God’s Dream for creation is illustrated in the verdant garden of Genesis 1-2 and Revelation 21-22. Abundance is God’s intention and desire. In Acts 2 & 4 we see how the Holy Spirit’s presence in the community results in an outpouring of abundance overflowing with generosity and mutual trust and care. How might we experience and demonstrate God’s power to the world in similar ways through our own mutual sharing in love?
When people encounter the holy, they are moved to the center of God’s will as described in Micah 6:8 – “Do justice, Love kindness, Walk humbly – all with God”. When Abraham encountered God (Genesis 18) he and Sarah were moved with hospitality to prepare a feast for them. They weren’t giving because they had lots left over, but because the Spirit prompted them too.
Likewise in Acts 2 and 4, the people are not giving and sharing in this way because they are overflowing with abundant resources. They are not giving from their excess. And they’re not giving just to meet the needs of the suffering. They are converted to a new way of thinking. Their minds are renewed – metanoia – “Be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Romans 12:2). And with this renewed mind they see and respond to the world in new ways.
No where in this story, in Acts or Paul’s writings or even in the gospels is there a broad instruction or teaching for everyone to adopt a lifestyle of poverty and communal sharing. The people are not told to do this – it simply emerges, even bursts for the, from their experience of grace from God’s Holy Spirit. Wealth is not demonized by either Jesus or the Apostles, though it clearly has its dangers (Mt 6:24; 19:24). And in Acts 5 we read the story of one family who in this same community chooses deceit instead of honest dialogue when they choose not to give all of their possessions over to the community. The consequences come not for their withholding but for their faithlessness as shown in the dishonest betrayal. And this demonstrates how difficult following the Spirit can be.
This sharing also was not with the wider world (that comes elsewhere). It was specifically with the other believers, as a demonstration of their “love for one another” (John 13:35). The sharing was simple their honest and humble response – a desire to live in trust of God’s provision and abundance. So what if the church lived this way today? Perhaps not selling everyting and sharing all in common (though maybe that). What if we were open to a radical reordering of our relationships with one another and with our possessions and our wealth?
And what if we remember that as church we are not just a congregation here or there, but the scattered and gathered Body of Christ around the community and around the world? What if we practice this new stewardship of resources with other congregations in our community – say those situated within the same middle or high school district? How would we rediscover the meaning of church, and thus of our faith, if we were one with these other folks as the 3000 souls who became believers on Pentecost were one? How might that transform our witness and testimony to the power of God to work miracles in our day and time and heal our land?