Galatians 6:10 (ESV) … “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
We have, then, every reason to live generously. For not only is sowing and reaping reality, but we can be confident that one day we will reap if we stick with it. This is all good news.
But Paul offers a third and final word to the Galatians. It’s a broad and general encouragement to do good to others, and it captures the overall ethical imperative of the letter as well as of the Christian life: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone …” (v. 10a).
To some this may sound trite, but still it’s worth saying: Christians ought to do good. Goodness is, after all, one of the fruits of the Spirit (5:22); so our lives ought to bless and enrich the lives of others. We ought to follow in the way of our Lord Jesus, who went around “doing good” (Acts 10:38).
And yet notice that while this closing verse calls us to open-ended generosity, it does not do so without qualification. Rather, as we live generously and do good, we ought to continue to prioritize the local church. Yes, do good to everyone—believer and unbeliever alike. But as Paul is concerned to point out, Christians ought to do good “especially to those who are of the household of faith” (v. 10b).
The local church, then, must be our top priority. Why? Because it is our primary family; it is, the apostle says, “the household of faith.” It is where we find identity and security, receive nurture and nourishment, get encouragement and support, benefit from teaching and training, modeling and mentoring, discipline and discipleship. The local church is our spiritual home, and those who gather week by week are, Biblically speaking, our true brothers and sisters.
The Gospels record a time when Jesus’ mother and brothers came to the house where he was busy ministering to people. When Jesus heard they wanted to speak with him, he asked this provocative question of those who were gathered: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And then, looking intently into the eyes of those gathered to hear him, he said this: “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:33–35).
Those who do the will of God belong to Jesus’ family and are members of what Paul calls “the household of faith.” And it is they, our brothers and sisters in faith, who deserve our primary support, not of course to the neglect of our blood relations (cf. 1 Timothy 5:8), but not as a leftover or afterthought either.
Here’s the bottom line. We’ll only prioritize giving to the local church when we’re convinced the local church is the one-of-a-kind institution it truly is. Remember, Jesus is the head of no other institution and claims no other institution as his body (cf. Colossians 1:18). No other institution serves as the dwelling place for God or the residence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Ephesians 2:21, 22). There is no other institution that has so remarkable or far-reaching a history, tracing its roots back to before the foundations of the world (cf. Ephesians 1:4). Nor is there any other institution with the church’s future, extending as it does into eternity (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Nor is there any other institution as global in scope or diverse in membership (cf. Revelation 5:9, 10). We won’t find any other institution that’s easier to enter, yet so impossible to forsake once we’ve truly joined (cf. Matthew 28:18–20). And let’s not forget the spiritual benefits of belonging to this unique institution: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:14).
But practically speaking what does all this mean? Simply this: as we give, we must begin with our local church. Then, as we’re able, we can contribute to other Christian ministries or worthy causes. But we should not find ourselves in a place where we have nothing to give to the church because we’ve extended our resources everywhere else. That would be to fall short of Scripture’s counsel to do good to all, especially to the household of faith.
Is there a good rule of thumb, though, to help us think concretely about what prioritizing our giving to the local church might look like? I think there is. And I’m not alone. Christians through the ages and across the denominations have identified this as a benchmark for generous giving: 10 percent or what’s sometimes referred to as a tithe. Let me be very clear and direct in saying this: If we want to give generously and prioritize the local church, we should start by giving 10 percent of our income to support the church’s ministries.
The church is a one-of-a-kind institution. And it ought to have first place in our affections and the pride of place among all the other concerns and commitments in our lives. After all, the church is our family. It is the household of faith.