The Busboy

The main character in our story today from the book of Acts is Stephen. Stephen, as many of you know, is known far and wide as the first Christian martyr. I don’t know that anyone in Stephen’s day would have labeled him as such, because Christianity had not yet emerged from the cradle of Judaism. Nevertheless, that is how we know Stephen today.
Now … In order to understand Stephen’s story fully and absorb all the nuances of these verses from Chapter 7, we have to go back all the way to the beginning of Chapter 6. The chapter begins with this sentence, “Now, during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.”
Did you notice there is a whole lot of controversy packed into that one sentence? The Hellenists and the Hebrews, two sects of emerging Christianity were at odds over the distribution of resources. You might think that they were arguing over the amount of food that the Hellenist widows got, but that is not the case. In the very next verse we discover that time and talents are the resources in short supply. The head haunchos of the Hebrews, the twelve disciples, call a congregational meeting and remind everyone that their priority is to study and preach the word of God saying, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables.” It’s pretty much the same thing as trying to sort out the responsibilities of the clergy versus the responsibilities of the laity. (I guess some things never change)
Anyway, the community solves the problem together by agreeing to choose seven upright men to do the task of “waiting on tables” so the twelve apostles can devote themselves to studying scripture, working out the theological part of their emergence from Judaism, preparing their sermons, and teaching small and large groups. Stephen was one of the seven chosen. So you see, Stephen wasn’t one of the elite. He was a busboy for the community or at best a waiter. He certainly wasn’t one of the accredited and highly respected theologians of his day.

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