In Acts 2:44–45 and 4:32–37, Luke presents pictures of the early Christian communities of disciples supporting one another and those in need in the wider community by the generous sharing of their resources. They shared and sold possessions to create a common fund which could be used to support those in need of income or resources. The fund may also have supported the apostles and, later on, the deacons and others. It was a powerfully prophetic, countercultural expression of community then. It remains so today. Much of 21st-century western culture encourages us to live separate, independent lives protecting our individuality, our privacy and our belongings. The same attitude is also becoming more prominent within the politics of nation states.
In Acts 2:44, we hear that the disciples were together and had ‘all things in common’. As you explore this habit of Sharing Resources, you may like to reflect on what having all things in common meant to those early Christians, and how we relate that to our lives today personally and collectively in holy living.
This is a particularly challenging habit. It is not about offering others what you can spare. Nor is it about taking from others what you fancy. To share something requires us to change our relationship with that item, perhaps relinquishing our power over it, or taking more account of how we use it. Sharing roles or gifts may mean accepting that a task is not completed to your own exacting standard. Sharing ideas or thoughts may make you vulnerable. True sharing is about working together in an open, honest and thoughtful manner without any hidden agendas. Sharing can be costly and demanding but it is a way to life-giving and transformational experience.
I wonder how you would feel if you were sitting in your kitchen, having your first cuppa of the day, and another member of the church let themselves into your home, helped themselves to a cup of sugar, and left again. Or indeed, how comfortable would you feel walking into another church member’s home and helping yourself in such a manner? I am sure that we would not begrudge most people a cup of sugar, but I suspect there are very few people we would want to have such free and open access to our private spaces. Similarly, we are very cautious of invading others’ privacy.
To have ‘all things in common’ is about both giving and receiving, and it needs to be mutual. It could mean sharing belongings, skills, ideas, time or roles. Sharing may not be the obvious route to take, and it may take courage to initiate it, but from those occasions where we have shared deeply with others, we know that it is often ultimately more rewarding than simply giving.
Sharing resources involves changing the way we think and the way we operate. As you explore this holy habit, think about the different relationships that you have, with individuals, the church, the community and the world. What do you currently have in common and what opportunities are there for sharing and growing that commonality or understanding?How will your relationships grow and become more exciting by sharing more?