“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”
What’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine. This is the way of the world. Or is it? It is the way of the world, but to think that the way the world is, is the way it should be, is to miss what we see all around us: The world often barreling – sometimes dramatically – off course, because we’re at the helm.
So what’s the solution? We could try compulsion: We could try to force people to share. We could use the law, guilt, shame, incentives. We have tried all these things. We often build relationships, families, churches, even nations on these ways of forcing people to share. The bad news? It works. They can be powerful motivators – fear, guilt, shame, reward.
God shows us a different way: To give from the heart, without prospect of reward or recognition. To give, not because we fear, or feel less than, but because we are already united in heart and mind. That unity, of course, is a miracle. We can’t generate it on our own. Or when we do, the results end up being pretty lousy, and sometimes evil: A husband who only buys presents for his wife, if she behaves exactly as he thinks she should; a nation that only recognizes your humanity, if you say it can have complete control of all your possessions.
The miracle of unity in Christ, helps us to see and address the need of our brother or sister. When we know we are not, ultimately, on our own, but are part of a family that will never die – a family planted at the heart of the new heavens and the new earth – when we know that, we can leave what we think we “possess” behind, and press into our care of one another.
At the heart of what we are willing, or unwilling, to give, is a desire to be fully in control of ourselves – so much so, that our possessions define who we are: You are your house, your job, your spouse, your car, your zip code – all of these, put together. But that way of thinking, is a kind of tyranny: These will be your masters, if you continue to live that way.
I know only one way out of that tyranny: Jesus Christ and the new family he creates – the family called “the Church”. In that family, none of us lives or dies to ourselves, but lives and dies for one another, because Christ has already walked through the gate of death and raised us to new life. Leave the lonely house of you and your possessions behind, and enter the city of God where God himself is present to give and to attend to our every need.
Prayer: Lord, I have lived for too long, believing that it is just me and what I own, that matters. I know I can’t take anything with me, when I leave this life. Help me to press into the new family you are making in the church – the family that attends to one another’s needs, and the needs of the world. Lord, renew my heart and mind, so that when I give it can be from the heart. Amen.