Some articles come with greater ease, flowing more freely through the pen or the keyboard of the writer. Others come with hesitant strokes and slow deliberate motion. This article is of the latter genre. It is not meant as a criticism or public scolding of some who fail to acknowledge gifts sent from assemblies and individuals. It is meant as a reminder that, just as giving is a response to divine love, so acknowledgment of the sacrifice of others is a response to Christian love.
It is recognized that those who are either very late in responding to gifts, or the very rare person who fails to acknowledge gifts, is not acting out of a lack of appreciation. The burden and demands of full-time service for the Lord can place even the most organized of men into a time-management crisis. Unlike most of us with regular hours for work and planned time at home, these men are “on-call” twenty four hours of the day. Their brief times at home are interrupted by calls from all over the country seeking advice and counsel. Urgent calls to hospital beds, anxious souls, saints going through trials – all of these are burdens and challenges our brethren face.
We take for granted their ready availability for everything from a funeral to a private hour-long phone conversation. Couple this with the personal demands of home and family which they face, and you can begin to understand some of the time constraints they deal with day by day.
As a result, time which had been set aside for correspondence is sometimes sacrificed for what appears to be a more pressing and urgent need.
This article is being written, reluctantly, in response to the request of believers who feel it is necessary to balance the series which has gone before. Those articles have touched on our responsibility to recognize our stewardship in giving of our material substance to the work of the Lord. Is there any Scriptural basis for suggesting that those who receive also have a responsibility to acknowledge that gift? Should a “giver” not be content that the Lord knows of the act, and will acknowledge this in a coming day?
The Old Testament contains examples of some who gave to others, and the resulting appreciation. Perhaps the best illustrations can be culled from the life of David. While fleeing from Absalom, David was met by three men who brought supplies to David at Mahanaim. They were Shobi, Amchir, and Barzillai (2 Sam 17:27-29). The beds, basins, barley, beans, and lentils assumed a value which they never would have had if David had still been in the castle. But in David’s rejection, they took on a new importance and value. Later, when he returned across Jordan, David expressed his appreciation for what Barzillai did (2 Sam 19:31).
Earlier in his career, David was fleeing from Saul. His heart’s desire was for a drink from the water at Bethlehem. Three of his mighty men, in love for David, broke through the garrison of the Philistines and brought David that drink. Overwhelmed and humbled by the sacrifice the men had made, David expressed his appreciation by giving it to the Lord (2 Sam 23:14-17). Despite his position as King, David never took for granted the kindness and sacrifice of others.
In the New Testament, Paul is undoubtedly our best example of a man who expressed his appreciation to others for their sacrifices. Notice his kind words toward Stephanas, Fortunatas, and Achaicus (1 Cor 16:17-18). He publicly acknowledged the fellowship of Aquila and Priscilla when writing to the Romans. His acknowledgment of the gift from the Philippians (Phil 4:17,18) as well as his appreciation for Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25-30) show that he remained sensitive to the kindness of others.
The Lord Jesus Himself is ever our example, however. His words in Matthew 25:34-40, show that He takes note of the smallest service and sacrifice done for Him. Nothing escapes His eye. He publicly acknowledged the “giving” of the woman in Luke 7 when she came with her tears and ointment. He vindicated Mary when her act was demeaned by Judas and the disciples (John 12).
The pattern of Scripture as well as the practice of saints and the Savior is a sensitivity toward the kindness and generosity of others. But this must be coupled on our part with an awareness of the many demands placed upon those who labor.