Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Worker is Worth His Keep

Acts 2:42 says this:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

My heart is racing and my palms are sweating as I think of the possibilities, the implications. This was not a people who gathered for a Sabbath Corporate gathering and a small group once a week. This was a people who LIVED together. This was a people who formed a village in the midst of an empire, who formed a counter-culture in the face of oppression, who stood together, daily, with arms linked and hearts connected, exuding the Light of Christ in a very dark place. This was a people who lived their lives focused on the vision of being Jesus’ witness. Period.

And so they cashed everything in, knowing that together, they would take care of each other. Together, they could stand and not be in want. Together, they could demonstrate the compelling nature of our Christ.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

The part that speaks a very powerful message is the story of Ananias and Sapphira. They were part of this early faith community, and they too wanted to sell their goods and contribute to the larger vision. So they sold a piece of property and brought the money before the apostles. Except that they held back a portion of the sale for themselves, without disclosing the full amount. They reserved part of the money and did not give it as a whole, but said that they were giving it all. And they were struck dead for the act.

Not a slap on the hand. Not a “well, they’re just not in the right place.” Not an excuse from the community. Not an acknowledgement that it is their money to do with as they please and so the rest is between them and God. Nope.

Struck dead.

I often wonder about Ananias and Sapphira. Did they get scared? Did they have a moment of doubt, or selfishness, and just didn’t see it prudent to give it ALL away? Did they have something in mind that they wanted to buy for themselves alone? Did they doubt the generosity of the community and think that they were going to be short-changed? Did they grow weary of interdependence of the community and wanted freedom to break away? Did they just want more, maybe for their home? Were their needs not being met? What fueled that decision?

Reason and logic of this day and age would say that they were being good stewards, wise to set some aside. After all, it was their money and they can do with it as they please. It is nobody else's business how they decide to use it. You never know when that rainy day may come and you find yourself in need. In fact, I have heard many Christians say, in the midst of discussing this Scripture, that if they were to give everything away, then they would be the ones in need, depending on others.

As radical as it sounds, maybe that is exactly where God wants us to be. Depending on Him, through the generous hearts of each other, knowing that He. Will. Come. Through. Then we boast in nothing but Him.

That was the model that He set for us. Remember, Jesus said, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Jesus was homeless.

As He sent out His disciples to teach and heal and love, He told them, “As you go, preach this message, ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.”

The worker is worth his keep.