GOOD NEWS FOR THE POOR?
Lord, thank You for divine care for Your people
Read ACTS 4:32–37
The Believers Share Their Possessions
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, / High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art’ (Eleanor Hull, ‘Be Thou my Vision’, 1912).
How much is Luke’s description of the church here an idealized picture? This question is often debated by scholars. Luke does seem to be making a theological point in his presentation of the church. As Tom Wright says, by describing them as having ‘no needy person among them’ (v 34), Luke wanted to demonstrate that these first believers were fulfilling Deuteronomy 15:4 in which God promised Israel that owing to his blessing ‘there need be no poor people among you’. By describing a community in which poverty had been eradicated, Luke was revealing the church to be the means through which God’s long-awaited promises to Israel were fulfilled (Tom Wright, Acts for Everyone pt 1, SPCK, 2008, p75).
Wright also points out that even though these believers are described as selling land and houses, this does not mean that they all sold their homes. Early Christians met in each other’s houses so they could not have gotten rid of all their property (Wright, 2008, p76). However, even with these caveats and recognizing that such sharing was not always perfectly practiced (as tomorrow’s story of Ananias and Sapphira demonstrates), the radical nature of these Christians’ actions cannot be denied. Clearly, the early church had not forgotten that Christ’s mission was ‘good news to the poor’ (Luke 4:18).
This first church must have been very different from the society of its day, in which poverty would have been common. The absence of hardship among believers and their practical care for each other would have been a powerful witness. Today poverty is on the increase and the gap between rich and poor has expanded hugely – a very relevant topic which raises many questions for the church today. It was clearly important to these first Christians to show that Jesus was good news to the poor. How can we present this message most effectively?
Do we differ enough from those who are not Christians in our attitudes to money and possessions? Are we effective witnesses on this? Pray for God’s leading here.
Lord, guide each of us as to what our level of care for our brother and sister should be.
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