Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. (Acts 6:1)
To this point in the Book of Acts, Satan’s attacks against the church came in several different ways. Satan attempted many forms of direct opposition and intimidation, and he also tried to corrupt the church from within. These strategies were all unsuccessful in stopping or slowing the work of the church (Acts 5:42).
Acts 6 sees Satan with another strategy against God’s people: division. The devil hoped to “divide and conquer” through neglect, misunderstanding, and cultural differences.
We can say that with Acts 5 and 6, the good old days were over for the earliest Christians. They now had to deal with internal corruption, and now disputes and potential divisions. How they dealt with those things made all the difference.
It all happened when the number of disciples was multiplying. Seasons of growth and opportunity for the church are also seasons to be on guard against division. Even though the church was growing, they still cared for each other practically. This practical care meant that the Christians organized to help their widows with some kind of daily distribution of food.
As the Christians organized to meet the needs among their own, there arose a complaint against the Hebrews by the Hellenists, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. The Hebrews were those Jews more inclined to embrace Jewish culture and they were mostly from Judea. The Hellenists were those Jews more inclined to embrace Greek culture and mostly were from the Diaspora (from all over the Roman Empire).
It’s important to remember that though the titles Hebrews and Hellenists are used, these were Christians, followers of Jesus. They all came from a Jewish background, but they had all embraced Jesus as their Messiah.
Apparently, some of the Christians from a Hellenistic background believed that the widows among the Hebrew Christians received better care. Nothing suggests that the oversight was on purpose. It was a case of some being neglected – an oversight, or the result of bad organization.
Satan loves to use an unintentional wrong to begin a conflict. The Hebrews were right in their hearts, and the Hellenists were right in their facts. These were perfect conditions for a church-splitting conflict.
How would the church handle this? The rest of Acts 6 will explain. But learn this: when today’s church faces division, God’s people have been there before, and God’s word gives us the wisdom to walk through divisive seasons in a way that gives Him glory. We may not take that wisdom – but God offers it to us.
Start by believing the best of your brothers and sisters and realizing that a lot of the hurts we inflict and endure aren’t intentional – yet they still need to be dealt with.