Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means "son of encouragement"). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
The Lord is king, with majesty enrobed;
the Lord has robed himself with might,
he has girded himself with power. (R./)
The world you made firm, not to be moved;
your throne has stood firm from of old.
From all eternity, O Lord, you are. (R./)
Truly your decrees are to be trusted.
Holiness is fitting to your house,
O Lord, until the end of time. (R./)
Do not be astonished that I said to you, 'You must be born from above.' The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Nicodemus said to him, "How can these things be?" Jesus aswered him, "Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? "Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
Today’s story from the Acts raises the issue whether a fair sharing of property can and even should be a fundamental concern of the church. We see how, at least for a while, the early Christians at Jerusalem pooled all their resources, and there was no one in financial distress. Within a generation, however, their destitution was such that Paul has to take up a collection during his travels in Greece to support the church in Jerusalem. The total sharing of goods remained as an ideal for Christians but was not prescribed as a firm rule to be observed by all.
The idealism of the early Christians can arouse our desire to relive such a full experience of community. How wonderful it would be if all of us could share everything we own, caring for one another, focussing our lives on the spirit of community and the providence of God. On the contrary, our gifts and talents often divide us one from another. We insist that our personal priorities and insights should prevail. The artist seems too impractical, the talented person too dominating, and the scholar demands our consent before we have time to think for ourselves.
Peace comes by humbly realizing that no one person has all the gifts. None of us, no matter how gifted, can succeed unless our talents are shared with others and balanced by their gifts. Willingness to share helps us keep our balance, and can bring real blessings into our lives. Spiritual growth needs community, because there is where the Spirit really dwells.