“For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” (Romans 15:27, ESV)
You may have heard the term, pay it forward. The idea with this phrase is that when you are blessed by someone, you should forward the blessing to another. While this is good, here Paul speaks of a greater principle. We who share in spiritual blessings with others must bless them when there is need. Paul indicated that the Gentile believers shared in the spiritual blessings of the believers in Jerusalem and thus were obligated to bless them in this time.
The background of this passage will help us to understand this principle. There was a famine in the land of Palestine that caused the saints in Jerusalem to struggle. It seems that this famine must have created some sort of inflation in the prices of goods and the saints were struggling financially. The Gentile churches collected money to help these struggling believers. Some have called this collection the Jerusalem Relief Fund. Paul indicated that the Gentile churches were obligated in this effort because they had shared in the spiritual blessings of the believers in Jerusalem. Since they shared in the greatest blessing of a relationship with God in Christ, they were obligated to bless them in the material things in this time of great need.
We must consider this in light of the makeup of the Jerusalem church. Earlier in his letter to the Romans, Paul spoke of the Jews, that salvation came to all through this nation, Israel. God had chosen Abraham and made a covenant with him. Part of this covenant was that though his seed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Paul explained that Abraham’s seed was Christ. Now, in Jerusalem, the church was composed of Jewish believers in Jesus. Thus, the Gentiles who trusted in Christ alone shared in the spiritual blessings of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.
All true believers in Jesus Christ share in the same spiritual blessings. During the famine in the land of Palestine, all believers who shared in such great blessings in Christ, had an obligation to help those in material need. This is the same today. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you carry an obligation for your brother or sister in need. This is because you share in the spiritual blessings with them and if you share in the spiritual blessings, you also are obligated to share in blessing them in material things when the need arises.
Many churches have a benevolent fund, which is to help the needy of the congregation of believers. Others may take up an offering when one is in need. At my former church we identified a need to send relief money to a church after a devastating hurricane hit Puerto Rico. Those of you who have shared in the spiritual blessings have an obligation to bless other believers in need.