The Early Church Was Not Communist - and Neither Was Jesus

You are here

The Early Church Was Not Communist - and Neither Was Jesus

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up

×

Note Acts 2:44-45 Acts 2:44-45 [44] And all that believed were together, and had all things common; [45] And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.
American King James Version×
: "Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need."

But this was a unique situation that didn't last very long. We later see that elderly widows were to be financially provided for by a common church fund only if they had no family members in the Church who could privately support them (1 Timothy 5:3-16 1 Timothy 5:3-16 [3] Honor widows that are widows indeed. [4] But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to show piety at home, and to requite their parents: for that is good and acceptable before God. [5] Now she that is a widow indeed, and desolate, trusts in God, and continues in supplications and prayers night and day. [6] But she that lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. [7] And these things give in charge, that they may be blameless. [8] But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. [9] Let not a widow be taken into the number under three score years old, having been the wife of one man. [10] Well reported of for good works; if she have brought up children, if she have lodged strangers, if she have washed the saints' feet, if she have relieved the afflicted, if she have diligently followed every good work. [11] But the younger widows refuse: for when they have begun to wax wanton against Christ, they will marry; [12] Having damnation, because they have cast off their first faith. [13] And with they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. [14] I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. [15] For some are already turned aside after Satan. [16] If any man or woman that believes have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed.
American King James Version×
). Obviously, all members of the Church's congregations at this later time were not being provided for out of a common fund—only a select number in real need.

In considering Acts 2, we should note that Christians were being persecuted. Also, thousands of new believers, some from distant lands, had just been added to the Church at the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem.

No doubt many decided to remain in Judea at that time to learn more about their new faith and rely on one another through growing persecution rather than return to their homes far away. These people thus had an immediate need for food and lodging, and a voluntary pooling of resources took care of that.   

The believers at the time felt extremely blessed, grateful, hospitable and generous. Many who had extra assets sold some of them to help finance the living expenses of others. The expression "all things in common" means this: "I love you, and therefore your needs are just as important to me as my own needs. I consider all that I have as being yours also."

However, keep in mind that they could not sell what they did not own. They were voluntarily selling some of their privately owned property so they could help others. This was charity, not communism. No one was compelled to sell his property, nor did anyone confiscate one's property or income to give it to others, as many governments do today.

Acts 4:32-35 Acts 4:32-35 [32] And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. [33] And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was on them all. [34] Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, [35] And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made to every man according as he had need.
American King James Version×
, which follows shortly after in time order, shows that the pooling of resources was still going on. The account of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11 Acts 5:1-11 [1] But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, [2] And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. [3] But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? [4] Whiles it remained, was it not your own? and after it was sold, was it not in your own power? why have you conceived this thing in your heart? you have not lied to men, but to God. [5] And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. [6] And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. [7] And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. [8] And Peter answered to her, Tell me whether you sold the land for so much? And she said, Yes, for so much. [9] Then Peter said to her, How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried your husband are at the door, and shall carry you out. [10] Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. [11] And great fear came on all the church, and on as many as heard these things.
American King James Version×
adds further clarity. God did not execute judgment on these two for their refusing to share, but for their telling a lie to make themselves look good.

The apostle Peter asked Ananias, "While it [their possession] remained [unsold], was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?" The couple was not obligated either to sell their land or to give away the proceeds. Again, this was not communism or socialism.

The words of Jesus Himself should make it even clearer. In His parables of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20, He portrayed God as a vineyard owner paying different employees the same agreed-on amount even if they worked for less time.

The employees who worked longer thought it unfair. But the owner, representing God, replies to one: "Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?" (verses 13-15).

To the final question here, communists and socialists, and those with such leanings, would answer no—since in those systems the community or state decides. Jesus' statement, while figurative of spiritual principles, is nevertheless a ringing endorsement of both private ownership and free market exchange without wage control. He was certainly no communist—and neither were His followers. 

You might also be interested in...