Many today imagine that a strong federal government that takes from the “rich” and redistributes that to the “poor” is consistent with the sharing of the community of believers in Acts chapter 4. This is quite simply not the case as there are a number of key distinctions we shall cover in this teaching.
Sharing among Believers
32And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. 33And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. 34For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales 35and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.
36Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), 37and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Note that the community of believers in Acts 4 was just that… a community of believers or followers of Jesus Christ. It was not a community involving those who rejected Jesus and lived according to their own desires. They were filled with the Holy Spirit and abundant grace was upon them. Those who rejected the values and teachings of Jesus were not part of this community. This fact is crucial in understanding why this approach worked for the Acts 4 community, but has failed every time a government has tried to employ forced redistribution of wealth among its people throughout time.
Socialism and communism repeatedly fail. Capitalism gives rise to the most prosperity across the population. Even within a somewhat capitalist system, such as the current situation in the USA, the government interference to constantly take money from some to give to others results in a great burden that threatens to collapse the economic success of the nation.
Why? When a strong government forces redistribution among its people, inevitably the government is also denying God’s authority so as to assert its own authority as unchallenged. Further, it includes all manner of people, not just Spirit filled believers. In this, the selfish nature of the unbeliever (and many believers who are struggling to follow Christ fully) is the downfall of these systems. Many people choose not to work or not to work as hard because it does not benefit them personally. On the other hand, in true capitalism, that same selfish nature is channeled across the population to create business, jobs, and wealth. It lifts the economic well being of the whole nation.
For a sharing community to truly work, it must be centered on Christ and include only true followers of Jesus Christ. Those who choose not to work, choose not to eat. All work together to contribute as much as they can and take as little as they absolutely need.
6Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 7For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, 8nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship we kept working night and day so that we would not be a burden to any of you; 9not because we do not have the right to this, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you, so that you would follow our example. 10For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. 11For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. 12Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread. 13But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
14If anyone does not obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and do not associate with him, so that he will be put to shame. 15Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.
In the community of Spirit filled believers in Acts, the poor people were likely not acting selfishly any more than the rich. So we can assume they took only what they needed and worked to provide what they could to help others.
Lastly, we must never forget or overlook that it was a community receiving the abundant grace and blessing of God because they honored Him through proclaiming and following the teaching of Jesus Christ! Government can not replace God as our provider and guide for a full and blessed life that our Father wants for each of us.
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