To share everything is commanded in Scripture and eradicates poverty better than anything else.
Last week I was attending one of the bigger Christian conferences here in Sweden called Torp, where I was speaking on the topic of how to combine miracles, evangelism and social justice. I pointed to the fact that Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 does not just include signs and wonders but also community of goods, i.e. having all possessions in common so that nobody is rich and nobody is poor (Acts 2:44-45). I argued that if we want to resurrect the spiritual power and evangelism of the Biblical Pentecost we ought also want to resurrect community of goods. I developed my thoughts on community of goods and how it relates to Jesus’ command to sell everything one has in this MennoNerd video:
These thoughts were new and radical to several of those who were listening. Some were curious, others sceptical. One pastor in particular raised two objections. Firstly, he said, community of goods cannot be equated with using Spiritual gifts or doing evangelism because there is no command saying “practise community of goods”, just a description of how the early Christians did so. Secondly, the pastor thought that the Swedish evangelical church was already very generous when it comes to giving alms to the poor, so he saw no need of preaching community of goods as something we should resurrect in evangelicalism.
My direct response to his first question repeated what I had been saying in the lecture, and that I briefly talk about in the video above, namely that community of goods is the practical application of Jesus’ command to sell everything one has and give the money to the poor – which he gives not just to one rich young ruler (Mk 10:21) but to all his disciples (Lk 12:33). Jesus himself practised community of goods with his disciples (Jn 13:29), and he told them to teach their new disciples to do everything he had commanded them to do (Mt 28:20). To sell everything one has doesn’t mean to live completely without possessions, for then the early Christians would have been nudists, instead we see how the community of goods in the book of Acts is described as being the consequence of the early Christians selling everything they have (Acts 4:32-35).
Furthermore, the premise of the pastor’s objection – that descriptions of actions have less normative value than commands – is nowhere to be found in Scripture. We are told to follow the apostolic example as the apostles followed Christ (1 Cor 11:1), and to live like Jesus lived (1 Jn 2:6). It’s a bit hypocritical to view the apostle’s words as being so normative as to call them the Word of God, but not viewing their actions as normative even when Christ himself partook in the same type of actions! Clearly, this objection doesn’t hold.
The second objection is even weaker. Swedish people in general are very rich – we do live in one of the top 20 richest countries in the world. If everyone lived like a Swede we would need 3.7 planets, due to the extreme overconsumption and material luxury that follows the Swedish lifestyle. Evangelical Christians hardly differ from their secular countrymen at all in that respect. Just at this conference, hundreds of caravans stood side by side to accommodate Christian families. People wear makeup and jewelry, possess watches and expensive electronics, boats, vacation houses, flat screen TV:s, etcetera. Swedish Christians, along with most other Western Christians, are very rich.
Meanwhile, thousands of children die from poverty every day. People perish in treatable illnesses like malaria and diarea. Climate change kills thousands and will kill even more during the coming years. 800 million people lack clean water, 50 million people flee from persecution and war.
Not much has changed since Ron Sider wrote his book Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger in the 1970’s. God bless Christian aid workers and those who support it, but as long as we keep most of our stuff and money for ourselves, we give to little. Voluntarily generosity is insufficient to establish economic inequality, for almost all Christians in the West keep to much for themselves.
Community of goods solves this problem; it completely eradicates poverty and is thus the most effective tool I know of when it comes to creating economic equality. That’s why I love it and want to practise it. Are you interested in it as well?