26 December 2007

Acts 6:1-7

"And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, 'It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, who we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word'". (v.2-4)


This passage follows two chapters where we see the creation and development of the early Church in Jerusalem. Following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the early believers, led by the apostles, are creating the common practices for which the Church will be known from this point onwards.

Central to the identity and calling of the Church is the sense that all believers are working for the common good in Christ. This common good includes the sharing of resources (Acts 4:32-37) and here, in chapter 6, the sharing out of the work.

This passage has been seen by many as an important source of authority for the development of different orders of ministry in the Church. The disciples seem to be suggesting that they have been given a role that is too important to be wasted on waiting on tables (v.2), so they encourage the community to identify a number of other people who can undertake this role.

One of the unfortunate consequences of this text is the belief that seemingly humble and menial roles are the preserve for some and not for others. Many of us have been identified as the ones set apart to undertake the menial work, which is spared others who have been destined for 'better things'.

This division of roles remains a contested one for many from more humble and disadvantaged backgrounds. In what ways are we are called to serve Christ, and why does it appear that some people are not destined to have to wait on tables? Didn't Jesus do that for his own disciples at the last supper?

To Ponder

Do you feel there is an implicit hierarchy in how the Church identifies roles and work to be done, in serving God? And if so, does this matter?

In what ways can the Church affirm the work of all people as they attempt to serve God?

Bible notes author

Dr Anthony Reddie

Dr Anthony Reddie is a Research Fellow in Black Theological Studies for the Methodist Church and the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham. He is the author of a number of books and is the editor of Black Theology: An International Journal.