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Growth and complaints go hand in hand. It should not be so. Indeed, the Apostle Paul tells us, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (Phil. 2:14). Nevertheless, the greater the crop, the more potential for contention. Given the prospect of conflict, some would opt for empty stalls. But the wise man said, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Prov. 14:4). No ox—no growth—and there is tidiness but no profit. With an ox—with growth—there will be untidiness but also the potential for gain.
We see this in the early church: “Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution” (Acts 6:1, emphasis added). The complaint was legitimate. The difficulty arose from the increase, and the difficulty threatened further increase (v. 4). The problem beckoned for respected brothers who were full of the Spirit and wisdom.
Deacons serve. They do not have a precise job description in Scripture. But, it is clear that they meet the needs of the body of Christ, assisting those who minister the Word so that the church might grow up into maturity. In other words, deacons are lead servants who help the Word go out and the crop come in. It is hard to have a healthy church or make disciples of all nations without a faithful diaconate. With this truth in mind, we are well positioned to give cheerfully to the work of deacons.
Giving to the diaconate involves the relief of the saints. Christians possess a special love for other believers. David could say, “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight” (Ps. 16:3). The churches of Macedonia knew the pleasure of meeting needs in the body of Christ. They begged Paul “earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints” (2 Cor. 8:4). A good portion of diaconal work involves meeting needs that arise in a fallen world. Pipes burst. Printers jam. Roofs leak. Sickness disables. Tensions flare. Supporting deacons in their work is an opportunity to allay the difficulties that come upon those dearest to us.
Furthermore, we learn to live for Christ on earth as we contribute to the work of deacons. The tangible nature of diaconal service can do a Christian immense good. Unfortunately, some Christians live as if the Father has taken them out of the world, which is the very thing Christ did not ask the Father to do (John 17:15). It may be easier simply not to remain on the earth, but the command is to let nothing earthly remain in you (Col. 3:5). Christ teaches us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10, emphasis added). Yet, some seem to believe God’s kingdom has nothing at all to do with this earth. They neglect the will of God for day-to-day living. Deacons cannot afford to function with this gnostic tendency. The stable must be cleaned. The sick need care. Financial problems call for attention. That widow requires food. Deacons must ask: “And why did she get neglected in the first place? Let’s get to the bottom of it with truth and grace, ensuring that all are fed next time.”
Not every Christian will be a deacon, but giving to such work affords every believer the opportunity to recover how to live for the Creator in the world He made. It is no surprise that the men chosen to serve in Acts 6 were required to be full of wisdom. They were lead servants for the church in God’s wisely designed world—“When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, . . . then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always” (Prov. 8:27, 30). A call to live wisely on earth is not a summons to become Bunyan’s Worldly Wiseman. Only the wisdom from above will do (James 3:17). But the wisdom that comes from above is employed on earth. The result is not empty stalls but a harvest of righteousness and peace (James 3:18). Giving to the diaconate serves as a tangible reminder to number our days, serving the Lord and His people while it is yet day.
Generosity toward those in diaconal service fuels the orderly increase of the Word and the church. Deacons do more than put out fires. They not only play defense, but they also play offense. They serve people, and they serve the tearing down of strongholds (2 Cor. 10:4). War requires strategy, skill, organization, and hard work. We do not wage war against flesh and blood; neither are our weapons of the flesh. Nevertheless, war we wage and weapons we wield. Deacons are dutiful men (Acts 6:3). They meet practical needs, resulting in peace, order, and the love that the Apostle John speaks of: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Deacon work adorns the gospel of God and enables ministers of the Word to devote themselves to the Word and prayer.
Reasons abound to give cheerfully and generously to the diaconate. Such giving relieves the saints, increases wisdom, and supports the worldwide advancement of the body of Christ and His Word. The Apostle was right: cheerful giving does far more than we think. “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God” (2 Cor. 9:12).