Here are a couple other Scriptures that set the stage for what I'm talking about:
The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. And when they measured it by the omer, the one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little. Each one had gathered just as much as they needed. [Exodus 16:17-18]
If any of your own people become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. Do not take interest or any profit for them, but fear your God, so that your poor neighbors may continue to live among you. You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of
Egyptto give you the landof Canaanand to be your God. [Leviticus 25:35-38]
There is this strain throughout the Scripture that great wealth should not exist next to great poverty... or that the accumulation of wealth should not be made upon the poverty of others, in fact, that wealth helps dispel such great disparities.
So, to Jesus and the early church. First, the early church. In the book of Acts when Luke is describing the early church, he says the following:
"All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need." [Acts 2:44-45]
At the heart of the description of the early church is a heart for sharing so that no one has need. Those who have see their provisions as blessings with which to bless others. They truly understand the concept of stewarding the good things the Father gives rather than "owning" them. In America today, we have created such an ownership understanding of life that we have a hard time fathoming how these people functioned. What would it mean to have "everything in common?" I don't know anyone like that. Who sells their possession and gives to anyone who has need? Who does that? And yet we point to this particular passage over and over again to describe the early church, and we tend to focus on the "breaking of bread" and the "meeting together" and we conveniently skip over vs. 44-45 feeling good because churches have benevolence funds for people in need. That's not what this passage is talking about. It's talking about a people who do not see the blessings of God as possessions of their own, but as means for God to meet their own needs and for them to be conduits of God's blessings to others. Most of us don't get that.
On second thought, I'm going to make this more than 3 posts. I'll talk about Jesus in the next post.
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