‘I don’t get anything out of church these days, so …’

‘I haven’t bothered to go for a while,’ is the usual completion of that pitiful sentence.

We’ve been gathered as church to put something in!

Four beggars met each other at the end of a day on the outskirts of one of India’s big cities. They did not know each other but soon got chatting.

‘I’m hungry,’ said one. ‘Me too,’ sighed another; ‘I’m starving.’ ‘What did you collect today?’ asked a third; ‘I only got a bowlful of rice, myself. It won’t taste very special when I boil it – but it will help to keep me alive.’ ‘I only got some onions,’ complained the fourth beggar. ‘What a strange supper I will eat. And my breath will stink all day tomorrow.’ ‘I only got some pieces of meat,’ said the first man. ‘Plenty of protein there, but not much starch,’ he growled. ‘And what can I do with a bag of spices?’ moaned the second beggar.

‘I know what we can do,’ exclaimed beggar number three. ‘Let’s boil up water in this big empty tin can, and each put in his portion of food. Then we can all have nourishing soup.’

In next to no time the water was boiling and one by one they came to the can to put in their contributions of food.

However, the man with the rice thought, ‘If I only pretend to put in my rice, I can enjoy their soup tonight and eat my rice by myself tomorrow.’

When they later came to pour the soup into their bowls, each man began to shout out, calling the others ‘thief’ and ‘liar’ – because each of the beggars had decided to carry out exactly the same selfish plan . . . that had backfired, of course.

For church is about one another

There are fifty or so reference in Scripture about what we should and should not do with ‘one another’ – emphasising not only actions but attitudes and even appetite (that is to say, not just feelings of need but focus of intention). Let’s consider the implication of these few:

  • Do not lie to one another’ (Colossians 3:9)
  • Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength God supplies – in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen’ (1 Peter 4:9-11).
  • ‘Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing’ (1 Thessalonians 4:11).
  • ‘And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not forsaking to meet together, as the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near’ (Hebrews 10:24-25).
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