Acts 4:32b “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.”
Some have said these Christians were practicing an early form of communism. But they had not abolished the concept of personal property. This is not John Lennon singing, “Imagine no possessions.” They didn’t collectively abandon their property. They shared it.
It all hinges on “no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own.” These people were living out the implications of Psalm 24, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” Everything we have is a trust we have received from God. It is a gift. He has not given us things to use any way we please. He has purposes for what he gives us, and it is a higher purpose than “making ourselves happy.”
Generally, God has given us possessions so that we can love each other. We love our families by feeding and housing, clothing and educating them. We love the souls of our neighbors near and far by supporting mission work around the world and our own church’s worship and Bible classes locally. Even paying our taxes is an act of love Biblically understood, because it provides security and protection to our neighbors through the government it supports.
Of course, central to the arrangement–that we regard and use our possessions so unselfishly– would have to be the conviction that God would continue to take care of our own needs. What could convince these members of the Jerusalem church of such a thing? Certainly they lived at time when they had less than we do.
Doesn’t this take us back to the cross and the gift that God has given there? Paul would ask the Romans years later, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” If God loves us so much that he would deliver his own Son to torture and death to save us from our own sin–and he does, and he did–we have every reason to believe he will take care of every other true need as well. The cross gave these people the confidence to be unselfish.
Wouldn’t it be a pleasure and a privilege to live among a people so unselfish in our own church, and doesn’t this make the Jerusalem church a church worth imitating?