And 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. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For 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 and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.
Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
The early church was very different from church today but not because they had sound doctrine (which they did) but more so because they were unified in the love and support of each other. They had to be in many senses because the rulers of the Jews had taken such a strong stance against them. They turned to supporting each other in any way they could. It should also be noted that they were ministering in great power.
The main thing people talk about in this passage s the notion that the early church was some sort of communism or socialism as far as economics. It should be noted though that if it was this was not forced and later on disappears once the church spreads beyond the borders of Jerusalem. This is one of those cases where the church did what was necessary at that moment to both demonstrate love for one another and survive. It is not something that was mandated by the church it is simply something that happened. There is no evidence that it was God directed.
The thing is this did lead to a problem of people trying to outdo each other in generosity and it is interesting that after a terrible incident that resulted form this ‘peer pressure’ the practice seems to slow down and in some cases stop altogether. On a practical level it was also unsustainable. What happens when everyone gives everything and there is nothing left to sell or give? I think the early church needed this at the time and at times needs it still but it should never be forced or it isn’t true charity.
Next: Ananias and Sapphira