FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
EVERYTHING IN COMMON
April 15, 2012
Today’s reading: Acts 4:32-35
Massive poverty is a scourge in the world. This is even more so considering God created a world of abundance. There is more than enough for everyone, even for double the world population today. The problem is inequitable distribution of wealth and resources, and the lack of sharing.
But there is a solution. In fact, the first Christian community after Pentecost already solved the problem of poverty. “There was no needy person among them” (Acts 4:34a). What needs to happen?
First, we take on the mind of God and not the mind of the world. The world’s solution to poverty, aside from physically getting rid of the poor, would be to make the poor rich. That seems to make sense. The opposite of poverty seems to be wealth. So to combat poverty, the natural direction is creation of wealth. This is why the world emphasizes economic development, exploitation of natural resources, responsive socio-political structures, capitalism, etc. But many decades of these have not alleviated poverty. In fact, poverty seems more widespread than ever and is deepening.
What is God’s mind on poverty? Poverty is the lack of basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing and shelter. If one has basic necessities with which to live a decent life with respect as a human being and a child of God, then that person, according to God’s standards, is no longer poor. In other words, what is needed is for one’s needs to be provided for. The solution to poverty is not to make the poor rich (though some of them might become rich also) but to provide adequately for their needs.
What is God’s way? It is through caring and sharing.
First, “the community of believers was of one heart and mind” (Acts 4:32a). We must love each other as brethren, and become our brothers’ keepers. We must know that we are one body, where everyone shares joys and sorrows. We are all journeying together and no one gets left behind.
Second, “no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own” (Acts 4:32b). This is stewardship. It is recognizing that everything belongs to God, even what we call our own. God has His claim on what has been merely entrusted to us. We stand ready to share what we hold in trust.
Third, “they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32c). This does not mean we put all our money in one bank account. The first Christians still individually owned assets and properties. But these were held in stewardship and used according to how God wanted them used, for the good of all.
Fourth, when the need arose, “those who owned property or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds of the sale, and put them at the feet of the apostles, and they were distributed to each according to need.” (Acts 4:34b-35). This was the way by which those in need had their needs met, such that there was no needy person among them.
Just like with the first Christian community under the apostles, we too can be witnesses in today’s world and experience great favor from the Lord, as we love and care for our brethren, such that there is no one in need. “With great power the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great favor was accorded them all.” (Acts 4:33).
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