Contribute to the Needs of the Saints
“What’s taking so long?” my five-year-old whined, wandering into the dining room and slumping into a chair. My wife responded from the stove, “If you would like dinner to be ready more quickly, you can help set the table, or pour water into the cups, or help your little sisters wash their hands.” Young children often expect things to be done according to their own timing and desires. When they’re not served the way they want to be served, they often throw a temper tantrum.
Sadly, sometimes Christians act like young children. They expect things to get done for them instead of finding opportunities to serve their church family. If the songs don’t fit their musical taste, or if the preaching doesn’t build them up, or if the fellowship doesn’t encourage them, they become overtly critical and eventually leave.
Don’t get me wrong, a church should edify its members. But that doesn’t mean it exists to serve the kingdom of Self.
Instead of thinking like a spiritual consumer, church members should think like spiritual contributors. I suspect that if every Christian saw themselves as contributors more than consumers, there would be fewer spiritual temper tantrums and more encouraging family gatherings.
God’s Word tells us we ought to “contribute to the needs of the saints” (Rom. 12:13).
“CONTRIBUTING” MEANS MORE THAN GIVING, BUT NOT LESS THAN GIVING
The word “contribute” means more than just giving money. Commenting on Romans 12:13, Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains,
Paul is saying that you do not merely distribute to the necessities of the saints, but that you enter into fellowship with them; you become partners with them; you share with them. In other words, you must feel that their burden is your burden, that you are in hardship with them, and that you really are feeling it yourself. You have entered into a kind of partnership with them in their predicament. 
Because we belong to one another (Rom. 12:4–5), Christians help each other because “if one member suffers, all suffer together” (1 Cor. 12:26). Paul isn’t advocating general philanthropy, but exhorting Christians to share with the saints. The “saints” are those who have been set apart by God and saved by his great transforming mercy in Christ (Rom. 12:1–2).
Paul exhorts believers to “do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal. 6:10). A tangible expression of our love for Christ is love for fellow believers in need (1 John 3:16–17). Amy Carmichael, the famous Christian missionary to India, once said, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” Because we belong to God and to one another, we demonstrate our love and belonging by contributing to family members when they are in need.
THE EARLY CHURCH’S EXAMPLE
The early church in Jerusalem modeled this virtue. Many first-century Christians were excluded from their families and persecuted by religious and secular authorities because of their faith. They often lacked basic necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter. So the church became their new family and met their basic needs.
They not only sold their possessions, but they distributed the proceeds to all as any had need (Acts 2:45). They “had everything in common” and shared their personal possessions because they “had a better possession and an abiding one” (Heb. 10:34). Luke tells us “there was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of land or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostle’s feet, and”—again—“it was distributed to each as any had need” (Acts 4:32–35).
These early church members had compassion on their fellow believers. They had “favor with all the people” and “the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). The church’s generosity became a powerful evangelistic witness.
MEETING FAMILY NEEDS
Contributing to the needs of the saints means more than just giving a sporadic Sunday offering. So what are some practical ways you can contribute to the saints’ needs?
Join a local church.
It becomes exceedingly more difficult to contribute to the needs of the saints if you are an anonymous Christian. You need to join a healthy local church where the gospel is preached and the sacraments are properly administered. By joining a local church, you commit yourself to loving real people who aren’t like you and whom you otherwise would never have known.
Commit to regularly attending church.
You cannot contribute to the needs of saints you don’t know and never see. One reason of many to regularly gather with your church is to be spurred on to specific opportunities to love others through good works (Heb. 10:24–25). So commit to attending the Sunday gatherings of your church. Commit to members’ meetings, prayer meetings, Bible studies, and small group. The more you’re involved, the more you’ll discover the opportunities that exist to share your life and to meet real needs.
Pray for the members of your church.
As you faithfully attend the family gatherings of your church, the Lord will present opportunities to pray for people. If a church has a membership directory, pray regularly and systematically for other members. As you pray, the Lord will bring needs and opportunities to mind as you learn about various members’ burdens and prayer requests.
Be faithful in your vocation.
Ephesians 4:28 says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” We get jobs and work hard so that we won’t be a burden to others and so that we will be able to bless others with our resources.
Share your needs.
There will be times when you are in need. Family members can’t help you if they don’t know your needs. God has designed the church so that its members will carry each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2).
Prioritize giving to your church.
Deliberately put “something aside and store it up” as you prosper. And then give faithfully, proportionally, cheerfully, generously, and sacrificially (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 8:1–5, 12; 9:6–7).
SUPPLYING THE NEEDS OF OTHERS
What happens when church members obey Paul’s instructions to contribute to the needs of the saints? Paul says, “For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God. By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission that comes from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others” (2 Cor. 9:12–13).
In other words, when needs are met, thanksgiving abounds, obedience is manifested, the church is built up, and God is glorified!
When you contribute to the needs of the saints, you store up treasure for yourself as a good foundation for the future, so that you take hold of that which is truly life (1 Tim. 6:17–19). And we all long for that final day when our King will tell us, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23, 31–45).
 D. M. Lloyd Jones, Romans: An Exposition of Chapter 12 Christian Conduct (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 2000), 409.