The Epiphany Inspires
The early believers as portrayed in the book of Acts were caught up in a Spirit-current of grace. This Spirit-movement - an epiphany or awakening of souls (see my previous post) - inspired many great acts, but among the most miraculous was extreme generosity among believers. The 33rd verse of chapter four tells us that great grace was upon them, and each did not consider whatever belonged to her/him to be her/his own. So, they sold goods and lands and distributed the proceeds to the poor.
Preachers love texts like this and use them to inspire generosity among parishioners. The problem is, they begin with the container (the thing that carries forward the epiphany/awakening) and not the epiphany itself. In other words, they point to the example of the early disciples and say, “They gathered together to hear the Apostles’ teachings; they broke bread in their homes; they sold their goods and gave to the poor. This is the church at its best; this is how we should be.” A couple of thoughts here: (1) Early does not equal best (Ask Paul about the Corinthians) and (2) You cannot manufacture grace and Spirit-movement, which inspired these acts of the Apostles and others.
It was Spirit-movement that inspired them to gather incessantly to hear the Scriptures taught; to gather incessantly around tables for fellowship; to sell their goods and give to the poor.
A great grace moved among them. Perhaps, if we want to mimic anything, we’ll mimic those long days of lingering in prayer. Perhaps, then, grace will inspire generosity. Perhaps then our stewardship will not be an outward adherence to an ancient example, but an inward response to the never-ending current of Spirit-grace, which flows to and through us today.