Giving according to Paul, Peter and Marx

Posted: September 15, 2011 in Business and career, Life, Me and God, Me and people, Politics, The Bible, The Church

A few days ago I read a blog in which the author stated that Christians, following the example from Acts 2 and Acts 4, should be the first group to be in  favor of socialism and that Christianity was the basis or Marxism. He went as far as to say that God feels so strongly about this issue, that He “terminated” Ananias and Sapphira’s life for not giving all the money to the church when they sold their land.

Is this true? As Christians, should we sell all of our possessions and give the proceeds to the “Church leadership central bank” –or the government? Should we follow an economic system according to Karl Marx’s “From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”?

Last night, as our men’s group is going through the book of Acts (what a fine group of guys by the way), we discussed several aspects of giving according to what we read in the Scriptures and we came to the following conclusions that I thought I would share with all my two readers:

  • Any un-Biblical excuse to give, can be as harmful as any un-Biblical excuse for not giving. We can easily fall into either one.
  • Not everything we read in the book of Acts or the Bible is meant to be imitated; otherwise we could justify chopping policemen’s ears, committing suicide, or praying for fire from heaven upon our enemies. Some things in the Bible are just historical factual references.
  • In order not to fall into the trap of picking and choosing what we follow and don’t follow from the Bible according to our own ideas, a good rule of thumb is to follow what meets these three criteria: (a) Jesus taught or commanded it, (b) the early church practiced it, AND (c) the epistles confirm it. Such is the case of baptism in water, prayer, study of the Scriptures, repentance, striving to live lives of good reputation etc

With that being said, what does the Bible tell us about giving? What can we conclude from the timeline the Bible gives us? Let’s start from those passages in Acts and see what we can gather:

  • In Acts 2  and 4  (about 32 AD), as the church starts to exist, they sell their possessions and give the proceeds to a common administrator: the Apostles.
  • We don’t have any report of other churches following the same method in the following years as Christianity starts growing and expanding throughout Asia and today’s Europe
  • About 9 years later there is a famine in the Jerusalem area and the church there does not have enough to support themselves. Therefore, the churches in Asia gather offerings to help them
  • Around the year 54 AD, some 21 years after Acts 2, there seems to be the need of gathering another offering for the church in Jerusalem
  • Around year 57 AD, some 25 years after Acts 2, there seems to be yet another collection taken for the church in Jerusalem.

Considering that we were not commanded to “sell all our possessions and give the proceeds to the leadership” by either Jesus nor the Apostolic writings, we only have left an activity that took place in the church –a report of something that happened not necessarily meant to be imitated. Does the previous timeline conclusively prove that their “quasi-communist” system was flawed? No!; at least not 100% conclusively. There could have been other factors that affected the outcome of Jerusalem being the only church so often needing help from the other churches. It may however, gives us at least a hint that it may not be the best economic strategy.

So, what do we do? Do we just not give? No!.

First of all, The Bible is very clear that we are to obey the law of the land -and that includes abiding by the current tax laws. Also, I believe Paul tells us very clearly in 2 Corinthians 9  that we, as Christians, perhaps are better off, giving, giving and giving more. Not out of obligation, not out of guilt or pressure –perhaps not even out of “having the government imposing giving through the law”, but “willingly”, cheerfully, out of generosity, out of love. Not because we “have to” but because we “get to”. Not as one who expects something back from the receiver but as one who believes in the ultimate Giver’s reward.

We don’t have to wait until the government changes, taxes are low and we have more money available to give. We can and should start now. As the church in Macedonia did, we can give even if we are poor

Now, so that this blog doesn’t become a treaty, and so that I keep my 1 page-blog rule, stay tuned for the next entry in which I will share our conclusions on when to give and who to give to.

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Comments
  1. Adam says:

    Great Post! I love ” Not everything we read in the book of Acts or the Bible is meant to be imitated; otherwise we could justify chopping policemen’s ears, committing suicide, or praying for fire from heaven upon our enemies. Some things in the Bible are just historical factual references”

    Giving should be fun, and I believe once we begin giving that way something inside of us changes making giving a joyful thing, something we actually WANT to do…

  2. Marcia says:

    I find your opening statement very interesting and your response to it very thoughtful. I also think the conclusions you came to were perfect in every way but as I looked at the opening statement some thoughts came to my mind that I don’t think were covered.

    One of the things I like to do when I read statements like this one is to look to see if the statements themselves are accurately stated, and also make sense. If I can “debunk” them, then I don’t have to worry that I am not “living” by them because they would then be falsehoods.

    Here is the statement I refer to: A few days ago I read a blog in which the author stated that Christians, following the example from Acts 2 and Acts 4, should be the first group to be in favor of socialism and that Christianity was the basis for Marxism. He went as far as to say that God feels so strongly about this issue, that He “terminated” Ananias and Sapphira’s life for not giving all the money to the church when they sold their land.

    So many conclusions are being reached here that I want to stop and take a look at each conclusion. When I break it down I first notice there is a “should” statement. This sets off alarms for me. Most times when one person says “should” statements such as “they should do this” or “they should do that” they are making assumptions about how others should act and are placing themselves in the remote position of “judge” from a distance. They are not walking or living the situation they are commenting on it. “Should” statements are often simply opinion from someone who probably is not willing to do what he thinks others should do which makes me begin to look even more carefully at the rest of the statements.

    This author said that, “Christians, following the example from Acts 2 and Acts 4, should be the first group to be in favor of socialism and that Christianity was the basis of Marxism.” These two statements do not actually “compute.” What the early Christians did was voluntarily form their own group of people who were waiting for what they thought was the immediate return of Jesus Christ. In that small group, they were separate from the rest of the people they lived among (their neighbors). They shared their material belongings with one another through the means of the church group and the church group took on the responsibility of feeding, housing, and caring for the voluntary members of this group.

    Socialism as practiced by Marx was not about a small group of people formed around a similar self directed purpose but the entire government of a nation imposing its will on its people “for their own good” or rather a dictatorship. Carl Marx did not come up with his ideas in order to be a better Christian or to promote Christianity, as anyone who knows history will attest to, so his philosophy was not based on Christianity. Marx’s motives were political and about controlling others. He wanted to remove their “choice” and impose “goodness” on them because he did not think them capable of living rightly on their own… rather more like the motives of Satan. The Christians motives were about sharing a common goal and concern amongst themselves, so even though “living in common” may, to some, look similar in these two situations, the motives were very different and the “administration” of these two systems is completely opposite of one another.

    That author also said, as quoted: “He went as far as to say that God feels so strongly about this issue, that He ‘terminated’ Ananias and Sapphira’s life for not giving all the money to the church when they sold their land.” The falsehood in this statement is about why Ananias and Sapphira’s lives were taken. It was not because they would not give their money to the church, but because they lied to the Holy Spirit and told Peter they had given all when they had not.

    Their motives were selfish in that once they sold their property (to copy another honorable Christian’s actions and to be praised as he was) they then began to covet the money and only offered half of it to the group. They made a pact with one another to say that they had given all when they had given only half. They wanted the glory for themselves. They died because they were covetous and liars and cheats. Peter even implies in the following passage that if they had given half and stated the truth about it, that would have been acceptable to God and the church group:

    Acts 5: 4 “While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”

    Their lives were not taken as an execution by man, they simply fell to the ground and died on the spot, executed by God who takes lying to Him, coveting money, and cheating His people very seriously.

    I think that if any group of Christians wants to band together and decide amongst themselves that they wish to imitate those early Christians, there is no law against it. I think the group stopped doing this because, as you stated, it did not work. The evidence, as you pointed out, is that the Jerusalem church (which is the only place this was instituted) needed to be bailed out three times by the rest of the church.

    Clearly they were living in perilous times and being persecuted by the Jews and also by the pagans. Their idyllic lifestyle that they had created for themselves was crushed and they were scattered in the Dispersion. It kind to looks to me like God wanted them traveling and teaching, not squatting where they were and waiting for a handout.

    Only God knows when the return of Jesus Christ will be. So no matter whether it was the recent debacle that we witnessed when a false prophet predicted the “exact” date of His immediate return, or the early Christians banding together based on His immediate return, they were both wrong in their thinking. Clearly, if we are going to copy the actions of people in the Bible we should probably look carefully to see what happened to them and not copy things that God did not command them to do, exactly as you stated so well.

    I think the conclusions you came to were excellent and right on, which shows how much you are lead in your teaching by the Holy Spirit. Thanks for sharing and I hope you don’t mind my “additional view point.”

  3. […] Comments Marcia on Giving according to Paul, Pete…Adam on Giving according to Paul, Pete…Scott on Random Bible Coincidences: Dan…Felipe […]

  4. SteveLee says:

    Israel, in the time of Acts, did have communes, or kibbutzim, as they called them. In fact, they still have them for younger people. That was a cultural thing that apparently the church in Jerusalem adopted. And, obviously, it didn’t work out very well, because you don’t hear too much about it afterward.

    But, I would say to your friend, if he wants to run a society as a commune, we can do that, as long as we adopt God’s law as the framework. But being as Marx was an atheist, I’m sure that he did not want that.

    Besides, the book of Acts tells us very specifically why Ananias and Sapphira were killed. It was because they lied to the Holy Spirit. They could have very well said, “We sold our land and here is 80% of the profits.” If that were true, they would have been just fine. Instead they tried to make themselves out as better than they were so that they could look good to the rest of the church.

    My 2¢ worth.

    SteveLee (aka The 3rd Reader)

  5. […] a false doctrine or erred teaching (call it baptism of the Holy Spirit, the end of the world, giving to the poor, or even politics). Nevertheless, what if your interpretations are wrong? Hopefully being wrong […]

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