By Pastor Jeff Fox-Kline
Acts 2:42-47: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.
Acts 2 is in the running for my favorite chapter of the Bible. There are lots of other passages in the Bible that I love. There are lots of stories in the Bible that I love. But Acts 2 has a nice combination of one of my favorite verses (42), and one of my favorite stories (Pentecost).
In fact, I pay so much attention to those two things, that I foolishly overlook how the chapter ends. “All who believed were together and had all things in common." Wow. “They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need." Wow. And people are saying that the Church is too political these days.
I once preached a sermon on this passage, and as I was wrapping up its central message I recalled a great phrase that I thought would fit perfectly. “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs." Love that quote! Now I just need to look it up for attribution…
Karl Marx said that. I took out the quote. I hear the Church is too political these days.
So let’s take political doctrine out of it and just look at the text: “They would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need." Whether this is about a system that seizes the means of production for distribution, or voluntary abdication of worldly goods for the benefit of the poor in our society, this passage is calling for us to do something drastic about the way we live our lives.
How do our lives reflect this?
Have we sold everything we own and given it to those in need? No. Have we turned the church building into a communal living space where all money is collected into one pot and we distribute it to the people who need it the most? No. Have we held all of our belongings in common? No. I can’t just show up at your house, start eating your food and when you have a problem with it say “Go read Acts 2."
So how do our lives reflect this?
Acts 2 is about the life of the community of believers in that time. It’s about how that community behaved, and what form the Church took in its infancy. It’s impractical for every Christian to suddenly start living in this sort of way, so we need to take inspiration from this Church however we can.
Living generously, giving without hesitation. Sharing what you have been given with those who go without. Bearing God’s generous mercy to all people. Keeping an eye out for those on the margins and asking what their needs are. Providing for their needs as far as you are able.
Worrying less about church growth, and more about how we are living out the Gospel message.
Doing acts of love and compassion.
Serving God gladly and cheerfully.
These are ways we approximate the community of believers that formed those many years ago. It’s an approximation of what we need to be and do, but if we start the journey we can continue the journey, refining ourselves to look ever more like the body of Christ fully manifest in the world.