Acts 4:32-37 United in Everything
We get a quick peek into the everyday lives of the new church today. Luke doesn’t elaborate on every aspect but he does point out a few. One he particularly highlights is their caring for one another’s needs.
Luke starts by telling us that the WHOLE group of believers were in united. “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul” (verse 32a). They were all receiving the same teaching from the apostles and the apostle’s doctrine was consistent throughout the group. At this point there was NO division.
Luke also tells makes sure to tell us about how they were caring for each other. “No one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (verse 32b). They shared EVERYTHING! There was no have’s and have not’s in this group. Everyone who initially had anything of value sold it and brought the proceeds to the apostles to distribute wherever they saw a need. Boy Judas would have had a hay day with this arrangement!
I don’t believe this arrangement engendered a lazy class who didn’t have to work because others were there to take care of them. Rather it fostered a desire to do all one could to help out the whole group. No need went unmet and everyone contributed, in some way, to the overall success of the group.
Luke points out two individual accounts of such “generosity.” The first one we see in our reading tonight. The second is a story unto itself and we will look at it the next time.
I’m not certain why Luke chose to use Joseph as an example of the good steward. Joseph did everything right though. Joseph was birthed into the fold through the testimony of the apostle Barnabas. This is the same Barnabas who would later travel with the apostle Paul, but I am getting ahead of myself.
Joseph was a Levite and a native of Cyrus. He had traveled some distance to be in Jerusalem. I don’t know if he came on a pilgrimage or if he had moved to Jerusalem a while earlier. Cyprus is an island off the coast of Israel in the Mediterranean Sea. It is 254 miles (straight line) between the two points. We also know he is a Levite. The Levites were not given an inheritance in Israel as the tithe was to be their portion so Joseph must have worked independently to acquire the field he owned. I imagine it took him a long time to save the money to pay for it. It represented his hard labor. But he willingly parted with it. He sold it and brought ALL the proceeds and gave it to the apostles to do with as they saw fit.
That brings up a point in my life. I have seen SO MANY people who give gifts or pay someone for something, then get upset over how the other uses the gift or money. To me, unless you present the initial item and stipulate any kind of strings that are attached, the person is free to do with it as they see fit. I cannot become angry with someone for “giving my rent money to someone else” instead of using it as I think they should. Once it leaves my hands it is NOT mine anymore! The same with an actual tangible gift. If I truly give it to you as a gift I have no right to say how you use it. Seeing how you use it may impact my desire to give you additional gifts though.
This is how God is with us. He gives us gifts. They can be our talents or finances or even our looks. God gave them to us and wants us to use them to further His Kingdom. But He doesn’t give them to us with strings attached. He puts them in our hands and lets us decide how we want to use them. Some of us use them for good. Some use them for evil. And some hide them away to prevent them from getting “ruined.” How we use what He gives us helps Him decide what future gifts He wants to give but He doesn’t take away what He gave us just because we didn’t use it how He thought we should. We suffer the consequences of our own actions if we abuse the gifts He gives us, but that is our doing, not His.
The GREATEST gift He ever gave was His Son Jesus. He gave us salvation through that gift alone. We can choose to accept that gift, no strings attached, or we can reject it. I will tell you this though; when you accept that gift YOU will be changed by it. You cannot truly accept it without understanding how precious it is. This gift is one that you learn to appreciate more and more each day.
Father God, I have no idea how we got to this topic, but I trust Your process in my life. Thank You for Your gifts in my life; the first being my salvation. I am lost without You. Thank You for the gift of music, a heart for children, and writing too. Thank You for allowing me to use these gifts to benefit others as well as feel blessed by them myself. Even the silliest song can change my attitude. THAT is a gift I cannot thank You enough for! Thank You for restoring it to me too after I hid it away for a while. Thank You that You don’t punish me for not using Your gifts better. Thank You for each new gift, big or small, in my life. Help me offer my gifts to others the same way You offer Yours to me. Without strings attached and with a heart of love.