And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. (Acts 2:44-45)
Jesus had the rich young ruler pegged. His great religious fervor masked his idolatry. Money was his comfort, his security, his god. He could not conceive of a life without the safety net of his possessions. When forced to choose between the failed comfort of his possessions (if they had truly met his needs, he would not have sought out Jesus) and the lordship of Jesus, he turned his back on God. Luke more than any other Gospel writer highlights the futility of wealth. He has things to say to us on this count that make us very uncomfortable, because we love our money. We trust in our money. We mask the idolatry and call it good stewardship, but God knows. Would we weather the loss of every possession as well as Job did? “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will return there. Yahweh gives, and Yahweh takes away. May the name of Yahweh be blessed!” (Job 1:21)
The first Christians discovered that true wealth is found in the Kingdom of God. True wealth is found in the sweet communion we enjoy with God our Father and with each other. Our treasure has been found, that treasure that Jesus said was like a pearl of great price, worth selling everything to purchase, like a buried treasure found in a field that a person would sell all he owned to purchase. When we discover the life together that God invites us to enjoy, attuned to the song that sang the stars into existence, the wondrous humming of God’s Holy Spirit across our lives and hearts, we find true treasure, true wealth. All else pales in comparison.
So it is that all who believed were together, not apart. They did not retain their private space, their protected non-church lives. They were in this together on every level. They held everything in common. This is not a description of communism, where the state takes over what each individual has. Nor is this like the practice of the Essenes in first century Palestine. These monastic communities demanded of their initiates that they turn over to the group all possessions when they joined. What the Christians are doing here is not an imposed thing, not something demanded up front. This is what each individual is choosing to do in light of the new reality they have experienced in Christ. They understand that the bond that unites them in the Kingdom of God, the bond forged by the Holy Spirit dwelling in each heart, has made fellow believers the single most valuable and important thing in their lives. So, each one makes use of his possessions and resources according to a new value system. No one is telling the people to do this. It is what each is choosing to do voluntarily. People begin to sell their property and possessions and they distribute the proceeds from those sales to everyone, as they have need.
Christians lived this way well into the second century, and the pagans around them ridiculed them for it. This was not simply apocalyptic overzealousness. They did not sell things because they were convinced Jesus was about to come and these possessions would do them no good when he did. If this were the case, the practice would have died out within a decade. In our western affluent Christianity, we have much to regain on this front. We must learn a healthy disdain for possessions and claim a robust appreciation for the value of each fellow believer. Perhaps modernism and the compartmentalization of our lives that our western mindset leads us to has robbed us of fully living the Christian life. So long as we think of our lives as divided into work, church, family, and social life, we will never know what it truly means to enjoy the Kingdom of God. When we realize that we together are it, we together are the Kingdom of God on earth right now, we together are the children of light, we together are the true Temple of God on earth, we together are the Family of God, we together are the Body of Christ, then we throw all we have into this “we.” We devote our lives to each other and God. We use all our resources for each other and for God. When we discover this, there will be none among us who is in need. We won’t allow it
This Sunday, May 13, 2012, I will be preaching from Acts 2:42-47. Worship begins at 10:45 am. Come and join us, 3201 W 15th St. Plano, TX 75075. Video and audio of the sermon is posted during the week at our website: www.pcbcplano.org
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