Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. (1 Tim. 6:17-18)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Meeting Needs With Open Hands

Photo by Hindrik S
The Kibbutz Way of Living

In May 2011, I took my first trip to the nation of Israel. As you can imagine, it was a life changing experience to walk the streets of Jerusalem, the birthplace of the universal Church. One of the new concepts I experienced in Israel was the kibbutz. A kibbutz is defined as a collective agricultural settlement in modern Israel, owned and administered communally by its members and on which children are reared collectively.

Honestly, this whole collective settlement thing seems pretty out there. To our western, American way of thinking, it's unpatriotic and un-American to even consider merging all personal assets down into a pool of finances to be shared by multiple families. As Americans, we were born and raised to "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps" and instilled with a philosophy of "rugged individualism."  This is how I grew up, anyway. Have you ever realized, though, that the early church did not operate in this individualistic manner?

The Early Church

The kibbutz sounds really familiar to how the early church operated in the book of Acts. Check out this passage from Acts 4 and examine how these early Christians lived as compared with the modern day kibbutz :
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had…there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need (Acts 4:32, 34-35).
These early Christians were in it together. They were one; they were united as one heart and one mind, working together for the common good of the entire Church body. They sold their property, threw all their possessions into one pot, and shared everything they had. As a result of their generous, openhanded spirit, there were no needy Christians in the early church. They helped each other. They provided for one another’s physical needs.

What's The Takeaway Lesson For Modern Times?

Photo by Alternative Break Program
Now, do I think we as a church body need to sell our stuff, buy some farmland, all live there together, and sing “kum-by-yah” around the campfire? I doubt that would work very well in the society in which we live. But, I do think there is a lesson or two that can be learned from these verses.

First, nothing we have is our own. Everything we possess, whether it be a house, a car, or money in the bank, is owned by God the Father, and He has loaned it to us to manage for His purposes. This is the area where I think we have our biggest struggle as westernized, American Christians. We have this extreme self-reliant, somewhat selfish, and very materialistic attitude when it comes to money and stuff. We have conveniently forgotten that the Bible teaches us the exact opposite: "The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it..." (Psalm 24:1).

Second, we need to live with an openhanded attitude with our stuff because, again, it's God's to begin with. When there are needs in the body of Christ, we should be willing to do whatever it takes to meet those needs for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to take the focus off of our selfish needs and desires, and be outward looking. When the Church body is operating as it should, then no one will be in need. All needs will be met; our brothers and sisters in the Lord will have been cared for.

Don’t hold on so tightly to your stuff, because it’s not yours to begin with. Live today with an attitude of an open hand and generous spirit.

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