Weekly Bible Reflection
Mark's Alternative Economy
Second Sunday of Easter
Text: Acts 4. 32-35. "Communal Transformation "
Begin by using the Bible Study method as outlined
Share with one another any experiences you have had of people going beyond the accepted conventions in terms of sharing their wealth and possessions. What motivated this action?
A Window on the Text
It is interesting how Luke builds into his narrative a description of the lifestyle of the early Christian communities. The Pentecost experience brings about a complete transformation of attitude towards material wealth. In chapter 2 we are told that members of the community sold their possessions and goods, and the proceeds were distributed to all according to need (v45). Luke repeats the description in chapter 4 signalling the dawning of an age in which the notion of private ownership is abandoned. The Christians held ‘all things in common’ (v32). Of all the gifts brought for distribution, the generosity of Barnabas of Cyprus stands out (v36).
Some scholars argue that this lifestyle came into being because the community believed the return of Christ was immanent. This may partially explain the practice but there are more obvious reasons for it. It has its origin in the ideas that Jesus shared with his followers. Jesus taught that everything belongs to God. There is no such thing as private ownership – we are stewards of creation. All that we have is entrusted to us by a generous heavenly Father. To claim God as Father requires that we see every human being as a sister or brother, as a member of the one human family. Jesus went so far as saying that even our enemies are to be treated as family ! You cannot go to the Father and assume you will be welcome if, at the same time, you ignore the needs of a brother or sister (see Matthew 25 v31f).
When explaining the basis of this extraordinary lifestyle, the early Christians pointed to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. They were saying: ‘this sharing of possessions is happening among us because Jesus was raised up from the dead’! In other words, the power of the resurrection was at work in them and between them – a whole new lease of energy transforming relationships.
There is no evidence to suggest that anything less is expected of Christians today! Maybe, we need to return to these basics in a world where such a vast proportion of the population goes hungry every day. What we believe is always seen in what we do.
Responding as a community
- Do you agree that the notion of holding things in common as opposed to private ownership is meant to be the Christian norm? Why or why not?
- In what ways might the redistribution of wealth be practiced in the twenty-first century? Can you think of some examples? What practical action might you take as a group as a way of living out the ‘holding of things in common’?
- Clearly, people were asking questions about the outlandish lifestyle of the early Christian communities. They, in turn, explained it in terms of the resurrection. To what extent are people asking questions about the lifestyle of your Christian community? What provokes those questions?
- In Luke, at the first point of contact with non-believers, the Christians explained the gospel in terms of the resurrection. To what extent does the resurrection feature in your explanation of the gospel?
(For the leader of the prayer time)
Invite everyone in the group to take something of value on their person (a watch, a purse, a wallet, jewellery) and to place it around a lighted candle in the middle of the circle.
Ask people to focus on their feelings as they do this, in light of the reading and discussion.
Then invite people to listen to the prayer that the Holy Spirit is forming in their innermost being and ask them to allow it to be offered up in words, in silence or in actions (dance).
Close by saying together the Lord’s Prayer.
Mark's Alternative Economy - Discussion