This is part of a writing exercise through WordPress.com called Writing 101. As a pastor I write something – or several somethings every week. Which is great, but continuing to grow at anything means stretching. So what I am posting today is a stream of consciousness exercise related to the passage of Scripture above. It is one of the Lectionary Scriptures for this first Sunday after Easter. I haven’t decided for sure if I’ll use it, but here goes anyway.
Acts 4:32-35English Standard Version (ESV)
They Had Everything in Common
32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
The first thing that jumps out at me is the strength of unity in this passage. “those who believed were of one heart and soul.” Just to make sure we get the picture the Biblical Author (BA) goes on to say, “they had everything in common.” I have heard people push back against this idea as if to say it has something to do with Communism. On the whole I think this is very flawed. The passage does not say they were equal, or that the rich made themselves poor in order to make the poor rich. The fact this is addressed says something about a need at the time. How great was the divide between the haves and the have not’s in first century Palestine? What was the purpose of tending to those went without? How big a disparity was there between those who did not have and those who did have? I think it is interesting the passage says there was not a needy person among them.
I live in a place where there are needy people all around. I consider myself lucky to be able to be in ministry to those people; although, many of one of my churches do not consider themselves so lucky. The idea they would have to go outside of their church doors to serve those people is off putting and makes them angry when I mention it. I probably shouldn’t, but the more angry they become about my mentioning it, the more I mention service to the poor with passion. What would the world look like if more people reached out to help others? What would our town and community look like if more people reached out to help others?
I love the idea of helping people. I love to help people in general. It’s a BIG part of who I am, and in many many ways I feel as though I am the better for it. However, I think there is something else to this passage. Those who had means helped out those who didn’t who were a part of this gathering of people. They had this one thing in common above and beyond money. They listened to the testimony of the apostles regarding the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. I think in every place Jesus offered assistance, or healing, or a miracle there was a response to be offered. Some people were healed because of their faith. Others were spared punishment because of Jesus’ protection. I wonder if Jesus’ ministry to the poor and the helpless was not more of a hand up than a hand out ministry. To have all things in common with those who have no means, who haven’t bathed, or are addicted to drugs and alcohol and sex, and to yet find something in common. What is the difference between having something in common with the poor and the working poor in our country and having something in common with the nerds, or the jocks, or the geeks, or the cheerleaders, or the rich, or the society people, or even movie stars or American idols. Under Christ we are all just sinners: weak and needy; sick and sore – in need of a savior, and the support of those who are like us and struggling to find the way to life this life, and not just survive this life.
How’s that for stream of consciousness?
By God’s Good Grace,