On Stewardship and the Orthodox Life - Part 39: The Common Life in the Spirit

“… they had everything in common.” (Acts 4:32 RSV)

People in our Western culture think almost exclusively in terms of private ownership of possessions. We assume this is natural, that it is the way God intended the world to operate. We think that some things are mine, while other things belong to someone else. This is the way of the world.

This is the way we think because most of us were raised by our parents to believe that each of us earns his or her own property. Thus, everyone has a claim to own that which each has earned. That includes land, money or any other kinds of possession. Each of us grows up this way, and we discover that life is pretty well organized according to this understanding. This is mine. This is yours. I don’t touch yours. You don’t touch mine. Wars are often fought over violation of these seemingly natural principles.

And then comes the description of the earliest Church in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles: “…and no one said that any of the things which he possessed was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32 RSV). Really? What, we think, would cause anyone to act in such a way that conflicts so radically from what appears to be the natural, the normal way of life?

What would cause it? The answer is rather clear from Holy Apostle Luke’s accounts of events that have happened up to that time. Christ has risen from the dead. The power of the resurrection unleashed the power of the Holy Spirit fifty days later. The result was some rather startling behavior. Not only did the early Christians “witness with great power,” no one claimed private ownership of anything.

When the Spirit of the Risen Christ comes upon the community of faith and the people in it, people get the courage to rise up beyond the rather petty “This is mine/This is yours” debate. Rather than looking inward to the wants of self (can we call this sin?), by the power of the Holy Spirit, we offer our possessions (is anything ours anyway?) for the common good.

In case we want to see what happened in the early Church to members of the community who withheld “their” possessions from the common life? The story of Ananias and Sapphira can be found at Luke 5:1-11.

 This weekly series of brief thoughts on stewardship and Orthodox life is brought to you by your Diocesan Stewardship Commission.

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