(If you landed on this post without seeing the others in this series, let me explain what is going on here. Thursdays is my day to talk about God’s way for our congregations. Right now I’m in the middle of a series on the Jerusalem church and it’s success. This is the eighth post in the series. I encourage you to check out the introduction to this series to know more about what is going on and to find an index of the posts in this series as they are put up. Enjoy.)
Personal Sacrifice not Communism
For some strange reason, people keep trying to read modern politics into the Bible or find defense for modern political idealogies in the Bible. The fact is the Bible is not a political book. Jesus wasn’t trying to impact governments. He was trying to impact individuals. We seem to forget that Christianity was birthed under imperialism and not once did Jesus, Peter, or Paul tell Christians to do a single thing about that except pray for the governing officials (I Timothy 2:1-2).
But, because so many want to find politics in the Bible, they cherry pick passages without considering them in their real context. For instance, supporters of Communism love to bring up Acts 2:44-45.
“And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were sellign their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
“There it is,” we are told, “the first Christians were Communists.” That couldn’t be farther from the truth. According to Isms: A Compendium of Concepts, Doctrines, Traits and Beliefs from Ableism to Zygodactylism*communism is “a social system characterized by government ownership of the means of production and organization of labor by a coercive bureaucracy.” Thus, if the early church was communistic, the church would own the communal property. But that is not at all what happened.
Sadly, we learn the truth of this matter from a dreadful sin committed by Ananias and Sapphira. These two conspired together to trick the congregation. They sold some land for one price, but told the congregation they had sold it for a lower price. Then they kept the difference for themselves. They were judged harshly by God for their deception.
However, notice what Peter said to them in Acts 5:3-4.
“But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal?”
When people became Christians, ownership of their property did not transfer to the church. The group did not own the individuals property or take control of it. The group did not get to decide what to do with it. Had Ananias wanted to, he could have kept his land. After he sold it, he could have kept some of the profits and given only what he wanted. It was all completely under his control.
If this wasn’t Communism, what was it? It was individuals sacrificing for each other because they were part of a new group. Christians were caring for each other not because some commune became owners of their property and decided to care for its members. Christians as individuals were deciding to make personal sacrifice to give to the church that it might care for those of its number that were in need.
If we are going to have the Jerusalem vision, we are not going to envision a commune. We are not going to envision church control of our property or communal gathering of our goods. But we will envision members caring so much for each other that they sacrifice personally to care for each other. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a group that cared for each other like that?
(Make sure you come back next week as we wrap up this look at the Jerusalem Vision noticing that they were not problem free but committed to overcoming problems.)
*Yes, that is an associate link. I thought you might be interested in doing your own research on Isms sometime. Enjoy.