“distributed to anyone who had need” (recommended article)

A recommended article from Steve, posted on his Cross Purposes blog.

I’ve always wondered what “Christian conservatives” make of Acts 4:32-35 ?

If they read it at all, that scripture should raise some uncomfortable thoughts…


“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 was no needy person 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”. Acts 4:32-35

17 thoughts on ““distributed to anyone who had need” (recommended article)

  1. While I was home educating my children, I began coming across recommended material addressing this as well as a scenario from early “America.” I think it was Jamestown — something very early in the northeastern colonial region. They had shared, too; the moral of the stories was said to be that this didn’t work. I don’t remember the specifics on Jamestown, what went wrong. But we can read on in Acts that something went badly. I was already very familiar biblical stories and teaching, so I wasn’t looking for some sensational new kick. I thought it was curious, though, that this was being put forward as a serious moral… basically that it was wrong to share. They even went so far as to say communism was tried and failed in those situations. There were other teachings coming from the same or related sources too. I remember getting a sense of queasiness at the suggestions that were not Bible based but were presented like it’s what we are supposed to do. I later figured out it was this whole “thing” being pushed in some churches, the seven mountains. I had already backed away from organizations telling people to drop this stuff on their children at home. It was important to me that I teach my children freedom and not submission to some odd concoction mistaken for the “rule of the Lord” or something. I chose to read the Bible and teach real civics. In fact, I began a time period where I had my children practice penmanship with Bible passages about false prophets. I didn’t teach them a thing for against the seven mountains craze.

  2. But we can read on in Acts that something went badly

    I recall a pastor at a church I attended making that same (disputable) claim.
    He made it in a sermon where he was teaching “tithing”. His point seemed to be that it is foolish to exceed “the tithe” in giving – basically trying to justify the keeping of wealth by those who were wealthy. That pastor proudly owned a luxury car and a high-end motorcycle so perhaps had a vested interest in holding on to his wealth.

    But in promoting the idea of the tithe not being exceeded by those like himself who could afford to give more, he insisted that the less well-off (possibly most of the congregation) were obligated to also pay 10% of their income to the church.

  3. I wrote and posted that (some minutes ago), above, before clicking on the article link and seeing that Steve used the word communism. So, that’s interesting.

    I forgot to say that, while I told that experience in the context of home education my sons, not all home educators are or were behaving or teaching along those lines. There really is quite a variety, and I’m so glad I didn’t live in a state that would require me to choose someone else’s curriculum as an authority over me. I lived in two states, in fact. Technically three, but my first son was just under two years old when we left the state in which he was born.

  4. I recall a pastor at a church I attended making that same (disputable) claim.

    I say the claim is disputable because the pastor I refer to gave as evidence the famine mentioned in Acts 11. His reasoning was that had the rich not given up their wealth to the common purse, they wouldn’t have suffered the effects of that famine. I find that to be an unjustified assumption.

    Firstly the famine spread over the entire Roman world – which would have included Antioch. And the believers in Antioch, forewarned by prophecy, were able and willing to give enough to help the believers in Judea so their early faithfulness was rewarded by the Lord’s provision at a later date.

    Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea.

  5. I suggest reading Steve’s article again, without preconceptions of “communism”.
    Steve wasn’t comparing the early church with the soviet style system probably misnamed as “communism”.

    I suggest he was making the point that what American conservatives have been conditioned to label communism (and as a result condemn) is actually very similar to what the early church practiced., and in reality has nothing in common with the soviet political “communism” that was deemed America’s enemy.

  6. Notice that what I wrote before clicking on Steve’s article already included the word communism also; these seven mountain people were calling what happened in the Acts communism ( and bad). So that’s super interesting if the people were in the Spirit and practicing communism. I agree that it wasn’t what was happening in the very corrupt Soviet system.

    Also, I’m certainly not thinking of the famine you referred to as a bad consequence of having shared. That connection is astonishingly sad with regard to that “pastor.”

  7. This is what I was referring to; sharing ALSO didn’t make these people corrupt or liars.

    Ananias and Sapphira Acts 5
    …3Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and withhold some of the proceeds from the land? 4Did it not belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? How could you conceive such a deed in your heart? You have not lied to men, but to God!” 5On hearing these words, Ananias fell down and died. And great fear came over all who heard what had happened.…
    Berean Study Bible

  8. Here are a couple of looks at early colonial America. I’ll skip the options I saw equating communism with socialism and with theft. Sheesh. Of course, those types equate taxation at all with theft, too. I liked Steve’s pointing out that it’s as if liberal might as well be socialism and not differentiated from communism. I don’t think this “gov” place understands communism either.



  9. To be clear, the “gov” folks linked to above are not government (that would be [dot]gov). Here is another worthwhile link. I don’t agree with, or think they well stated, every point, but here is the best part:

    Quote ~ Certainly, this early sharing was noble, indicating a generosity of spirit. It is a beautiful example of love. While this type of generous giving is a permanent norm, the particular situation in Acts 2-4 seems to have been a temporary response to a particular need. We don’t see a recurrence of this scenario throughout the rest of Acts, in Paul’s letters, or in the rest of the New Testament. So what was going on here? Pentecost had just happened. People of many nations were in attendance (thus the necessity of speaking in tongues). After the initial preaching by Peter and others, there were, that first day, three thousand new believers (Acts 2:41). More and more were being added to their number each day (vs. 47). Should these new believers immediately return to their homes in other parts of Israel or elsewhere? Would they not want to continue in the apostles’ teaching, worship, fellowship, and prayers (vs. 42-46)? But then how could these visitors provide for themselves? How would they have enough to eat and a place to stay for an extended period?

    The answer is that those who had, gave to those who had not. Eventually, most of these new believers returned home. There was no longer this extraordinary need for food and shelter. The attitude of “what’s mine is yours if you need it” continued. In Acts 6, the widows were being neglected in the “daily distribution of food” and seven men were appointed to oversee that process. There was a later famine relief effort by the disciples in Acts 11:27-30. There was always a concern that the needs of the poor be met (Gal. 2:10). There were often communal meals (1 Cor. 11:20). There also were many who were wealthy and gave generously (but had not given everything away): Dorcas (Acts 9:36), Cornelius (Acts 10:1), Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:6-12), Lydia (Acts 16:14-15), Jason (Acts 17:5-9), Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:2-3), Mnason of Cyprus (Acts 21:16) and many others. The spirit of Acts 2-5 remained, but there was no push to abolish private property and establish socialism in any form. There was a concern for equitable distribution of goods to the poor (2 Cor. 8:13-15 – the Greek isotes means equitable or fair) ….

    {Note that socialism is not the abolition of private property. (Additionally, there are more than one connotations or uses of that word.) Yet I thought this section worth quoting.}

  10. I really like this last paragraph of, and am appreciative of the larger set of information in, that second (mises site) of the two links in my 1:34 pm post on the tenth.

    Quote: The first Assembly met at Jamestown on July 30, 1619, and it was this Assembly that ratified the repeal of Dale’s Laws and substituted the milder set. The introduction of representation thus went hand in hand with the new policy of liberalizing the laws; it was part and parcel of the relaxation of the previous company tyranny.
    [I added the boldface.]

    { Two thoughts on this. I will convey, first, the one that just jumped up in my mind as I went and lifted the paragraph to quote here: 1619; this is said to be the year the first African slave was delivered to the northeastern colonies. After looking around for that month, I found it was in August, and for Jamestown!

    I do recommend reading that article/page… while I don’t necessarily agree with the site philosophy.

    I will explicate my original reason for copying the above paragraph in a future post. }

  11. Man! My original reason for quoting, a few minutes ago, the last paragraph at the mises site page was that said paragraph used liberalizing in a positive manner and referenced “company tyranny.” I have been trying (for over fifteen years now) to get across to people in my everyday life (a life that has been spent mostly with “conservative” people) that company tyranny or tyranny imposed by rich people isn’t any better than a tyrannical “government.” Being oppressed by rich people in a private manner “isn’t going to be any better than being oppressed by a government,” I’ve said. You see, I’ve noticed where we’ve been headed with our policies.

    Our government is supposed to be (as we’ve developed it over the decades say prior to 1980) a balancing force for everyone rather than some kind of kleptocracy to give more and more to those who are materially already fine. But we’ve been taking away the safeguards.

    The people who have been complaining for decades (in or about or subsequent to 1980) that communism failed in Jamestown (as well as in the story in Acts) are triply mistaken! First, they’re just strait up wrong about what happened in Acts. Then there’s the double whammy that the problem in Jamestown was more about servitude and oppression than about some imagined effort to live by some tenets of communism. SO, first there were oppressed or indentured white (and poor) people. And then, even after we realize they were largely freed from their situation (which was not communism or socialism or liberalism or any of that jazz), we find out right on the heels of their relief was the introduction of black slavery!

    Wow. We really have to push back against the misinformation and lack of information that has been going on!

  12. I think what I shared, above (because of the somewhat extensive picture comparatively), fits well with the following. Yet a little more context (below) is good, too. The reason this is all relevant is because “conservatives” are largely brainwashed. For instance, what is used more is something like the “gov” [not government] site and not so much like the mises site [also not government but not potentially confusing in that regard]. And neither approach broke the news about the black arrivals. How disingenuous is it to try and convince people (voters) the problem in Jamestown was communism? The brainwashing (and lack of further information) is largely why reading Bible passages doesn’t tend to sink in on a more wide-scale manner.

    As I mentioned earlier, there is the attempt to tell people how to view what they read biblically too. Real history matters (or should), in both situations, to conservative America.

    Quote: ……….

    … Elevating 1619 has [or can have] the unintended consequence of cementing in our minds that those very same Europeans who lived quite precipitously and very much on death’s doorstep on the wisp of America were, in fact, already home. But, of course, they were not. ….


    Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/misguided-focus-1619-beginning-slavery-us-damages-our-understanding-american-history-180964873/#fMbfUCIwYEmo6fMj.99

  13. https://www.bet.com/news/features/1619/first-african-slaves-in-america.html

    Quote: In the new edited volume, Rethinking America’s Past: Voices from the Kinsey African American Art and History Collection edited by Tim Gruenewald (University of Cincinnati Press), Bernard Kinsey writes in the foreword: “One little known and fascinating story concerns Antonio and Isabela Tucker, who came to this continent in 1619 as indentured servants rather than slaves. They earned their freedom, married and had a son, William, born in 1625, who was the first child of African parents baptized in Jamestown.”

  14. A Republican PAC has now put out an advertisement showing a picture of a Democratic congresswoman being burned up, calling her a picture of socialism — and connecting her to a heinous historical atrocity overseas with which she has NO connection. Of course, they would like to connect the whole of Democrats to atrocities… with her as the icon.

  15. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/burning-aoc-ad-during-democratic-debate-sparks-outrage/ar-AAHe35k
    Quote: An advertisement showing the image of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez bursting into flames aired during ABC’s Democratic debate in Houston on Thursday……

    Quote: At least one Sinclair station ran an inflammatory ad featuring a burning photo ……

  16. “Our government is supposed to be (as we’ve developed it over the decades say prior to 1980) a balancing force for everyone rather than some kind of kleptocracy to give more and more to those who are materially already fine. But we’ve been taking away the safeguards.”

    Spot on, Marleen. Thanks too for your links to articles about “communism/socialism” and slavery in U.S. early colonial history. Colonial history is a lifelong interest of mine, and I very much enjoyed reading them.

    The start of such colonies is always interesting because human society is necessarily “stripped-down” to basics: including the most-basic human need, survival. In the New World colonies, the European social structures of “working classes” and “leisure classes” didn’t work for survival of the society.

    Your point is also well-taken that the colonists faced the same “tyranny by rich people” that we are dealing with. The companies who financed the colonists regarded them primarily in economic terms, as beings whose purpose was to produce a profit for the company: “employees” (as we’d say); and therefore SUBJECTS, of the company.

    Interestingly, the “communism” which failed in the Plymouth colony (that land should be held in common, and worked in common) was ordered by the “Merchant Adventurers” who financed the colony, and expected it to make a profit for them.

    Like European social structures, that economic model didn’t work. When onsite “governor” William Bradford, “with the advise of the cheefest amongest them,” divided the land into private parcels, Plymouth also tacitly rejected government by the wealthy (to whom they yet acknowledged their financial debt), and ensured the colony’s survival.

    Bradford’s take-away was much that of a modern historian writing about Plymouth’s survival: that “…successful economic grand strategy entails a balance between cooperation and self-interest. Extremes in one direction or the other are unsustainable.”

    The experience in Boston is also instructive. Citizens owned their own land from the start: but there was a central “Common,” community land where citizens pastured their cows. Laws had to be passed a century later, when the Common was being over-grazed by the larger herds of wealthy citizens, to mandate its equitable use for the fewer cows of the less-wealthy. Bot Boston Common is still a possession of Boston citizens in common, today as a city park.

    And indeed, the earliest Massachusetts and Virginia colonies, once freed from the rule of the mercantilist companies, constituted themselves as “socialist” governments: “commonwealths:” which are defined as “a political community founded for the common good.” To this day, the constitutions of Massachusetts and Virginia both officially declare they are “commonwealths”…not “states.”

    It’s hard to see how a government whose purpose is anything BUT “the common good” (or as the Declaration of Independence says is one purpose of government, to “promote the general Welfare”) is GOOD in any way. But as you point out, that’s clearly what we now have.

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