Reflecting on Acts for the Sunday of Divine Mercy

From Acts of the Apostles, by William S. Kurz, SJ, commenting on Acts 2:42-47

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All who believed were together, which indicates that they gathered often in settings such as their homes and the temple (2:46). That they had all things in common indicates that their intense spiritual unity led to a sharing of material possessions. This sharing, in direct contrast to the human tendency toward possessiveness, is a powerful testimony to the presence of the kingdom inaugurated by Jesus.

Luke’s portrayal of the early Christian community later became an inspiration for communal ownership of goods in monastic communities, in which monks literally surrender all worldly goods to the common account. Luke, however, does not indicate that all Christians practiced such strict sharing of goods. When Peter rebukes Ananias’s dishonest claim about his land sale, he says, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? And when it was sold, was it not still under your control?” (see Acts 5:4).

Luke’s words echo a well-known Hellenistic proverb about friendship: “Friends hold all things in common.” The proverb declares that friends are willing to share all things when there is need, although usually they do not literally do so.

What did happen in the early Christian community was that some wealthy members would sell their property and possessions, as Barnabas did in Acts 4:36–37, to divide them among all according to each one’s need.  That is, those who had extra goods sold them to provide for the needs of the poor, especially widows and orphans (Acts 6:1). Among all the members was a bond of “friendship,” mutual care, that was astounding and powerfully attractive to those who observed it.

© 2013 William S. Kurz, and Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.