The Communalists

pen, checks, and bills
Image credit: <a href="">Ramberg Media Images</a>

Acts 4:32-35

Everyone in the community was unanimous. They considered each other the same as themselves, and nobody counted anything as their own, but as the community’s. Those who had been sent told their witness of the resurrection so convincingly that everyone was inspired to graciousness. So it was that nobody ever went without. Whoever owned land or houses sold them and gave the proceeds to the community. They gave it all to the those who’d been sent, and they, in turn, passed it out according to what needs people had.

Early Christians weren’t communists because they ascribed to an economic theory. They were communist because that was how they made sure everyone’s needs were met. It’s probably more accurate to say they were communalists.

Behind the community’s practice, it’s clear that there are two things going on.

First, there is an agreement that everyone really is equal, and that equality is understood, not in a theoretical “all are endowed by their creator” sense, but as a moral obligation to the other.

Second, there is a convincing witness of the resurrection that inspires graciousness. It’s not enough to simply assent to the idea that “Jesus is risen.” Lots of mean people will say they believe in the resurrection, but they don’t care about anyone but themselves. Not so convincing. A convincing witness to the resurrection is a story that inspires people to live in a resurrected way – to live graciously in relationship with others.

It’s not about the particular economic system of the community. It’s about the moral character of the community. Whatever economic system you go with, the same question applies: Is everyone taken care of according to their need? A community’s budget is a moral document.