The most quoted passage in the New Testament describing the early church is Acts 2:42-47. “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
If you are like me, you have heard this passage preached many times. And an interesting subplot to these messages is how we always leap over verses 44 and 45 (in italics above) in regard to application to today’s church. I am always curious why this is so. Everyone wants to be a New Testament church. Everyone wants to emulate the early church. But for some reason we want to leave out the selling and sharing.
I used to think that the verses smacked too much of socialism or communism and since that used to describe our sworn enemy, no proper American – Christian or otherwise – should have any part in property redistribution. But I think the reason we ignore these verses is more personal than country allegiance.
These verses, quite frankly, step on our space. I am good with listening to the apostles’ teaching. I am good with sharing meals together. I am good with fellowship (even though the Greek word used here for fellowship [koinonia] implies the sharing of goods). I am good with prayer. I am good with praising God. But selling things, or choosing not to buy things, and giving to my brother or sister in need; that is stepping on my space.
Maybe I am looking at this too simply. But I can’t find a context reason to not read this just as it is written. It would seem to me that if we want to follow the example of the early church – and it appears here that they are living out the “send it on ahead” investment strategy of Jesus – we should be a community who looks after the material needs of our family of faith.
One more thought. Could this be one reason the American church does not stand out in the wonder and awe department like the Acts 2 community (vs 43)? We look just like the rest of America in our investment decisions focused on which investment strategy increases our nest egg the fastest. Sharing our possessions not only blesses our brothers and sisters in Christ, but announces to the watching world our dependence on the God we serve and our radical love for one another.