Cornelius stared at him in terror. “What is it, sir?” he asked the angel. And the angel replied, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering!”
(Acts 10:4 NLT)
In Acts chapter ten, we’re introduced to Cornelius, a captain of a group of soldiers called “The Italian Unit.” Very impressive, right? But then it gets interesting. We’re told that Cornelius was a very religious man. Not only did he worship God, but so did everyone else who lived in his house. But there’s something else that Luke emphasizes about Cornelius and that I’ve come to admire. This man had given a lot of money to the poor and he was a man of prayer. When the angel appeared to him in a vision during his usual prayer time, it was this fact that he highlighted as well. He told Cornelius, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have been received by God as an offering!” (Acts 10:4).
In his letter, James reminds us that helping the less fortunate is not just a matter of words but actions as well. He gives the following example, “Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”’ (James 2:15-16).
Would God commend us for our gifts to the poor? Mother Teresa once said, “At the end of our lives, we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made or how many great things we have done. We will be judged by ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat. I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless and you took me in.”’ Cornelius was certainly not judged for his high rank in society, but for his generosity to the poor. May God grant us the desire to follow in Cornelius’ footsteps.
We’ve been blessed to be a blessing.