Generosity and sharing go hand in hand. There is much debate about private ownership and communal living in the early church, with Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-37 being cited as the ‘model’ for the New Testament church. Certainly, many people sold property and possessions and shared and gave this to the apostles, but this was always done on a voluntary basis, and since people broke bread in each other’s homes (Acts 2:46), clearly some people retained their own homes. The sin that caused such judgment on Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) was not so much that they kept money from the sale of their property but that they lied to the apostles about this; deceit and lying were the problem here, it seems.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that we should be generous people (see 2 Cor 8:5-17, 2 Cor 9: 6-11). God is a generous God and longs for us to reflect His nature in every aspect of our lives. The early church was characterised by generosity and giving, and we need to understand that there should be an overflow from our lives as we reflect on all we have received from God. (Luke 6:38) There is no place in the church for stinginess and meanness; so often, our carefulness and prudence are masks behind which our selfishness runs rampant.
Matt Skinner says, ‘the reign of the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ creates the potential for mutual service that embodies God’s justice. The life and work of a Christian community can reflect–even if only dimly–the reign of God that Jesus proclaimed while on earth and secured through his death, resurrection, and exaltation.’ Some people believe that the book of Acts shows us the ‘perfect’ church in its initial purity, but in reality, the church on earth will never be perfect, for it is made up of imperfect, flawed, sinful people. Nonetheless, one way in which we can reflect the reign of God is through our generosity to each other (and this goes beyond financial generosity to the sharing of our lives in many smaller, practical ways – a phone call to someone, a visit to someone, practical help as outlined in 1 John 3:16-18, Matt 5:39-41). This kind of living is counter-cultural and certainly goes against the grain of selfish humanity, but this passage ‘anchors humanity’s deepest hopes for community, justice, generosity and meaning specifically as a result of people coming to embrace the crucified, risen, and glorified Christ as God’s designated agent, as the particular means by which God institutes and exercises God’s reign within creation.’ (Matt Skinner) This is the church’s role as we fulfil Jesus’ commandment to love one another as our greatest tool in evangelism. (John 13:34-35)