Sharing is not a natural concept. Anyone who has brought up children knows this for a fact! The toddler does not like to share; they have to be taught to do this. Their natural tendency is to want to keep all the toys for themselves. They don’t like sharing; they don’t like taking turns; they don’t like waiting. In their world, everything revolves around them.
This is a picture of people in general: it’s just seen in the pure, unadulterated form in a toddler (whose tantrums when encouraged to share can be truly impressive.) We are all selfish creatures who believe we’re the centre of the universe.
As we encourage the toddler to share, it’s interesting to note that they understand this concept easily; they just don’t like doing it. So my granddaughter is more than happy to come to any member of the family who is eating something interesting and say, ‘Share!’ But she is not happy if we ask her to share her food!
In the New Testament, we are introduced into a new kind of sharing, known as ‘koinonia’ or fellowship. This sharing marked out the church as something different. Acts 2:42 tells us the believers devoted themselves to fellowship and goes on to give us challenging and practical examples of what this looked like. (‘All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.’ Acts 2:44-45) Over the years, believers have struggled to work out what this looks like in their present times. The concept of monks who took vows of poverty was one example of this (everything they owned before becoming a monk was given to the monastery; there was a ‘pooling’ of resources), as were some hippie communes in the 1960s. Even communism, in some ways, was an attempt to look at communal resourcing and to eliminate the divide between the rich and the poor.
However we interpret these verses, the call to share our lives with others is one which the selfish self will rebel against. We don’t really like sharing. We don’t really like honouring others and putting their interests before our own. But Paul tells us that if we have any fellowship or common sharing in the Spirit, this is what we must do. (Phil 2:1-4) The fellowship which God gives us with Himself (see 1 Cor 1:9, 2 Cor 13:4, 1 John 1:3) has to be worked out practically in every other relationship we have. (1 John 3:14-18)
I don’t know about you, but I’m as challenged as any toddler by this one word, ‘koinonia’. Sharing is the grass roots of our faith. We’ve been given so much, Paul says, that our new natural response must be to share. That will only happen as the old sinful nature is put to death and the new spiritual nature allowed to flourish.