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….There was not a needy
person among them. + ACTS 4:32, 34
It’s easy to understand why—in the face of uncertainty and persecution—the early church would huddle up and pool their resources. There is strength in numbers and comfort in community. We, as contemporary Western Christians, fail to feel this same urgency toward connecting to others—even to our Christian brothers and sisters. Our culture, for the most part, elevates individual responsibility over communal mutuality or group solidarity.
Independence is viewed as a virtue while dependence is generally seen as a weakness. Without the perceived pressures to share, many don’t. For the first disciples, however, the need for community came as a confrontation. It was in their face—an issue to be dealt with earnestly. Survival, for the early church, meant interdependence. Individuals needed the group, and the group relied on individuals. If
someone failed to contribute in a meaningful way, the whole community felt it. Regardless of the cultural whispers that might suggest otherwise, the Church’s situation today is no different. There are real needs in the community of faith—needs, that when left unmet, affect not just the needy but everyone. Interdependence, now like then, is God’s divine way of ordering people (1 Cor. 12:12-31), and where other, more self-serving structures are introduced, bodies hit the floor (Acts 5:5, 10).
Where Luke, the author of Acts, reports of the early church and their community, “There was not a needy person among them (Acts 4:34),” Ananias and Sapphira soon threaten that ideal. Rather than stewarding their goods for the benefit of others, the couple covets their own
possessions and lies about the sale. Greed and dishonesty threaten the health of the emerging church, and God’s judgment is swift. How far many of us need to go to where we begin to see our resources differently—as not belonging to ourselves but belonging to others—to the family of God.
Read Acts 5:1-11 and answer the following questions.
1. Was the judgment of Ananias and Sapphira warranted? Was it too harsh?
2. Christian economist Bob Goudzwaard suggests, “Every private possession has a social
mortgage which you have to pay off before you use it yourself.” What possessions do we
enjoy without first considering how we might share them?
Read Acts 5:12-42 and answer the following questions.
3. The council was baffled that the Apostles would continue to preach after being
reprimanded and imprisoned. Certainly they were emboldened by the Spirit to “obey God
rather than men,” but what positive peer pressure could the Christian community have had
on the Apostles? Does our community confront us when we are tempted to disobey God?
4. The Church rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for the movement of
multiplication. Why is temporary discomfort in the present for the sake of something
better in the future a difficult exchange?
Read Acts 6:1-7 and answer the following questions.
5. Probably not too many of our communities are confronted by the needs of widows, but
all of our networks of friends and family, and presumably our church community, have
members that don’t get their fair share of directed attention—many of whom don’t have
advocates to raise complaints. What age group, gender, marital status, economic bracket,
or ethnicity might our church be overlooking? Do we consider and serve those who fall
outside our well-ordered groups?
• Make it a discipline to regularly give financially to the church.
• Find a place to faithfully serve in the church.
• Intentionally practice delayed gratification.
• Pursue relationships with those who are different from you.