Being an American, and having grown up in our predominantly Capitalist country, I have never really had the occasion to ponder economics as it related to my faith. I had always worked, gone to church, and, for the most part, like millions of other Americans, have taken for granted the economic system that we have grown up with.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began hearing some fellow Americans citing Biblical verses in a manner that was tacitly, if not explicitly, promoting Socialism and Communism. For a Christian person, like myself, who has always cherished the freedoms we have had in this country, and felt blessed for the standard of living that we have had in this country, it is beyond disconcerting.
Over the last year or so, I have had some informal conversations with some fellow Christian friends, in regards to this subject; but, for some reason, over the last few months, I have felt compelled to try to understand God’s true intentions, as written in The Bible, in regards to how Christians should be conducting themselves, economically, charitably etc.
Recently, I began discussing economics with my fellow Christian friend Kori, as it related to our faith. In the past, myself and Kori have collaborated on the subject of Christianity and Marriage, which, with her permission, ended up as an insightful post on this site; and, to which we were fortunate to have many great comments. Since she did such a wonderful job at researching Scripture, and Biblical history, in regards to that subject, I was inclined to ask her to collaborate, once again, with me, on this subject.
With Kori’s permission, I would like to share her recent e-mail correspondence to me:
These passages referring to the early church in Acts is often misconstrued to advocate that surely the Bible must support Communism/redistribution of wealth nationwide or even worldwide in this new global mindset. Aside from the “communal” aspect of the early church passages, there are endless scriptural references to charity and giving. I imagine one could spend days upon days researching such references. I spent some time specifically on Acts 2:44-46 and 4:32-35.
The Early (Communal) Church:
I have seen Acts 2:44-46 and Acts 4:32-35 referenced by “Progressives,” and those “occupy” types, who, seemingly, dislike the 1%, as proof that Communism is advocated in the Bible. Arguably, those who claim such, in my opinion and experience, haven’t actually read and studied the Bible, but instead pick out self-serving verses, utterly out of context, and apply them, wantonly, to their personal agenda.
Acts 2:44-46 clearly states that the early church was very communal: generously sacrificing their own property and possessions for the benefit of “other believers.” It really is a beautiful picture of the unity of the early church.
A Few Things Stand Out To Me:
1. The recipients were other “believers.” They weren’t randomly giving away to Joe-blow down the street. This is clearly not redistribution of wealth for the good/benefit of all.
2. It was voluntary and not forced upon them by an overbearing government. And it was done in love for one another and for the sake of Christ.
In Acts 4:32-35, the multitude of “believers” considered their possessions not their own but the common possessions of all. Those who owned real estate, sold their houses and land and gave all the money to the apostles who distributed to believers as there was need.
Acts 4:36-37 tells of Barnabas selling his land and giving all the proceeds for the common benefit. Again, this is referring to the church believers as the recipients.
In my church, we have needs that arise with various members on occasion. For example, a man of very little means recently needed some oral surgery done. He simply could not afford it, and so the church, “cheerfully,” provided the few hundred dollars necessary for his dental work.
In Reference To The Passages From Acts 4:
1. Communal life was amongst believers
2. Their property was given “willingly,” not mandatorily. They “laid them as an offering” at the apostles’ feet (v. 35).
3. The government is not the church.
4. 100% of the offering benefited those in need.
“This is not Communism; this is not mandated anywhere…”
“Communism says, “what’s yours is mine.” Capitalism says, “what’s mine is mine.” Christianity says, “what’s mine is yours.”
Pastor Joe also mentions Ananias and Sapphira, from Acts 5:3-4, in which Peter said to Ananias, and his wife, Sapphira: “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own”?
As Far As Charity, And Helping Those In Need:
“God loveth a “cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7); not one who is begrudgingly forced to give or else bear the consequences of fines, jail, etc. It is especially difficult to give cheerfully to those who are undeserving, lazy, and promoting ungodly, sinful, practices and deeds (i.e. tax-payer-funded abortion).
• Let us give from our abundance: (Luke 3:11)
• To “brothers” or other believers: (Deuteronomy 15:7-11)
• To all men, not only believers: (Matthew 25:31-40)
Whose Responsibility It Is To Provide For The Destitute?
1 Timothy 5:8 tells us that, “if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than a unbeliever.”
The Good Samaritan: Luke 10:27-37
“Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh”? Isaiah 58:7
• Luke 3:13: “And he said unto them, expect (exact) no more than that which is appointed you.”
• Hebrews 13:5: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”‘
• 2 Thessalonians 3:10: “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.”
• 1 Timothy 6:6-8: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”
Food and clothing is all that Jesus had:
• Matthew 8:20: “And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”
I discuss this with my boys (ages 8 and 9) often. As we covet this and that, and too often hoard what is ours, and selfishly fail to share the abundance of what we have, I ask them, “what do you “really” need”? They list their needs: food, clothes, toys, house, bed, etc. I remind them that, even if we lost everything, we would only need food and clothing to survive. That’s it! Those are the bare basics. And really those are enough. Attitude and gratitude are everything.
Do I personally have more than this? Yes! Could I give more than I do? Yes!
Am I convicted, right now, of my abundance and the irony of how I sometimes complain that I “need” this or that? Yes! Do I need everything I have? No.
Does God give us all things to enjoy? Yes!
• 1 Tim. 6:17: “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy”
Should I give from my abundance? Absolutely!
Undoubtedly, scripture encourages us within the church to give, and certainly we are to show love, generosity, and blessing to those in need (believer and unbeliever alike).
Even as we look at how the poor were provided for in The Old Testament, they still had to work for what they had; and those in abundance had to intentionally leave behind enough for the “gleaners.” (Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 24:19-22)
In closing, as far as any communal activity in the early church (as mentioned in Acts 2 and 4), it was solely for the benefit of the church, and it was done “willingly.” It was not for the good of the state, nor was it forced upon the people.
Posted, also, at Conservative Daily News
In this post, entitled, The American Socialist Experiment, it explains some of the history of The Pilgrims, upon landing at Plymouth Rock. Even though the economic system of Socialism didn’t actually exist, then, The Pilgrims began with a “communal” economic system, and it brought the people of Plymouth much misery.
The fascinating part of the post is how it quotes Governor Bradford “in his own words,” in regards to the sentiment of The Pilgrims, who migrated to Plymouth. After some time, and much thought, it was decided that a parcel of land would be assigned to each family; from there, great prosperity and happiness began to take place. This, likely, is the historical beginning of private ownership, and free enterprise, in The United States.
In the words of Samuel Adams:
“The utopian schemes of leveling and a community of goods, are as visionary and impractical as those which vest all property in the crown. These ideas are arbitrary, despotic, and, “in our government” unconstitutional.”