Acts 4:32-5:11 (AD 30)
Some use the opening verses here to argue for Communism. It’s a poor argument, because nobody in this situation tried to structure all of society on the basis of sharing everything and claiming ownership of nothing.
Others use these verses to argue specifically that all Christians should live a communistic lifestyle. Except there is no Biblical repudiation of the principles of ownership that God had previously endorsed and gave laws about in the Old Testament.
So…what use are these verses?
Remember what kind of book Acts is. Except where teaching is being quoted, it is not a book of teaching, it is a history book, telling us what happened. During this very early period of the early church, there were no church buildings, no paid pastors, no rich benefactors – just a lot of mainly poor people trying to survive, trying to spread the gospel to everyone, and hoping they didn’t get locked up by the religious authorities.
What grew among the brothers and sisters in that intense time was a desire to be generous, and a recognition that their hopes and dreams for their immediate families were not the most important thing in life. They grew less attached to what they owned, and understood it all to be less important than probably even they thought it was, just a few weeks or months earlier.
Theirs is a togetherness, a clarity of purpose and a selflessness to aspire to. Not a prescription for society or church life.
It would be worth answering a few questions to yourself about what matters in your life. For example:
- How do you help ensure, or with whom do you check, that there are no people in your church who are in struggling to make ends meet?
- What do you do about it when you find out about someone in need of help?
- If the church Elders said to the members, there are so many poor people among our members, who are working hard but unable to make ends meet. We’re going to need all of you with a house to take a second mortgage or move into a smaller house to help support them. What would you do?
- If you thought about the other members of your church and applied the word ‘sister’ or ‘brother’ to each of them, while picturing them, would those familial words sound strange to you, or natural?
- What is the purpose of your life? Would that make a good motto for your church?
Ananias and Sapphira wanted to look generous. In fact, they were willing to pay in order to look generous. But they wanted to look a lot more generous than they were, and in doing so thought nothing, it seems, of lying to God and to the apostles. But God LOATHES lying. It’s in the Proverbs 6:16-17 list of seven things God detests; and in John 8:44 Jesus uses lying as a description of Satan’s character.
God’s not interested in what other people think about your generosity.
He’s interested in why you’re giving what you give, and why you’re not giving what you don’t give.
He isn’t keeping a spreadsheet to give you credit if you hit certain milestones, he wants you to understand what should matter to you most.
Because what matters to you most, is where your money goes, and where your time goes.
And the very early church we read of in Acts 4 refused to let any of their brothers or sisters fall into abject poverty, and they were united in their aim of getting the gospel out.