I know my dream didn’t originated with me. I was reading again in Acts 2 and 4 of what I would call the DNA of the early church. Qualities and characteristics that flowed naturally out a believers life. Sure there is commitment to the apostles teaching, to the breaking of bread, to fellowship and to prayer. I think one of the characteristics of the early church that we miss today in the church is the open-handedness that these early Jesus followers had with one another.
A couple of verses from my quiet time really spoke to me this morning:
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone has he had need” (Acts 2:44-45)
“All the believers were on in heart and mind. No one claimed that nay of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had…there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostle’s feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need” (Acts 4:32,34).
What a concept?! The church was selfless, not driven by materialistic impulses and cared deeply enough about each other that there were no needy persons among them. I wonder what would happen within our congregations if we really believed and practiced this sort of open-handedness? Why, it would shock people. I venture, there would be some who would frown at this concept. Their mentality being, “well, I worked hard for these things, and my money, and I will decide in what way I will spend it.” I don’t think Christians have an option do we? If we are truly seeking God, where is our focus to be? On seeking the kingdom of God first. I think the parable of the rich young ruler haunts to many of our congregations today. Compared to the rest of the world, we are rich people, and yet there are poor among us. There are probably very wealthy congregations, and yet there are families who are straining to barely get by. Our mindset is totally focused on our stuff, and getting more of it, that we’ve forgotten that our money, and our stuff don’t really belong to us any way. The rich young ruler asks Jesus a question about doing in order to get into heaven. Certainly there is a need for good upstanding people to be good moral people, but when following Jesus gets tough is when Jesus tells the rich young man to sell all his stuff and give the money to the poor. The church today hears this parable and we say, “you tell him, Jesus.” And we pretend that these words don’t apply to us. I know some will protest, “I have a mortgage payment, and a car payment, and other various bills.” Okay, fine, but where is the rest of your money going? Towards eating out all the time, to buy the latest and greatest gadgets? I think it shows how much love God by the way we spend our money.
I still long for the day when at my church, there will be no needy persons among us. I pray that this is your dream too. I think this sort of mentality about being open-handed will be attractive to lost people. And we have some people come for the wrong reasons, to have their physical needs met, and when they come, it is up to the church to respond to also care for the deeper needs of the person. I think if we used worldly wealth to gain friends for ourselves as Jesus talked about, then we truly are living missionally. Jesus makes a hard statement about our money, not indicating that we are to buy friendship, but as we use our money, we are being a friend to those who have needs. We are living out the parable of the Good Samaritan. We are being a neighbor to those in need and not afraid to give. Maybe one day the church will wake up!