Sacrifices of bulls, goats, lambs, and other animals have come to an end with the atoning work of Christ on the cross (Heb. 9:1–10:18). However, as we have seen, that does not mean Christians have no sacrifices to offer. Looking back on the great sacrifice of Christ in thanksgiving, we are commanded to continually offer up the sacrifice of praise unto God through Jesus (13:15). Today’s passage reveals another sacrifice that we must offer—doing good and sharing with others (v. 16).
Being part of God’s people has always entailed doing good and sharing what we have. Under the old covenant, for instance, the Israelites were to support their countrymen if they became poor and could not support themselves (Lev. 25:35–38). Proverbs 14:21 pronounces a blessing on those who are generous to the poor. This teaching on sharing with those who are in need carries over into the new covenant. Famously, James 1:27 says that pure and undefiled religion includes taking care of orphans and widows, for these individuals usually had no way to provide for themselves in the first century. Moreover, one of the reasons we are to labor is so that we can “have something to share with anyone in need” (Eph. 4:28).
We could cite many more passages of Scripture that tell us to share what we have with those who are in need. The point is that true Christianity and taking care of others who cannot care for themselves go hand in hand. Sharing with those in need is an essential part of Christian ministry, as virtually every theological tradition has affirmed. And, of course, there are many ways to do so. Our first priority is to help fellow Christians, as we are to do good to everyone but “especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). So, we must give to our churches’ deacons’ and benevolence funds and even extend help on our own to others in our churches whom we know have needs. Further, giving does not have to be only of money. Making meals for others, volunteering one’s services for childcare, home repair, yard work, and so on are all ways to do good and share. Even those who do not have a lot of money left over in their budget at the end of the month can volunteer their time and service.
Most Christians well understand this principle, but those who do not should heed John Calvin’s warning in his commentary on today’s passage. He notes that since doing good and sharing are sacrifices to God, we rob God when we do not obey this command.