Friday, September 11, 2015

Positive Acts - Not A Needy Person Among Them

Acts 4:32-37 is a passage that often makes us American capitalists uneasy:

"Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet (Acts 4:32-37).

"Whoa! That smacks of socialism!" some Christians might think and maybe even say.

Actually it does not indicate socialistic tendencies in any way, shape, or form. While socialism forces some people to surrender some of their possessions to others, the above Acts passage does not do that at all. Rather, the early believers wanted to give to one another. They did so willingly and generously (for a current example of socialism click here).

These early followers of Christ were living out the New Covenant principle for giving that Paul wrote about later in II Corinthians 9:6-7, "The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver."

In Acts 4 we read of believers seeing needs and meeting them by deciding in their hearts to give up some of their own stuff in order to meet the needs of others. This was so much the case that Luke tells us, "...there was not a needy person among them." This is stunning. It is generosity that challenges us. It is something that, quite frankly, we do not see much of today.

I have a difficult time making this passage compute in my mind. I understand at a cognitive level what it says. However, I've never experienced anything like it. However, we know that the Holy Spirit does amazing things. This must have been one of those things. That said, the Spirit is the same today as back then. Maybe He wants us to give like the early believers gave.

May God create in our hearts a desire to give of our own possessions to meet the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ!

1 comment:

Steve Scott said...

Eric, I have an explanation for this passage as to why none of us have ever seen anything like this strange behavior. It's because this was a totally unique situation in history. There was nothing else that they could do with all their possessions except to share with all the others. Investing for the future in order to give even more at a later date was not a possibility. It was all about to be destroyed.

Jesus prophesied that armies would surround Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed. His followers were warned that when they saw this, they were to flee to the mountains immediately, not even allowed to take the time to grab a coat. The apostles surely taught these believers all of Jesus' words. They realized the long-term worthlessness of every last item they owned. So they blew it all on a huge love feast. In modern terms, they partied like it was 1999.