“contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” (Romans 12:13, NASB95)
This verse begins with the word “contribute” which immediately causes some to think when they hear it that they are to contribute to the needy saints in some form of financial or other tangible way. Tonight I asked one of my sons about his thoughts, and he responded with it having to do with partnering. And he was totally correct. The word here translated “contribute” (or “sharing” or “distributing” in other translations) means to come into fellowship, partner, participate, or share in an activity. While this may include those for mentioned needs above, it has a much richer and complete meaning, which in this case is the needs of the saints.
The word used is the Greek word koinoneo which comes from the same root that another word, koinonia comes, which is the word commonly used for our fellowship, community, and communion. It has to do with not only us being together but how we are commonly united. In the context of Romans 12:13 we are to come together in active participation in helping one another (the saints) with what is necessary or needed.
In Ephesians 4 we read about the work of people of the church (the one another’s) in building up one another with those things that are necessary such that the whole body is built up together. “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.” (Ephesians 4:11–16, NASB95) Here we read about the whole body being fitted and held together by what every individual member contributes as each person does his or her part.
And if we are going to do this thing of coming together and working together to build up and help one another with whatever the need might be (physical, spiritual, functional, or other) then we have to strive to be open, friendly, and welcoming to one another.
Romans 12:13 continues with “practicing hospitality,” which comes from a root word having to do with friendship. In other words we are to come together as committed friends would to work together to build up and help one another as we together function effectively as the body of Christ—the church. And when we do this, then we also will proclaim a loud distinction between ourselves and the world. We read in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, NASB95)
In contrast this morning I went to get a haircut. While I was waiting a Jehovah’s Witness was sitting in the chair telling the barber how his church had a complete understanding of the Bible among other things. While I wanted to jump right into that conversation, I was not invited and there were others waiting. So, I listened and prayed. As I listened the barber told the person in the chair that all of the churches had problems and that he didn’t need to go to any church to follow God. I listened through the next person in the chair and still had a while to go with others behind me. I realized that I would not get a chance to share about those conversations in an open way, so I excused myself and told him I would be back later in the week. When I go back I will bring something with me for him to read, which he does do, that addresses how all of these roads cannot be correct. I am hoping for an empty shop when I return.
One thing I was struck with was his reasoning for not going to church—the problems. While I know that this is sometimes an excuse to hide something in the individual’s own life, it is also used when people have experienced some hurt at church. And while it may or may not have been intentional, it left a mark on the individual. I hope to talk with him about the ‘why,’ and maybe even talk with him again about having a relationship with God and through that the importance of working together with other people united in Christ who are growing together in the same relationship.
Working together for the long haul happens best when we genuinely care for each other and treat them a warm and friendly manner. The next verse in Romans that we will look at speaks about those times when we encounter the ugly side of people. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14, NASB95)
“Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaint. As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 4:8–11, NASB95)