share with them “according to their needs.”
11. (a) What does it mean to share things “according to their needs”? (b) In sharing things what is it that really wins God’s favor?
11 Since Christian hospitality is “according to their needs,” it is liberal yet moderate. We should be ready to share but reasonable in sharing. (Titus 3:2) Be “moderate in habits.” Though liberality is a Scriptural rule, extravagance is not. No one should make himself poor, though it be only temporarily. Sometimes brothers do not offer to share things with others because they feel that what they have to offer is not something special, that it is not a “fatted calf.” Such ones have the wrong attitude. No brother should refrain from entertaining a special servant because what he has to offer is ordinary food. When the Son of God extended hospitality, did he feel that ordinary food was not good enough? Why, the meal that he miraculously provided for the 5,000 was not made up of the “fatted calf” but of bread and fish. Though Jesus, by God’s power, could have provided a banquet as sumptuous as that of the rich Romans, he chose to feed them “according to their needs.” So never feel that you must show off better conditions than are really yours; that would not be following the course of hospitality but the course of pride. Our Christian generosity should be equal to our disposition to economize for the sake of the good news. Then our generosity will never turn into extravagance and our economy never turn into stinginess. When you share, it is not what you share but why you share that counts with God: “If the readiness is there first, it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have.”—1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Cor. 8:12, NW.
12. (a) Explain the Christian way of receiving things. (b) What danger lies in unchecked selfishness?
12 Just as we must be reasonable in giving, so we must be in receiving. Since we give “in a way worthy of the holy ones,” we should, in like manner, receive. Be reasonable in accepting what is offered. For example, if you have been invited to share another’s food, be moderate, be unselfish. If there are five persons to share a meal and there are only five pieces of meat on the table, the kind thing, the unselfish thing, is to take just one piece, though one’s appetite may crave more. Jehovah hates selfish people. So no greedy person will inherit God’s kingdom. (1 Cor. 6:10, NW) Remember, at the end of the thousand-year reign of Christ it will be an expression of selfishness that will cause numberless humans to share the fate of the Devil. Begin now to root out all forms of selfishness. The more progress we make in that direction now, the better it will be for us when the final test comes. So just as giving requires alert kindness and thoughtfulness, so does receiving.
SHARING “WITHOUT GRUMBLING”
13. For hospitality to count with God how must it be given?
13 The unselfish person gives ungrudgingly. “Let each one do just as he has resolved in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” It would seem unnecessary to admonish anyone about ungrudging giving. Yet Peter found it necessary to say: “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.”—2 Cor. 9:7; 1 Pet. 4:9, NW.
14. (a) Why may some be grudging givers? (b) How can one detect abusers of hospitality, and what Scriptural rule should be applied to them?
14 Some early Christians must have grumbled when they offered hospitality. They may have been selfish, stingy, miserly. Or possibly they had an experience with an abuser of hospitality, causing them to go “sour.” Certain ones at Thessalonica were “walking disorderly” and were “not working at all.” Some of these may have been spongers, making a living off the hospitality of the brothers. They may have gone to different homes, sponging off the brothers. In any event Paul found it wise to lay down the rule: “If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat.” By applying this Scriptural principle no brother need feel that it is dangerous for him to extend hospitality. Why? Because if he is at all discerning he can spot the abuser of hospitality. For the sponger is not spiritually-minded; his conversation is not sincerely theocratic. A lack of spiritual-mindedness is readily detected. But, above all, there is the positive sign of working. A hard worker has no time to sponge because he is too busy providing for his own needs and preaching the good news. A sponger has time to sponge because he is not a hard worker. So there are easy ways to tell those worthy of our hospitality. With these we should share “without grumbling.”—2 Cor. 9:7; 2 Thess. 3:10, 11, NW.
15. What commendation and encouragement did the apostle John give his beloved friend Gaius?
15 Many are those named in the Bible who esteemed hospitality a great privilege and gave “without grumbling.” To Gaius, the apostle John wrote: “Beloved one, you are doing a faithful work in whatever you do for the brothers, and strangers at that, who have borne witness to your love before the congregation. These you will please send on their way in a manner worthy of God. For it was in behalf of his name that they went forth, not taking any money from the people of the nations. We, therefore, are under obligation to receive such persons hospitably, that we may become workers with them in the truth.” Gaius had shown hospitality to hard workers and now John, who had heard about his marvelous spirit, commends him for “doing a faithful work.” He encourages Gaius further by telling him to keep on receiving the brothers “in a manner worthy of God” himself.—3 John 5-8, NW.
16-18. (a) Who was Lydia, and why should we be like her? (b) How did the apostle Paul view hospitality? Why should we be like him?
16 Another who showed the right spirit was Lydia. Paul met her at Phi·lipʹpi in Macedonia. She accepted the truth and was baptized. “Now when she and her household got baptized, she said with entreaty: ‘If you men have judged me to be faithful to Jehovah, enter into my house and stay.’ And she just made us come.”—Acts 16:15, NW.
17 Lydia truly followed the course of hospitality. Paul too showed the right spirit. Lydia considered that it would be a great privilege to entertain these servants of Jehovah. And Paul was not overly anxious; he never acted as though Lydia was under obligation to take him in. Paul never showed any “I-have-it-coming,” “You-owe-it-to-me” attitude. He made not one reference to food and shelter. Lydia herself made the suggestion. How alert she was! She knew Paul needed to eat and that he needed a place to sleep for the night. And Paul, not wishing to be a burden on anyone, no matter how substantial his means, accepted only after she strongly urged him. Luke’s comment—“And she just made us come”—shows what a considerate, warmhearted person Lydia was. Be like her.
18 We should also be like Paul. He never made anyone feel that he was obligated to the apostle. So never count hospitality as something due you. Never think that brothers owe it to you. For example, if a brother uses his automobile to bring you to a meeting, never think that he is henceforth obligated to do it every week. The proper, unselfish attitude should be: ‘Why, I will walk to meeting rather than be a burden on anyone. If a brother shows me kindness by taking me to meeting in his car, I will thank Jehovah for his gracious kindness; and if he does not do it again, I will not be resentful.’ By our maintaining this unselfish attitude, the brothers who give will feel that what they share is “a bountiful gift and not as something extorted.”—2 Cor. 9:5, NW.
MAKING THE EFFORT
19. When making the effort to be hospitable, what should we keep in mind?
19 If we wish to share things with others, we must make the effort. This effort should be unembarrassing and easy to accept. Thus, if you invite a fellow hard worker to dinner, instead of saying, “Would you like to have dinner with us?” say, “Come and have dinner with us.” If you mean it say it positively. Remembering the apostle Paul’s attitude about keeping himself unburdensome, you can imagine how he would have responded to a question like, “Would you like to have dinner with us?” Lydia used a positive invitation, and even then she just ‘had to make him come.’
20, 21. (a) Give Bible examples of those who went out of their way to share things. (b) What heartfelt response did their hospitality inspire?
20 To make the effort, at times, requires going out of our way. When Paul wrote Timothy, he mentioned how On·e·siphʹo·rus went out of his way to visit the apostle in prison and to bring him refreshments. “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of On·e·siphʹo·rus, because he often brought me refreshment, and he did not become ashamed of my chains. On the contrary, when he happened to be in Rome, he diligently hunted for me and found me.” In a big city like Rome it took ‘diligent hunting’ to find Paul. But Onesiphorus made the effort. He brought the imprisoned apostle refreshments, not once or twice but “often.” So deeply did this hospitality stir the heart of Paul that he had to exclaim: “May the Lord grant him to find mercy from Jehovah in that day.”—2 Tim. 1:16-18, NW.
21 Another who went out of the way to make hospitality possible was the Shunammite woman. She observed that Elisha was serving Jehovah. When he passed by, she put forth the effort to ask him in for refreshment. One day she decided that she could do more. So she said to her husband: “See here, I am sure that this is a holy man of God who is continually passing by us. Let us make now a little enclosed roof chamber, and let us put a bed for him there, a table, a chair, and a lamp, so that whenever he comes to us, he can go in there.” One day when Elisha was resting in this chamber he inquired of his hostess if he could render her some kindness in return. She made no request. But through his servant, Elisha learned that the Shunammite had no children and that her husband was advanced in years. He realized what a great blessing it would be for this woman to have a son. The prophet called her and told her that next year she would embrace a son. What a blessed lot was hers! Her fondest hope was realized—just because she made it possible for one of Jehovah’s servants to share her shelter.—2 Ki. 4:9, 10, AT.
22-25. (a) What may be the cause of failure to be “ready to share”? (b) When the apostle Paul fell in need, who were “ready to share” and who were not? (c) Why did the apostle say he “robbed” the Macedonian congregations by accepting their support?
22 When brothers fail to be alertly considerate and “ready to share,” like the Shunammite and Onesiphorus, and they have the means, is it because they are stingy? More likely it is outright thoughtlessness or perhaps lack of maturity. In this regard we are reminded of the Corinthians, when Paul first ministered to them. In spite of part-time work he fell in need. Now the Corinthians were not “ready to share.” They made no effort to share provisions with Paul. Later, when absent from them, Paul felt the need to mention the fact that he had ministered to them without asking for a single thing:
23 “Did I commit a sin by humbling myself that you might be exalted, because without cost I gladly declared the good news of God to you? Other congregations I robbed by accepting support in order to minister to you; and yet when I was present with you and I fell in need, I did not become a burden to a single one, for the brothers that came from Macedonia abundantly supplied my need.”—2 Cor. 11:7-9, NW.
24 Those words should make us think. The Corinthians failed to think. Paul ministered to them more than a year, yet they never shared with him ‘according to his needs.’ When he fell in need the brothers from Macedonia supplied his provisions and abundantly at that. The hard-hitting statement that Paul “robbed” other congregations by accepting support from them to minister to the Corinthians shows how deeply moved the apostle was. Why so? Not for himself. “I have learned, in whatever circumstances I am, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to be low on provisions.”—Phil. 4:11, 12, NW.
25 Here was the thing: The brothers at Corinth apparently had the material means to share things. In fact, the wealth of Corinth was so celebrated as to be proverbial. But the Macedonian congregations—they were poor, very poor, so poor that Paul spoke of their “deep poverty,” which “made the riches of their generosity abound.” Yet despite this extreme poverty the Macedonians begged for the privilege of sharing things; often they gave beyond their actual means. Further, the Macedonian congregations needed what little they had to advance the good news in their own territory, and here they were supporting Paul in a city celebrated for its wealth. The Corinthians could have helped. But Paul, who always wanted the good news to be a free gift, never asked them, and they never offered to help.—2 Cor. 8:1-4, NW.
26. How can Christian congregations today show a “Macedonian” spirit to share?
26 What a contrast! The Corinthians too thoughtless and too immature to think of sharing things and the Macedonians so thoughtful and so mature that they shared things beyond their actual ability. Christian congregations today should be like the Macedonians, thoughtful and alert in sharing things. Some brothers with automobiles readily go out of their way to bring good-will persons to meetings. That is fine. Yet sometimes those who own autos forget that they can share transportation with their own brothers. How wonderful it is when brothers use their cars to help infirm or elderly ones and those who live in out-of-the-way places! Some who neglect the sharing spirit say: ‘Why, if I drove to the edge of town to take an elderly sister home after meeting, I would lose half an hour!’ True, sharing things may take some of your time. But when we go out of our way to help our brothers and we use a few minutes of time, that time is not lost: “Do not forget the doing of good and the sharing of things with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”—Heb. 13:16, NW.
27. What questions concerning sharing things with others should we ask ourselves?
27 Ask yourself now: Do I ever share things with others? Could I? Do I ever go out of my way to show kindness to my brothers? Think upon those questions. And if you have a car and it is raining after a meeting, before you drive off do you make a special effort to inquire whether you can show kindness by giving someone a ride? If you are having a meal and you have a surplus, do you ever think of asking a pioneer to share it with you? If you have surplus clothing, do you ever ask a needy brother if he can use it? Or do you forget to share things with others? Christ’s apostle said: “Do not forget.”
28. To what should congregation servants be alert?
28 If you are a congregation servant and you invite a brother from a neighboring congregation to speak, do you leave it to chance that he will be received hospitably by the brothers? Or do you inform them of their privilege? Can you imagine the Macedonian brothers, despite their poverty, ever putting a visiting minister back on the road with an empty stomach?
ALL THINGS FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOOD NEWS
29. (a) Though brothers share things with us for the sake of the good news, what obligation of ours is not canceled out? (b) How can gratitude, like love, be expressed both in word and in deed?
29 When brothers show us hospitality according to our needs, we know that they do so, in the lofty sense, for the sake of the good news. Knowing this does not nullify our obligation to be grateful; in fact, we should be all the more alert to be grateful. When brothers share things with you, do not forget to express appreciation in words. It was foretold for these “last days” that men would be “without gratitude,” and so they are. (2 Tim. 3:1, 2, NW) But never must those of the New World society be asleep to gratitude! Sometimes we can express appreciation not only by word but by deed. Thus, in riding in an auto with one whom you know is of limited means, such as a pioneer, a reasonable contribution toward gas and oil reflects a grateful spirit. Always remember that if a man shows appreciation for small, even trifling benefits, it shows that he weighs men’s hearts and not their goods, that he values a man for what he is and not for what he has. So gratitude can help us become like our heavenly Father, who looks upon the heart.
30. What blessings stem from sharing things with others for the sake of the good news?
30 Really, hospitality extended for the sake of the good news produces rich blessings. For there is kindled not only a spirit of gratitude to man but, above all, to God. The more grateful we are to God the more our heart widens out, the richer we grow in spiritual discernment. Said Paul: “In everything you are being enriched for every kind of generosity, which produces through us an expression of thanks to God; because the ministry of this public service is not only to supply abundantly the wants of the holy ones but also to be rich with many expressions of thanks to God.” Hospitality, both given and received, thus deepens our love for the One who has put the hospitable spirit in the heart of our brothers, the God of loving-kindness, Jehovah.—2 Cor. 9:11, 12, NW.
31. Why is the sharing of material things not the main objective of the true Christian? What is his primary concern?
31 If we are willing to share material things for the sake of the good news, it is unthinkable that we could neglect sharing the good news itself! Still many are the people who think all God requires is that we be kind and do good in a physical way. But in actuality the sharing of the good news of God’s kingdom with others is that by which you save “both yourself and those who listen to you.” There is something defective and incomplete about the love of those who are willing to share physical things but not spiritual, for they are not truly following Christ. (Matt. 19:21) So ministering to bodily needs alone is not enough: “If I give all my belongings to feed others . . . but do not have love [so as to follow Christ by sharing life-giving spiritual things], I am not profited at all.” If we really love God and our neighbor, then, we will do everything, including the sharing of material things with others, for the sake of advancing the good news and so join in with the apostle in affirming: “I do all things for the sake of the good news, that I may become a sharer of it with others.”—1 Tim. 4:16; 1 Cor. 13:3; 9:23, NW.
32, 33. Out of what do a hospitable spirit and a willingness to share grow, but in what do they result? So whom should we be like?
32 How enriching are hospitality and the spirit to share! By showing hospitality to strangers “we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers, . . . by kindness.” By sharing things with our brothers we show love and gratitude and work for the advancement of the good news. Indeed, “in everything you are being enriched for every kind of generosity.” For one thing, you gain the greater happiness: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.” You gain an indescribably rewarding inward joy. You enrich the love of others for you. Above all, you enrich our love for Jehovah by inspiring many ‘expressions of thanks to God.’ Yes, giving enriches those who practice it. Declared Solomon: “One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want. A liberal man will be enriched.” So though hospitality and sharing grow out of an awareness of the needs of others, they result in the enriching of the lives of those who practice them.—2 Cor. 6:4-6; 9:11; Acts 20:35, NW; Prov. 11:24, 25, RS.
33 So why suffer want? Why not be enriched in everything? “Be liberal, ready to share.” “Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” (1 Tim. 6:18; 1 Pet. 4:9, NW) Be like Abraham who was hospitable to strangers and entertained angels. Be like Lydia who counted hospitality a great privilege. Be like Onesiphorus who opened wide an apostle’s heart because of kindness. Be like the Shunammite who went out of her way to be hospitable and thereby enriched herself with a son. Be like the Macedonians, who, despite their deep poverty, were so alert and so thoughtful to share things with others. Yes, be like your heavenly Father: FOLLOW THE COURSE OF HOSPITALITY!
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I recommend to you Phoebe our sister . . . . .