Home Church Community

Statement of Beliefs

Contact Us

Search Our Site

Bible Study Resource



Printer Friendly Version

Particulars of Christianity:
312 The Church Ethic


Communal Living

The Importance of Music in Worship
The Church and Going to Church
Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling (Part 1)
Ministers, Pastors, and the Calling (Part 2)
Introduction: Financial Support for Ministers
Financial Support for Ministers (Part 1)
Financial Support for Ministers (Part 2)
Church Leadership and Authority Conditional
Communal Living



Introduction

One of the obvious differences between the modern church and the first-century churches founded by the apostles is that those first-century churches shared their possessions with one another. When it came to financial income, resources, and needs our first Christian ancestors lived communally. Those with money and property to sell gave it up to help their poor Christian brothers and sisters so that everyone equally had their needs met.

In the modern church, we do not. Each family's own income, bank account, house, car, property is their own personal business, completely isolated from anyone else in the church. It goes unsaid. If one family makes more money and has a bigger house and lives in a nicer neighborhood with more luxury items while another family lives off of a single-mother's part-time income, food stamps, discount grocery stores, and a beat-up, old, rusted car or no car at all, then that's just their business. To each his own and do what you can for yourself and your family. Those outside your immediate family are more or less on their own. Sure, it is dramatic to describe it in these terms, but is this in any way inaccurate or exaggerated? At the most, each family (richer or poorer) gives to the church (maybe even a tithe or an additional offering beyond the tithe). But a very large portion of that goes to pastoral and administrative salaries, maintenance, utilities, and mortgages for the church itself. Only a smaller fraction is set aside for the poor and typically in the form of a "Care Center" where old clothes and canned food are available to those who come forward and ask.

Contrast that modern church picture to the first-century Christians, or even to the shared finances of Jesus and his disciples. In the New Testament, we find statements like "now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality" (2 Corinthians 8:13-15). To modern western ears, these words sound more like "Marxist communist propaganda" than the first and genuine form of Christianity. When we read 1 Corinthians 8:15 where Paul says, "He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack," we hear Marx saying, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." For too long Christians have been content to ignore such a principle as the invention of nineteenth-century anti-capitalist communism. But the truth is that long before capitalism and long before Karl Marx and communism (more than nineteen centuries earlier), it was Jesus Christ himself and his apostles that first established this principle among the very first followers of Christ. Of course, the communal living instituted by Jesus and his apostles is by no means the same as the economic-political system known as communism. We will discuss those key differences momentarily.

As we go through this study, we will see this communal way of life, which the modern church turns a blind eye to, was one of the defining characteristics of the first church communities. And to think, Jesus said that all men would know we are his disciples by our love for one another.

John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

What does it say when for no reason but our own gain we ignore this absolutely non-negotiable, essential New Testament teaching? Sure, it might be easy to say that this "communal sharing" was a unique cultural peculiarity, not something required for the church in all ages. But that is an awfully convenient argument when we ourselves reap the direct financial benefit of the death of communal living. It allows us to spend our money on ourselves and our families, and however good or bad our Christian brothers and sisters are doing, that is their business.

More to the point, as we will see from this study, communal living (in the sense of shared finances) was not just some temporary, incidental trait of early Christian communities. It was a deliberate, insistent principle taught by Jesus and his apostles for wherever (and whenever) Christians were living.

But before we begin, it's important to start with a word of caution and clarification. As we said earlier, New Testament communal living wasn't in any way synonymous with the social, political, and economic system that we call communism. Far from it.

Communism involves a form of state government imposed upon the citizens of that state. Communism is by definition anti-capitalist. Christian communal living exists perfectly in a capitalist economy. The apostles and early Christians did not work for the state. They lived in an extremely free market, selling their own goods and services with very little regulation from the Roman or local authorities. Some of the apostles had their own family business as fishermen (Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20). Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla were tentmakers (Acts 18:1-3). In effect, every free man in the first century was his own small business owner, including farmers.

And lastly, communism is involuntary. It is imposed and enforced under penalty by state law. As we will see, Christian communal living was voluntary, including the amount and extent of participation. It is true that those who refused to work were chastised, but that dealt with the refusal to work, not a penalty for failure to give. It was up to each man how much to give and when. Nevertheless, communal finances were the hallmark of the Christian church of the first century, widely practiced by all as the New Testament record itself demonstrates. In fact, it was not just practiced among the members of one local community but between Christian communities in different cities (and on different continents) to make sure all Christians everywhere had their needs met equally.

In short, New Testament communal living is not in any way contrary to a free market, capitalist economy or government and New Testament communal living is voluntary, rather than being imposed by state government. And even church government did not force Christians to give or punish them for not giving. This distinguishes Christian communal living dramatically from the modern system we call communism or Marxism.


Communal Living Established Long Before Pentecost and Acts

For many Christians, it might seem like the sum total of New Testament commentary on communal living is merely a few brief footnotes mentioned in Acts 2 and 4.

Acts 2:43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 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. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Acts 4:33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon 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 unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

If this is all the New Testament said on communal living, it would still be significant. However, the New Testament has a lot more to say on this subject. In fact, the insistence on communal living starts much earlier than Acts and creates a much more prominent element of early Christian living than just a mere footnote. It wasn't just some spur-of-the-moment idea that the apostles had. And it wasn't just something that incidentally, accidentally, or spontaneously happened in the early church. The apostles were merely deliberately carrying on a tradition instigated and carried out by Jesus Christ during his three years living and ministering with his disciples before his death, resurrection, and ascension.

When we examine Jesus' teaching in the Gospels, we find not only that he taught his followers to live communally but also that he himself lived communally with the first church community, his disciples and apostles.

Jesus' words to the rich young ruler are famous. In fact, they are recorded in three out of four Gospels. And what is it that separates this rich young man from Jesus' apostles? What keeps him from joining Jesus' band of closest followers? It is communal living. Jesus instructs this man to sell all he has, give it to the poor, and join with Jesus' own traveling group. The account even ends by contrasting this man to the apostles who had, after all, left all that they owned behind to live together as they followed Jesus.

Matthew 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, 19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. 23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 25 When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. 27 Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? 28 And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30 But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first.

Mark 10:17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. 28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. 29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. 31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

Luke 18:18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 19 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God. 20 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. 21 And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. 22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. 23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. 24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26 And they that heard it said, Who then can be saved? 27 And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. 28 Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. 29 And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, 30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting.

Notice specifically that Jesus says that those who have given up earthly possessions in order to follow him will receive back many more brothers, sisters, houses, etc. in this life. What does he mean by this? How do we receive back many times the families we leave behind or the possessions we give up? We receive them back many times in the new brothers and sisters we have in the church family and in the homes and possessions that our Christian brothers and sisters share with us because the church shares all possessions in common. Jesus is talking about communal living here and, according to Jesus, the one who isn't willing to live communally is disqualified from being his disciple. This isn't interpolation. Jesus says it directly.

And the story of the rich young ruler is not the only story to prominently feature this theme of giving a significantly large portion of one's own goods to provide for the needs of others. The story of Zacchaeus reflects this theme also.

Luke 19:1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. 3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. 4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. 6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. 8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. 9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

Notice that verse 2 describes Zacchaeus as rich. But in contrast to the rich young ruler, when Zacchaeus repents and becomes a follower of Jesus, he decides to give half of all his possessions to the poor in addition to using the remaining half to pay back four times over anyone that he'd stolen from.

Of course, it might be argued that Jesus' instructions to Zacchaeus and the rich young ruler were isolated incidents designed for specific individuals rather than general instructions for all Christians. But consider Luke's version of Jesus' "lilies of the field" sermon in which Jesus instructs his followers not to store up treasures on earth and that God, who clothes the lilies of the field and feeds the ravens, will take care of them, too. While Matthew 6's account of this sermon does not mention communal living, Luke 12:33 concludes this sermon with an explicit instruction for Jesus' followers to live communally in order to provide for the needs of others. And unlike the accounts of Zacchaeus and the rich young ruler, Luke 12 is not an account about Jesus' specific interaction with a particular individual. Instead, it is a sermon addressed to the crowds enjoining general instructions for everyone.

Luke 12:13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. 14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? 15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. 16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: 17 And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? 18 And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. 20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. 22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. 23 The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. 24 Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? 25 And which of you with taking thought can add to his stature one cubit? 26 If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye thought for the rest? 27 Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? 29 And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. 30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. 31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. 32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Verse 33's instruction to "Sell that ye have, and give alms" is clearly the basis of the apostles' practice in Acts 2:44-45 and 4:34-35. (Of course, the story of the rich young rulers also provided that basis as well, particularly because the story itself contrasts the rich man to the apostles.) It is also interesting that here in Luke 12, Jesus contrasts living communally with being distracted by the pursuit of providing for oneself.

It is easy to see how this would apply even in the modern job environment. If Christians share their resources to provide for their needs, there is greater financial security and less need to spend so much time working to create job security, increased salary, advance a career, better insurance benefits, and increased personal savings. Jesus knew that the less time, energy, and focus that is spent on providing for our needs, the more time, energy, and focus is spent building his kingdom. We see this reflected in verse 31, when Jesus directly tells his followers to put pursuing his kingdom above seeking to provide their material needs. And moreover, Jesus also knew that too much worry and focus on providing for our material needs outright prevents us from serving God because we instead become the servants of money, of meeting our material needs (and wants). This sentiment is recorded in verse 24 of Matthew's parallel account of this very same sermon when Jesus remarks, "No man can serve two masters…Ye cannot serve God and mammon."

Matthew 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 22 The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. 23 But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Moreover, an earlier passage in Luke provides the exact same language that Paul would later use when instructing the churches to practice communal living. This further demonstrates that Jesus gave general instructions to his followers to live communally on multiple occasions and that the apostles understood these instructions as generally binding on the church. We will discuss 2 Corinthians 8-9 in more detail later, but for now let's examine it side by side with Jesus' own teachings in Luke 6.

Luke 6:37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

2 Corinthians 9:1 For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: 2 For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. 3 Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready: 4 Lest haply if they of Macedonia come with me, and find you unprepared, we (that we say not, ye) should be ashamed in this same confident boasting. 5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness. 6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: 9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. 10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) 11 Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

Specifically, notice the following similarities between Jesus and Paul's comments. In Luke 6:38, Jesus instructs his followers to be generous in giving because to the extent that a person is generous in giving, others will in turn generously give back to them. In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul says the same thing. He instructs the Corinthians to give generously, saying that when it comes to giving, men reap what they sow. If they give little, they will receive little back. If they give bountifully, they will receive bountifully back. However, Paul's commentary comes in the midst of two chapter's worth of instruction about Christians in one city taking up a collection to send to poor Christians in another city so that the needs of everyone would be met and there would be equality among all financially. Evidently, Paul interpreted Jesus' words on giving as instructions for Christians to give to one another and share their belongings to meet each others' needs. In short, Paul understood Jesus' words in Luke 6 as Jesus giving general instructions to his followers to live communally. And the perfect picture of communal living emerges. While a man may give up his own belongings to meet others' needs, he will richly receive back again when thousands of other Christians share their own homes and food and financial resources with him during his time of need, just as Jesus said to his apostles after the encounter with the rich young ruler.

As we indicated earlier, communal living wasn't just something that Jesus taught. It was something that he himself practiced with his own disciples. This is an important fact because it means that it was the way of life that the apostles had become accustomed to for three whole years before Pentecost. Consequently, the practice of communal living was not random or incidental in Acts 2. It wasn't even something new in Acts 2. It was merely the deliberate continuation of the way of life Jesus' established for the church starting among his own traveling companions.

Three out of the four Gospels recount an event in which a woman anoints Jesus' feet with precious ointment. And all three of those accounts mention that some of those present objected to the woman's deed on the grounds that the perfumed oil was expensive and the money could have been given to the poor. Matthew even specifies that this complaint came from among the apostles. However, John's account provides some specific details, including the names, which are absent in other two accounts. But even before we get to John's specifics, the objection itself is informative. In order to object on these grounds, it is necessary that the disciples already understood the practice of selling valuable possessions to provide for the poor as an established teaching of Jesus. Therefore, they could appeal to Jesus' on the basis of such a teaching.

Matthew 26:6 Now when Jesus was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, 7 There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat at meat. 8 But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? 9 For this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. 10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. 11 For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always. 12 For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.

Mark 14:1 After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. 2 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people. 3 And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head. 4 And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made? 5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her. 6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me. 7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.

Now let's turn our attention to the details that John's Gospel provides concerning this event. Matthew and Mark only state that it was a woman who anointed Jesus' feet, but John identifies the woman by name as Mary, Lazarus' sister. And more importantly, while Matthew only vaguely denotes that the objection came from among the "disciples" and Mark even more vaguely denotes "there were some" who objected, John tells us that it was specifically Judas Iscariot who raised this complaint.

John 12:1 Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. 2 There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. 3 Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. 4 Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, 5 Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? 6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.

But what's even more relevant to this study is that John states why Judas Iscariot complained against Mary. As John explains in verse 6, Judas didn't really care about the poor, but instead, Judas "was a thief, and had the bag and bare what was put therein." Later on in John 13:29, we find this same statement that "Judas had the bag."

John 13:24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. 25 He then lying on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? 26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. 27 And after the sop Satan entered into him. Then said Jesus unto him, That thou doest, do quickly. 28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. 29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.

Notice that John 13 describes that during the Last Supper, when Jesus told Judas to go "quickly," the rest of the apostles thought that "because Judas had the bag" Jesus was instructing him to go and buy supplies for the feast or even to give money to the poor. This tells us about the meaning of the term "the bag." It was the money bag, the bag where Jesus and the apostles collectively kept their money to pay for their needs and give to the poor. So, on two separate occasions, John 12 and John 13 have described how Jesus and the apostles kept all their money in a single bag, held by Judas Iscariot, and out of which they paid for their collective needs and gave to the poor. This is the very picture of communal living.

Moreover, John 12 indicates that it wasn't just the twelve apostles who were living communally but all of Jesus' followers. In John 12, it was perceived that if Lazarus or his sister Mary had sold the perfumed oil that money would also have gone into Jesus' and the disciples' collective "bag" out of which they gave to the poor and paid for their own needs. Here we have the presentation of a clear expectation that people like Lazarus and his sisters also sold their valuable possessions from time to time in order to supply their fellow Christians' needs.

Lastly, in the eyes of his disciples, Jesus' "sheep and goats" teaching in Matthew 25 most likely cemented the obligation for communal living.

Matthew 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: 33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? 38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? 39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. 41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

From this famous passage in Matthew 25, a basic truth emerges. Jesus is emphasizing that entrance into his kingdom will be decided partially on the basis of whether or not his followers share their food, drink, clothing, and homes with the poor. Of course, Jesus has already made similar comments concerning wealthier people in general after the rich young ruler refused to sell his possessions to provide for the poor. But with such statements coming from Jesus in Matthew 25 so close to his death and resurrection, it is not surprising why the very first chapters of Acts record the apostles continuing to establish communal living in the church.

The recognition that communal living is a pattern that Jesus himself established for the church community and that in Acts the apostles were merely carrying on Jesus' instructions is profound. It's easy to dismiss communal living as radical, especially when we view it as an isolated concept that isn't particularly related to Jesus' teaching or way of life. On the other hand, if we view communal living as a radical concept but one that is integrally related to the entire radical way of life taught by Jesus Christ, then the radical nature of communal living becomes less and less a basis for dismissing it and more and more inseparably at home within the whole of Jesus' teaching for his followers. In fact, when viewed as merely one component among the many components of Jesus' radical way of life, the radical nature of communal living almost becomes irrelevant. Of course it's radical. After all, Jesus entire teaching and way of life were radical to human thinking, particularly the carnal or materialistic man. In this light, the radical nature of communal living becomes a non-issue and its radical nature ceases to be grounds for rejecting it.

No doubt the most eye-opening fact in this study is the fact that Jesus not only generally taught his followers to live communally but also established communal living among his own followers by his own practice for three years before Pentecost. Typically, communal living is spoken of as a footnote that appears briefly at the end of two early chapters in Acts. And then it is promptly dismissed. But the real history of communal living is that it was an indispensable part of the life of Jesus' followers from the very start. Its mention in Acts is no minor thing but an important notation that Jesus' own practice and teaching on this matter was seen as so obligatory by his apostles that they continued to establish it on an increasingly larger scale as thousand and thousands of new converts came to the Christian faith. And not only did they established it among the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem but, when the church spread into new regions and cultures, sharing was also expected to occur between one local church and another local church as different regions flourished while others were in need. In other words, the apostles saw Jesus' teaching and practice of communal living as so non-negotiable that they established it on the grandest possible scale for the church everywhere wherever Christians lived around the entire world. Yet despite the eye-opening nature of this one, fundament fact from the Gospels, there is much more information in Acts and the epistles to demonstrate how crucial communal living was.


Communal Living Instituted Everywhere After Pentecost

As we have already mentioned, the most familiar mentions of communal living are probably those mentioned in Acts 2 and 4. But there are two other passages in Acts about communal living as well. More than a mere incidental "footnote," these passages in Acts establish the essential terminology, protocols, and New Testament connections concerning communal living that will be used throughout the epistles. Previously, we have only briefly touched on Acts 2 and 4. But now we will examine these texts a little more closely.

Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. 42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship (2842), and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. 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. 46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, 47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

The first thing to note about Acts 2 is the sheer scope of the sharing. Although communal living will later spread out between churches in Asia and Europe, we cannot overlook the extraordinary nature of three thousand people all living communally as denoted here in Acts 2. In addition to the 120 disciples who were in the upper room on Pentecost and already living communally, this three thousand people represents the sum total of the entire Christian community at that time. And this is on the first day that Christ's death and resurrection were preached publically to the masses, the day of Pentecost itself, which some people refer to as "the birth of the church." Here in Acts 2 we find that Luke, the author of Acts, (and the Holy Spirit who inspired him) wanted us to know that from the very beginning the entire Church lived communally, explicitly sharing "all things" in common. And what was the outcome? According to the text, the result was that every man's needs were met. In this fashion, any unequal distribution of wealth was systematically eliminated from among the followers of Christ.

Before we leave chapter 2, we take note of the word "fellowship" as it appears in verse 42. "Fellowship" is one of those Christian terms that the modern church seems to be use frequently but often with only vague or entirely undefined meaning. Perhaps most often it is used simply as a synonym for "hanging out" or "socializing." And while "fellowship" certainly is inclusive of the idea of "sharing time" with one another, it is actually inclusive of all the things Christians share with one another, particularly our finances. In fact, that is specifically how the term "fellowship" is being used here in Acts 2.

The Greek word for "fellowship" in Acts 2:42 is "koinonia" (Strong's No. 2842). The primary definitions of "koinonia" are "association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse, the share which one has in anything" and specifically "a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, as exhibiting an embodiment and proof of fellowship." When Acts 2:42 speaks of "koinonia" in the immediate context of all Christians sharing all of their possessions in common with one another (and even occasionally selling those possessions to provide for one another), it is clear that in this instance "koinonia" specifically refers to communal sharing.

But even more striking is the fact that this is the very first time that the New Testament ever speaks of Christian "fellowship." Perform a word search for "koinonia" or Strong's No. 2842 (or even for the concept of Christian fellowship) and you will quickly find that it does not appear anywhere prior to Acts 2:42. Consequently, since Acts 2:42 is the first mention of Christian fellowship, it is arguable that Acts 2:42 should be considered the primary definition for Christian fellowship. And while Christians certainly share more in common with one another than just our finances (such as our beliefs and our inheritance in Abraham through Jesus), it is impossible to ignore the inherent connection to communal living implied by the term "fellowship." In scriptural terms, to say that Christians should live in fellowship with one another is unequivocally to say that they should be living communally with regard to finances. That is the way that scripture first introduces the very concept of "fellowship." And not surprisingly, we will often find the Greek term for "fellowship" invoked in the epistles in relation to sharing finances with one another. Acts is already beginning to define the terminology that will be used afterward in reference to communal living.

As we move forward to Acts 4-5, it is interesting to note that Luke is not content to just mention communal living once. Just two chapters after the first mention of communal living, we find an even longer, more explanatory, emphatic declaration that the earliest Christians all lived communally when it came to finances.

Acts 4:32 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 upon 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 (1239) was made unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet. 5:1 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 hath Satan filled thine 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 thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto 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 unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. 9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee 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 upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

There are many important points discussed here in Acts 4-5 concerning the topic of communal living.

First, the Greek word for "distribution" in chapter 4:35 is "diadidomai" (Strong's No. 1239), the same Greek word used by Jesus in Luke 18:22 when he told the rich young ruler to "sell all that thou hast, and distribute (diadidomai) unto the poor." This clearly shows that the apostles understood Jesus' words to the rich young ruler as relevant to general church practice and all Christians, rather than merely an isolated incident regarding one particular individual.

Second, verse 32 says "the multitude…had all things in common." But exactly how many people are meant by the term "multitude?" Acts 4:4 recounts that by this time another five thousand people were added to the Christian community. So, in with the 120 disciples in the upper room and the 3,000 people converted on Pentecost, we now have over 8,000 people living communally according to verses 32. It's simply extraordinary to think of 8,000 people living communally. And it would seem that the author of Acts wants us to know that no matter how big the church became, it still continued to live communally.

Third, just like Acts 2:45, in verse 34 we again find a very quick statement explaining that communal living meant there was no one who lacked. It was not just giving to say you gave. It was giving to the point that there were no longer people in the church who could not meet their needs. Just imagine a church in which there is no lack. How much more time everyone would have for focussing "stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine" as Acts 2:42 says if no Christian had to worry about how to make ends meet or overwork themselves just to pay their bills. Maybe the widespread biblical illiteracy in the body of Christ today is in some large part the result of distraction with work or finances. That would not be surprising, given Jesus' teaching that men cannot serve two masters, God and money. Communal living was intended to serve to offset our focus on work or worries about meeting our needs in order to insure greater focus on God. And if that is the case, then biblical ignorance won't be able to be resolved until the church returns to communal living.

Fourth, we notice that this discussion of communal living is not merely one or two verses, such as could be said of Acts 2. Here the discussion spans from Acts 4:32 all the way to Acts 5:11. That's seventeen verses on the subject. In New Testament terms, seventeen verses on a single subject is nearly a dissertation. That fact alone hints at the importance the early church attached to the role of communal living.

Fifth, verses 36-37 raise the example of Joses (more commonly known as Barnabas) in contrast to the actions of Ananias and Sapphira. Joses is listed as just one example of how all the "multitude" shared what they had and even sold their valuables to meet each other's needs. On the other hand, Ananias and Sapphira are an example of an inappropriate response to communal living.

The most essential question with regard to Ananias and Sapphira provides us with one of the central protocols for communal living. The question concerns what Ananias and Sapphira did wrong. Were they wrong to hold back part of their possessions or money for themselves? No. It is of preeminent importance to notice exactly what Peter said to Ananias in verses 3-4.

First, in verse 3, Peter asks, "why have you lied to the Holy Spirit?" It was true that Ananias had kept back part of the price, but the sin was not in keeping some of the money. Rather, the sin was in lying about keeping the money, thinking the Holy Spirit wouldn't know.

Second, another proof that Ananias was condemned for lying, not for keeping part of the money, comes from Peter's follow up statement in verse 4. Concerning the value of the property, Peter says, "Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power?" The Greek word for "power" here is "exousia" (Strong's No. 1849), which primarily means, "power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases." So, Peter is literally asking Ananias why he would like given the fact it was fully within Ananias' right to do whatever he pleased with his own money in the first place. The purpose of these questions is to point out to Ananias that there was simply no reason, no justification, for lying about holding back some of the money. Peter's point is simple. Giving was voluntary. Ananias had the right to sell or not to sell, to keep the whole amount, some of it, or none of it. All these things were in Ananias' own authority. So there was no reason whatsoever to lie about giving.

Third, the ultimate proof that Ananias was well within his rights to keep all or part of the money comes from the Greek word for "power" in verse 4. The Greek word for "power" here is "exousia" (Strong's No. 1849), which means, "power of choice, liberty of doing as one pleases." So, Peter is literally asking Ananias why he lied, since it was fully within Ananias right to do what he pleased with his own money.

From this we learn an essential point about communal living. While it was universally practiced in the early church (even by Ananias and Sapphira), it was voluntary. In the example of Ananias and Sapphira we see that whether or not someone sold property and how much of the profit went to the church remained up to the individual Christian. And while there was quick condemnation about lying over such matters, there was no condemnation for choosing not to share at a particular time or give more than a certain amount.

The voluntary nature of communal living and giving is confirmed by Paul in 2 Corinthians 8-9. Although we will cover the epistles in the next segment, because of its relevance to the voluntary nature of communal living, we will examine 2 Corinthians 8-9 now. It should also be noted that this is the very chapter in which Paul describes communal living as "an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality" and as "He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack." Such phrasing is the heart and soul of communal living: the removal of financial inequality as every individual's resources are used to supply every member of the community equally.

First, in verse 1 Paul cites the generous communal giving of the churches of Macedonia as an example for others to follow. Here, Paul specifically uses the Greek word "authairetos" (Strong's No. 830), which literally and explicitly means, "voluntary, of free choice, of one's own accord." Notice that in verse 4, Paul refers to communal living using "koinonia" (Strong's No. 2842) the exact same Greek word for "fellowship" that was first used in Acts 2. So, here again we see the implicit connection that Christian fellowship has with communal living.

2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves (830); 4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship (2842) of the ministering (1248) to the saints.

Second, after citing the voluntary giving of the Macedonians as an example for the Corinthians, Paul three times speaks of the Corinthians likewise having "prothumia" (Strong's No. 4288), which means "eagerness" or "readiness of mind" in the sense of one's own "inclination." This idea of a personal inclination to give again attests to the voluntary nature of communal giving, especially because this language is also surrounded by Paul explicitly saying in verse 8, "I speak not by commandment." In verse 11, Paul also uses another Greek word "thelo" (Strong's No. 2309), which plainly means, "to will, have in mind, intend."

2 Corinthians 8:8 I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love. 9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. 10 And herein I give my advice (1106): for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. 11 Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness (4288) to will (2309), so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. 12 For if there be first a willing mind (4288), it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not…9:1 For as touching the ministering (1248) to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: 2 For I know the forwardness of your mind (4288), for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.

Third, in verse 7, Paul gives a series of four contrasting phrases that all firmly attest to the voluntary nature of communal giving.

2 Corinthians 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth (4255) in his heart (2588), so let him give; not grudgingly (3077), or of necessity (318): for God loveth a cheerful (2431) giver.

Number one, verse 7 begins with the phrase "let every man give according to what he has purposed in his heart." The Greek words for "heart" is "kardia" (Strong's No. 2588), which can denote the physical organ of the heart but also refers to "the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavours." The Greek word for "purpose" is "proaireomai" (Strong's No. 4255), which means "to bring forth for one's self," "to choose for one's self," or "to prefer." Clearly Paul is conveying the idea of a man's own thoughts and desires, which he brings forth or chooses for himself.

Number two, Paul contrasts a man choosing his own purpose freely to the idea of a man acting "begrudgingly." The Greek word for "grudgingly" in verse 7 is "lupe" (Strong's No. 3077), which means "sorrow, pain, grief, or annoyance." Contrasted to a man's own purpose, "lupe" clearly implies the idea of doing something contrary to what one prefers. Paul is saying that Christian communal giving should not be contrary to one's preference or apart from one's own chosen purpose.

Number three, Paul uses the phrase "not of necessity." The Greek word for "necessity" is "anagke" (Strong's No. 318), which simply means "necessity, imposed either by the circumstances, or by law of duty regarding to one's advantage or custom." In other words, communal giving was not a custom or law that imposed obligation on the individual Christian.

Number four, Paul closes with the phrase "cheerful giver." The Greek word for "cheerful" is "hilaros" (Strong's No. 2431), which means "cheerful, joyous, prompt to do anything." When contrasted to "grudgingly" and "of necessity," "hilaros" clearly points to something that a person wants to do and is excited and quick to do, rather than unhappily due to obligation.

In all these ways, Paul explicitly and repeatedly demonstrates the voluntary, rather than obligatory, nature of Christian communal giving.

Before we move away from the topic of voluntary vs. obligatory communal living, we should close with a few clarifying comments in order to avoid any confusion. In particular, we should clarify what is and is not considered obligatory. On the one hand, the modern church as a whole is obligated to establish and operate by a communal system of living, rather than our current system, which is largely divided into individual families that are treated as isolated earning units and which from time to time might give a meager amount to their church to provide canned goods, blankets, or old clothing to the poor. But on the other hand, the individual Christian is not under any obligation concerning when to give or how much. The individual Christian is in a voluntary position concerning communal living, even though the church leadership is obligated to establish such a system and teach Christians to carry it out, just as the apostles did in the New Testament times. There should be constant encouragement and expectation for Christians to live this way in general, but never specific pressure put on particular individuals to give on any occasion.

The obligation of the church as a whole to operate by such a system is derived from the prevalence of communal living in the New Testament, including its establishment by Jesus and its universal implementation on such a large scale by the apostles. But the voluntary position of the individual Christian is derived from the explicit language that the New Testament uses to repeatedly demonstrate that the giver was under no specific obligations with regard to timing, frequency, or amount. Such liberty is in perfect conformity to the liberty generally found in the New Covenant brought by Jesus Christ.

Beyond the voluntary essence of communal living, there are a few other points worth making before we leave 2 Corinthians 8-9.

First, once again we call attention to the sheer number of verses involved in this discourse by Paul. These instructions on communal living span two chapters totaling 39 verses. When covering the seventeen verses on communal living in Acts 4-5, we pointed out that this many verses devoted to a single topic is a virtually a long dissertation in New Testament terms. In fact, taking nearly 40 verses on a single topic rivals some of the longer sermons recorded from Jesus in the Gospels. Yet this sermon from Paul is devoted to communal living. Once again we see the importance of communal living in the eyes of the apostles and among the churches of the first century.

Second, consider once again the vast scope of the sharing described in this chapter. Paul is writing this epistle to Christians living in the city of Corinth in Greece. He is asking them to voluntarily share their own monetary resources to replace poverty with financial equity among Christians. Paul's words here reflect sentiment from chapter 12:26 of his previous Corinthian epistle, in which he wrote, "whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it." Wouldn't it be great if Christians today looked at the financial lack of their Christian brothers as if it were their own lack, and were just as eager to relieve it? Here again, Paul's sentiment from 1 Corinthians 10:24 comes to mind, where he wrote, "Let no man seek his own, but every man another's."

But more to the point, when writing Corinthian Christians about communal sharing, Paul testifies that Macedonian Christians were also similarly participating in the very same communal effort. The last time we took note of the scope of communal living, Acts 4 described that there were over 8,000 Christians sharing in this way. Now the communal effort to share with equity had a spread across to another continent. As we will see, the support from Greece was going to support Christians in Jerusalem, from Europe to Asia. This is what Paul means in chapter 9:13 when he says that the Corinthians "distribution" was "liberal…to all men." (The typical modern church doesn't even accomplish such sharing in single congregations of less than a few hundred people.)

2 Corinthian 9:13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration (1248) they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution (2842) unto them, and unto all men.

Third, we should draw attention to verse 9 of chapter 8. Earlier we established that communal living did not start with the apostles and the church in Acts 2, but was established by Jesus who lived communally for three years with his disciples before his death, resurrection, and ascension. In verse 9, Paul alludes to Jesus as the originator of communal living. Paul conveys that Jesus' entire lifestyle, and indeed the very acts of his incarnation and death, equate to a moral obligation for every Christian to give his own riches to provide for his Christian brothers. While communal living might seem like communism to modern Christians and might remind them of Karl Marx, we should instead be equating communal living to Jesus Christ and to his incarnation and death, through which he made rich those who were spiritually poor.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.

Fourth, the last point that we will highlight comes from 2 Corinthians 8-9 and will lead us back to where we left off in the book of Acts.

2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves 4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship (2842) of the ministering (1248) to the saints.

2 Corinthians 9:1 For as touching the ministering (1248) to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: 2 For I know the forwardness of your mind (4288), for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal (2205) hath provoked very many…13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration (1248) they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution (2842) unto them, and unto all men.

Specifically, we notice Paul's use of the words "ministration" and "distribution" in chapter 8 and 9. In chapter 8:4, the Greek word for "fellowship" is "koinonia" (Strong's No. 2842) and the Greek word for "ministering" is "diakonia" (Strong's No. 1248). Similarly, in chapter 9:1 and 13, the Greek word for "ministration" is "diakonia" (Strong's No. 1248) and the Greek word for "distribution" is "koinonia" (Strong's No. 2842).

First, we have seen "koinonia" already in Acts 2:42-45. As we noted earlier, "koinonia" generally refers to things that Christians share with one another. However, previously we concluded that the use of "koinonia" in Acts 2:42 referred specifically to financial sharing. This conclusion was based upon the close contextual proximity to verse 45, which elaborates by describing how Christians shared their belongings and sold their possessions and goods to provide for each other. Paul's use of "koinonia" in reference to the Corinthians sharing their finances to provide for the poorer Christians proves our conclusion. In the New Testament, Christian fellowship necessarily included communal living. (However, as mentioned earlier, Christian fellowship in the New Testament also included other things, such as our shared beliefs and our shared eternal inheritance.)

Second, Paul's use of the word "diakonia" is also extremely informative. In the beginning of our discussion of Acts, we stated that the Book of Acts would establish some of the essential terminology and protocols concerning communal living and that we would see those terms and protocols repeated throughout the epistles. In both "koinonia" and "diakonia" we see examples of exactly that. In fact, "diakonia" is the same word used in Acts 6 to describe the actual distributing of the financial resources among the members of the church. In particular, notice that "diakonia" is used in the phrase "daily ministration." The word "daily" is the Greek word "kathemerinos" (Strong's No. 2522), which simply means "daily" and which informs us that this distribution was a very regular part of everyday church life, at least on the local level.

Acts 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration (1248). 2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. 3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry (1248) of the word. 5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: 6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.

Of course, "diakonia" simply means "service" and so the word can be used to describe other kinds of service, such as in verse 4 where it refers to the apostles' service in teaching the Word. This is similar to the word "kononia" which generally denotes "things shared" and, therefore, at times refers to other things Christians shared beyond just financial resources. However, like the use of "kononia" in chapter 2, Acts 6 establishes a "diakonia" as a key term connected to communal living that we should be aware of and look for in later passages of the New Testament.

In addition, from this episode in Acts 6, we also learn how important communal living was to the church. In verse 1, when some of the Christians (namely the Gentiles) complained about the failure of the church to perform this duty with equity toward all the poor, the apostles didn't tell them to be quiet or not to worry about it as though it were a non-essential matter. The apostles didn't argue that communal distribution was unnecessary or unimportant (although they acknowledge that it was secondary in importance to teaching). Instead, maintaining the need for equal distribution of the financial resources, the apostles established further provisions to ensure the continuation of this essential church feature. Consequently, this passage from Acts illustrates our conclusion from earlier. The church, particularly church leadership, is under obligation to establish and continue the communal living system.

The last passage from Acts to touch on the subject of communal living is Acts 24.

Acts 24:10 Then Paul, after that the governor had beckoned unto him to speak, answered, Forasmuch as I know that thou hast been of many years a judge unto this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself: 11 Because that thou mayest understand, that there are yet but twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem for to worship. 12 And they neither found me in the temple disputing with any man, neither raising up the people, neither in the synagogues, nor in the city: 13 Neither can they prove the things whereof they now accuse me. 14 But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: 15 And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. 16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men. 17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.

Admittedly, Acts 24 is not explicit or lengthy. It simply recounts Paul describing how he came to bring alms to his own people. The Greek word for "alms" here is "eleemosune" (Strong's No. 1654), which denotes, "a donation to the poor." It is the same word used by Jesus in Luke 12:33, when he says, "Sell that ye have, and give alms (eleemosune)." We have already established that this passage in Luke 12 is one of Jesus' instructions establishing communal living among his followers. So even though this statement in Acts 24 is brief, there is a high probability that Paul is well-acquainted with Jesus' teaching on this subject. Consequently, from just the vocabulary alone it is more than reasonable to conclude that Paul is simply following his teacher's instructions for communal living.

Lastly, this passage records a basic link between Paul and the apostles' practice of communal living earlier in the Book of Acts. This link is important because of the multitude of comments that Paul makes in his epistles instructing Christians to practice communal living. It shows that Paul's comments are a continuation of the apostolic practices in Acts. And as we will see, there is more than simple vocabulary to connect Acts 24 with Paul's insistence upon communal living in his epistles. This connection is firmly established by Romans 16, which we will examine in our next segment.


Paul Repeatedly Instructs Christians to Practice Communal Living

As we indicated at the end of our previous section, in Acts 24 Paul spoke of how "after many years" he was coming "to bring alms" to his own nation, the Israelites living in Judaea. The story of how Paul arrived before Governor Felix in Acts 24 begins several chapters earlier in Acts 19.

Acts 19:1 states, "And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus." As we follow the narrative, we see from verse 8 that Paul spoke in the synagogue in Ephesus "for the space of three months." And then from verse 9-10 we learn that Paul remained in Ephesus for "the space of two years" disputing daily in the school of Tyrannus. Verse 21 recounts how "Paul purposed in spirit" to "pass through Macedonia and Achaia" and from there to "go to Jerusalem" and finally to Rome. This mention of Macedonia and Achaia together is important because of the mention of both places in Romans 15:26 and 2 Corinthians 9:2. In verse 22, Paul sends Timothy and Erastus to Macedonia ahead of him while Paul himself remains behind in Ephesus where he runs into trouble with Demetrius, the silversmith for the shrines of Diana. This episode involving the craftsmen of Diana fills up the remainder of chapter 19.

Chapter 20:1 begins by telling us that "Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia." Verses 2-3 inform us that after Macedonia, Paul "came into Greece" and "abode there three months." Verses 4 further indicate that Paul returned through Macedonia on his way to Syria. In verses 5-6, Paul travels to Philippi and then in Troas meets up with a group of Christian men who are waiting for him there. In verse 13-15, Paul travels to Assos, Mitylene, Chios, Samos, Trogyllium, and Miletus. But verse 16 states that "Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus" because "he hasted…to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost." So, in verse 17, Paul sends for the Ephesian elders to come to him in Miletus. In verse 22, Paul reiterates how "in the spirit" he felt "bound" to go to Jerusalem. After speaking to the believers, in verse 38 they accompany Paul to the ship for him to continue his journey.

Chapter 21:1-3 traces Paul's journey to Coos, Rhodes, Patara, Phenicia, and Cyprus, and finally he "sailed into Syria, and landed at Tyre." Verses 7-8 resume the account of the journey saying that "from Tyre, we came to Ptolemais" and "the next day" Paul and those with him "came unto Caesarea" and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist (who incidentally is one of the seven deacons appointed in Acts 6 to oversee the daily communal distribution). Verse 10 then describes how Paul "tarried there many days" and how a prophet named Agabus "came down from Judaea" to visit with Paul. Then verse 15 continues, saying, "after those days we took up our carriages, and went to Jerusalem."

In chapter 21:18 James and the elders of Jerusalem inform Paul that the Jewish believers in Jerusalem had been told that Paul was teaching the Jews living in Gentiles cities to forsake the Law of Moses. This is the beginning of the controversy that directly leads to Paul appearing before Governor Felix in chapter 24. In verse 23-24, James and the elders suggest to Paul that he accompany four Jewish Christian men who have made a religious vow so that in this way Paul might reassure the Jewish Christians that Paul maintained reverence for the Law of Moses. However, when Paul goes with these four Jewish Christians to the Temple in verses 26-27, some Jewish men visiting from Asia "laid hands on" Paul and "stirred up all the people." In verses 31-33, Paul is arrested by the chief captain and his soldiers. Throughout the remainder of chapter 21 and continuing into chapter 22, Paul is allowed by the chief captain to speak to the people. This episode ends in verses 22-23, when the people stop listening to Paul and the chief captain has to take Paul once again back into the castle. The chapter finishes with a dialog between Paul and the chief captain, with Paul being loosed from his chains, and with the chief captain calling the chief priests and their council to appear before him alongside Paul to discuss the matter.

Chapter 23 recounts Paul's dialog with the Jewish leaders, a plot among some of the Jews to kill Paul, and the chief captain's decision to send Paul to Governor Felix, which is specifically recorded in verses 23-24. Finally, in verses 33-35 we find that "when they came to Caesarea, and delivered the epistle to the governor, presented Paul also before him." Chapter 24 then begins to describe Paul's appearance before Governor Felix. Paul himself begins to speak in verse 10, which we covered under our previous section. And in verse 17, Paul declares to Governor Felix that "after many years I came to bring alms to my nation."

Why have we taken the time to recount the background to chapter 24:17, particularly Paul's journey to Jerusalem? This background narrative provides important connections between Paul's references bringing alms to the Jews in Acts 24 and some of the comments Paul makes about communal living in his epistles.

As we noted, Paul begins his journey to Jerusalem in Ephesus. Acts 19:21 also informs us that Paul "purposed in spirit" to "pass through Macedonia and Achaia" on his way to Jerusalem. Not surprising then, in 2 Corinthians 9:1, we find Paul himself referring to the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia and their willingness "a year ago" to give to the needy Christians.

2 Corinthians 9:1 For as touching the ministering (1248) to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: 2 For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many.

While Paul does not mention Jerusalem specifically in 2 Corinthians 8-9, he does in Romans 15.

Romans 15:25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister (1247) unto the saints. 26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution (2842) for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. 27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.

As we can see, in verse 25, Paul informs his audience, "now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints." In verse 26, Paul even explains the reason for his journey, saying, "For it pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem." So, by comparing the mention of "Macedonia and Achaia" in 2 Corinthians and Romans as well as Acts 19, we can conclude the following. The "alms" that Paul was bringing to the people of Jerusalem in Acts 24:17 was not "alms" in general but indeed it was the distribution of a communal living effort undertaken by Christians in Macedonia, Achaia, and Corinth (as well as potentially elsewhere) to specifically meet the needs of the "saints which are at Jerusalem." This "alms" was the very thing that Paul was describing in 2 Corinthians 8:14-15 when he said, "by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack."

In addition, take note of the words "minister" in verse 25 and "contribution" in verse 26. The Greek word for "minister" is "diakoneo" (Strong's No. 1247), which is simply the verb related to the noun "diakonia" (Strong's No. 1248). As we discovered earlier, "diakonia" is used in Acts 6:1 in the phrase "daily ministration." It is also the word used in 2 Corinthians 9:1 in the phrase "the ministering to the saints." Once again, we see the close association that such terms have with Christian communal living. Although this is not the only way such words are used in the New Testament, it is clearly one of the thematic ways in which they are used and the context of these passages clearly dictates a reference to communal living.

However, the word "contribution" in verse 26 is even more informative. It is none other than the Greek word "koinonia" (Strong's No. 2842), which we have seen repeatedly used to refer to communal living in Acts 2:42, 2 Corinthians 8:4, 9:1 and 13. As we have noted, "koinonia" is often translated as "fellowship," which in modern times is conceived of vaguely as Christian socializing. Yet here in Romans 15:26 we find the clearest proof of this word's implicit connection to communal living as Paul uses "koinonia" along with "diakoneo" to directly refer to the money given to poor Christians in Jerusalem by their fellow Christians in Macedonia and Achaia. This firmly establishes the thematic use of such words to indicate communal living in the New Testament. So, we will continue to look for such terms as we examine other epistles.

With one exception, from this point forward, Paul's references to communal giving in his epistles are much less extensive than his 39 verses on the topic in 2 Corinthians 8-9. For example, we find a very brief mention of communal living in a single verse of Paul's previous epistle to the Corinthians. Here in chapter 13:3, Paul comments on the idea of "bestowing all my goods to feed the poor." The notion of giving up one's own goods to provide for others is the very definition of communal living as described in Acts 2, 4, and 6. Yet here in 1 Corinthians 13 it is mentioned right alongside prophecy, Christian knowledge, and even faith, all of which were prominent features of the early churches started by the apostles.

1 Corinthians 13:1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Earlier in his second epistle to the Corinthians, Paul refers to his own contributions to communal living with the phrases "as poor, yet making many rich" and "as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."

2 Corinthians 6:1 We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. 2 (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.) 3 Giving no offence in any thing, that the ministry be not blamed: 4 But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, 5 In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings; 6 By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, 7 By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; 9 As unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; 10 As sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.

The phrase "poor, yet making many rich" speaks of the communal living principle in which a Christian gives up their own riches to provide for others needs. And the phrase "having nothing, and yet possessing all things" is best explained by the idea that in a communal living situation, those who had nothing financially were suddenly given a share in all the possessions of all their brothers and sisters in Christ.

In Ephesians 4, Paul gives instructions to the thief to instead work "that he may have to give to him that needeth." This is a clear instruction for repentant thieves to practice communal living.

Ephesians 4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

Paul also briefly mentions communal living as a general Christian rule in Galatians 2:10.

Galatians 2:9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision. 10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

And in Galatians 6, Paul uses parallel language to his instructions about communal living in Romans 15. Here again is a look at Romans 15.

First, after describing how the Gentile Christians of Macedonia and Achaia made a contribution to the poor saints of Jerusalem in verse 26, Paul goes on in verse 27 to say, "if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things."

Romans 15:25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister (1247) unto the saints. 26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution (2842) for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. 27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.

Second, as we noted earlier, the Greek word for "contribution" is "koinonia" (Strong's No. 2842).

Here in Galatians 6:6, Paul uses the closely related verb "koinoneo" (Strong's No. 2841). In fact, "koinoneo" is used in the phrase "Let him that is taught in the word communicate (koinoneo) in all good things unto him that teaches." The principle behind this phrase is similar to Romans 15:27. In both cases, the idea is that we should give material benefits to those from whom we derive spiritual benefits, whether that is the Jewish nation as a whole or our Christian teachers in particular. (The application of communal living to those in leadership positions will be covered again when we examine 1 Timothy 5 below.)

Galatians 6:6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate (2841) unto him that teacheth in all good things (18). 7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good (18) unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

And there are two other relevant points that connect Galatians 6 to communal living.

First, it is important to note that the Greek word "agathos" (Strong's No. 18), which is translated as "good things" in verse 6 is also the exact same word that appears in verse 10 in the phrase "let us do good unto all men." Clearly, Paul is talking about the same thing in both verses, given their extremely close proximity to one another. And since the use of "agathos" in combination with "koinoneo" in verse 6 clearly refers to financial support, we should also conclude that verse 10 is using "agathos" to instruct Christians to provide financial support to "unto all men, especially them who are of the household of faith."

Second, here in Galatians 6 Paul refers to a man sowing and reaping as part of the reasoning behind Christians giving financially to one another. Paul has already used the metaphor of sowing and reaping in 2 Corinthians 9, when encouraging the Corinthians to give just like the Macedonians and Achaians had given.

2 Corinthians 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: 9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. 10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) 11 Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God.

Here again, it would seem that Paul received his understanding of communal living from Jesus, who used alternate language to refer to the sowing and reaping principle in Luke 6:37-38.

Luke 6:37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Given the vocabulary in Galatians 6 along with these parallels to Romans 15, 2 Corinthians 8-9, and Luke 6, it is clear that Galatians 6 is simply another general admonition by Paul for Christians to live communally.

Our next passage on communal living is Hebrews 13, where we again find the familiar word "koinonia."

Hebrews 13:15 By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. 16 But to do good and to communicate (2842) forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

We have already thoroughly established that "koinonia" frequently refers to communal living in the New Testament. While "koinonia" can also denote "fellowship" with regard to shared beliefs or other things that Christians have in common, such alternate meanings are not compatible with the immediate context of Hebrews 13. In particular, verse 16 describes this "communication" as a "sacrifice" with which God is well pleased. While shared beliefs, shared inheritance, and even a sense of shared identity and community can all be described using "koinonia," none of these things can really be considered a sacrifice. And certainly none of these alternate meanings relates to personal sacrifice as clearly and directly as the idea of giving up our own possessions to provide for our Christian brothers and sisters. So, given the repeated precedent in which "koinonia" has been used to denote communal living and the immediate contextual reference to "koinonia" as a sacrifice, we should also conclude that Hebrews 13 provides yet another general instruction for Christians to practice communal living.

In fact, Paul confirms this interpretation of Hebrews 13 in his letter to the Philippians.

Philippians 4:10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with (4790) my affliction. 15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with (2841) me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Here in Philippians 4, Paul uses two Greek words that are closely related to "koinonia" (Strong's 2842), which he used in Hebrews 13:16. In verse 14, he uses "sugkoinoneo" (Strong's No. 4790). "Sugkoinoneo" is simply a verb combining "koinoneo" (Strong's 2841) with the preposition "sun" (Strong's No. 4862), which simply means "with." And in verse 15, Paul also uses "koinoneo" itself.

Paul surrounds these words contextually with phrases that prove his subject is communal giving. In verse 12, Paul refers to his being "hungry" and "suffering need." In verse 15, he describes a previous occasion in which the Philippians "sent once and again" to his "necessity." In verse 18, Paul describes how he had recently "received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent" from the Philippians to Paul. From such phrases, we can conclude that Paul is using both "koinoneo" and "sugkoinoneo" to refer to financial giving. But, most importantly, in verse 18 Paul refers to the Philippians "koinoneo" or giving as "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God." Since the context of Philippians provides ample evidence that "koinoneo" refers to communal giving, the parallel reference to "koinoneo" or "koinonia" as a "sacrifice" in both Philippians and Hebrews further demonstrates that Hebrews is also talking about communal giving.

Lastly, it is interesting that while Hebrews 13 discusses communal living in general, here in Philippians Paul is clearly talking about communal giving that he himself had received. This is interesting because it exemplifies a principle that Paul has cited earlier, as it is articulated both in Romans 15 and in Galatians 6. In Romans 15:27, Paul spoke of the Gentiles' obligation to share with the Jews in financial matters given the fact that the Jewish nation (and more specifically the Jewish disciples) had shared their spiritual inheritance with the Gentiles. And in Galatians 6:6, Paul spoke to the Gentiles in Galatia about the obligation of students to share financially with their teachers, just as their teachers had shared spiritual truths with them. When Paul received financial support from the Philippians, he exemplified both of these articulations since Paul was, after all, both a Jew and a teacher to the Philippians. (As indicated earlier, we will return to the issue of financial support for teachers when we examine 1 Timothy 5 below. However, additional discussion concerning the difference between financial support for apostles and financial support for local leaders can be found in our article series titled, "Financial Support for Ministers.")

At this point, there is only one more passage from Paul that relates to the issue of communal living. The passage is somewhat substantial. But before we cover it, we will first look at some brief comments from James on this topic. Even though this segment is devoted primarily to communal living in Paul's epistles, since we are basically covering the New Testament epistles in general, it is appropriate to take a moment to cover James' epistle as well.

James 2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. 2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; 3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: 4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? 5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? 6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? 7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? 8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. 14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.

First, it is interesting to note that in chapter 2:1-8, James chastises his audience for neglecting the poor, while at the same time they give deference to the rich. Although such language does not directly describe communal living, the neglect of the poor certainly implies a certain basic connection to the topic.

Second, in verse 8, James invokes Jesus' teaching to "love thy neighbor as thyself." Within a context focused on not neglecting the poor, the statement to "love thy neighbor as thyself" clearly implies loving the poor as you would yourself, which in turn more than implies sharing your own goods with the poor. That is the very definition of communal living.

Third, in verses 14-16, James asserts that Christian faith will not result in salvation if it is not accompanied by works. And what works does James cite as an example? He refers to providing daily food and clothing to the poor and supplying them with "those things which are needful to the body." Here it would seem that James has in mind Jesus' own teaching about the "sheep and goats" in Matthew 25, in which Jesus also said that those who do not help provide food, drink, shelter, and clothing, will not be allowed into the kingdom. As we have indicated earlier, Matthew 25 fits well into Jesus' overall teaching on communal living in the Gospels. Because James speaks so similarly here in a context about caring for the poor, we can also conclude that James intends to emphasize the need for communal living among Christians.

In addition, in chapter 4-5 James turns his attention to chastising the rich.

James 4:13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. 15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. 16 But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. 17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. 5:1 Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. 2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. 3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. 4 Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. 5 Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter. 6 Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.

James begins in verse 13 of chapter 4 by addressing Christians whose hearts seem to be set upon business ventures and increasing their wealth. Here again, James seems to be invoking Jesus' own teaching. In Luke 12:13-34 (which we discussed in part earlier), Jesus gives a parable of a rich man whose lands "brought forth plentifully." The rich man decides to build bigger storehouses in which to keep all his wealth and he thinks to himself, "thou has much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." But God says to him, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee." Jesus closes this parable by telling his followers to worry about storing up such provision, but merely put the kingdom of God first and God will provide what they need. Here again, James seems to echo Jesus' words. Like Jesus, James tells the disciples not to pursue riches, because their lives are short and passing. This was the same statement made to the rich man in Jesus' parable. Even James references to treasure "rusting" and being "motheaten" reflect Jesus' comments in Luke 12:33 and its parallel in Matthew 6:19-34, which respectively mention "moths" and "rust" destroying riches.

But what is most relevant is what James goes on to say as chapter 4 ends and his thoughts continue into chapter 5. It is important to note that James began this discussion in chapter 4:13 by addressing rich Christians. Consequently, James' comments toward the rich in chapter 5 should also be understood to include rich Christians, although such comments no doubt address all rich men in general. In chapter 5, James chastises the rich for storing up treasure for themselves (just like the rich man in Jesus' parable) while neglecting their poor workers. (It is noteworthy that the language of storing up treasure originates in passages that record Jesus' own teaching about communal living, such as Matthew 6:21, Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 12:21, 33-34, and Luke 18:22.)

James also uses the title "Lord of the sabaoth," which invokes the Old Testament imagery of God granting his people rest after their years of slavery under the oppression of cruel Egyptian masters. The Sabbath was to be a day of restful reflection on the words of God. Placed within this context, James creates a perfect contrast between Jesus' instructions for Christians to pursue the kingdom of God first rather than riches and certain rich men who have not only pursued riches first, but have burdened their workers in a way that infringes on their ability to pursue the things of God. This is the very opposite of communal living and its intended goal.

While these comments in chapters 4-5 do not describe communal living, they do constitute the second time in his epistle when James thought it was necessary to address the neglect of the poor and the foolish respect given to riches. James concern for the welfare of the poor in chapter 1 and chapter 5 and his criticism of his fellow Christians for neglecting the poor certainly underlines the need for communal sharing, a topic that James does directly invoke in chapter 1, when he says, "Love thy neighbor as thyself" and "If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?"

So, like Paul, we can see that James epistle continues to remind Christians of the need to share their goods with one another so that there would be no poverty, and in turn, so there would be no undue financial burden distracting Christians from their pursuit of the kingdom first.

As we close this section covering the New Testament epistles, we now turn our attention to 1 Timothy 5-6, which is the only remaining epistle on this topic. There are many points in this passage concerning the topic of communal living.

First, notice that verses 3-16 of chapter 5 are filled with references to taking care of the widows. This is similar to Acts 6, in which we find that giving provision to poor widows was a primary purpose of the "daily ministration." We saw this in verse 1 of Acts 6, which states, "there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration."

1 Timothy 5:1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; 2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity. 3 Honour (5091) widows that are widows indeed (3689). 4 But if any widow have children or nephews, let them learn first to shew 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, trusteth in God, and continueth in supplications and prayers night and day. 6 But she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth. 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 hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel. 9 Let not a widow be taken into the number under threescore 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 (1884) 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 withal 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 believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed. 17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour (5092), especially they who labour in the word and doctrine. 18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward. 6:1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour (5092), that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. 2 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort.

We take note of verse 3, which begins Paul's commentary concerning the widows. In verse 5, he mentions poor widows specifically, using the word "desolate" in contrast to the prosperous widows in verse 6 who are denoted by the phrase "live in pleasure." In verse 8, he mentions that a man must provide for his own family. And in verse 16, Paul pulls these concepts together by saying that men (and women) should take care of the widows among their own relatives and the church should only be charged with widows who have no families to take care of them. This is clearly a depiction of the very same type of "daily ministration" that Acts 6 spoke of concerning the widows. However, verse 10 also speaks of communal living when it refers to the widows themselves sharing their housing and food with the needy. (In verse 10, the Greek word for "relieve" is "eparkeo," Strong's No. 1884, which conveys "to give aid from one's own resources.")

As we continue forward, it is important to note that by tracing the use of the word "honor" throughout this chapter, we find many additional proofs that Paul is discussing communal living. We initially find the word "honor" in verse 3, where it is used with regard to true widows. This Greek word is "timao" (Strong's No. 5091), which ranges in meaning from "estimate, fix the value, the value of something belong to one's self" to "revere, venerate." It is the verb related to the Greek noun "time" (Strong's No. 5092), which is used later in chapter 5 and chapter 6. "Time" carries a similar range in meaning from the monetary "price or value" of something to "reverence." While both meanings are possible, context indicates that the meaning refers to monetary value. This leads to our next piece of evidence.

Second, the Greek word "time" is the exact word that Acts 4 and 5 use in reference to the amount of money that Christians earned by selling their property and brought to the apostles for distribution among the church.

Acts 4:34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices (5092) of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet. 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, 2 And kept back part of the price (5092), 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 hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price (5092) of the land? 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

Consequently, there is a strong case from precedent for interpreting the use of "time" (and the related verb "timao") as referring to the communal distribution, particularly because Acts 6:1 describes how this communal distribution was used to provide for the widows, which is the very subject that Paul is discussing here in 1 Timothy 5.

Third, Paul has stated that the church is to "honor" those who are "widows indeed." The Greek word for "indeed" is "ontos" (Strong's No. 3689), which means "truly, in reality." But how does Paul define what distinguishes a true widow here in this context? Paul describes true widows as those who are desolate or "alone." The Greek word for "desolate" is "monoo" (Strong's No. 3443), which means, "left alone, forsaken." In other words, true widows are those that have no one to take care of them. They are alone. In verse 5, Paul defines a true widow, beginning with the phrase "Now she that is a widow indeed (ontos)." Paul goes on to define a true widow by contrasting such widows to those widows who are young and could remarry to new husbands that would theoretically provide for them (v. 11), to those widows who have sufficient money and "live in pleasure" (v. 6), and to those widows who have children or other family members to take care of them (v. 16).

This definition of a "true widow" raises an interesting question concerning the meaning of "honor" in this context. If honor in verse 3 meant to "revere" or "respect," then why would young women, prosperous women, and women with families to provide for them be worthy of less respect than those who are alone with no family to support them? All women would be worthy of respect. However, if the word "honor" refers to the idea of "valuing" in the sense of giving monetary sums out of a "daily distribution" as mentioned in Acts 6, then Paul's instruction to "honor" only those widows that are all alone makes perfect sense. Young women, prosperous women, and women with family members to support them were in no need of "value" or "money" from the churches communal distribution. But only those women with no husband, no means to earn a living, and no family to support them were worthy of the "value" or "monetary sum." Consequently, such widows would receive from the daily ministration of the church.

Fourth, Paul uses the noun "time" in verse 17 with regard to local church leaders, known as "elders." Paul then immediately supports giving "time" to the elders by appealing to the scripture that says, "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward." This is the very same scripture that Paul appeals to in 1 Corinthians 9 when supporting his own right as an apostle to receive financial support from the church. (Incidentally, although in 1 Corinthians 9 Paul's comments are in reference to supporting the apostles financially, this passage marks the second time in Paul's first Corinthian epistle in which Paul references communal living among Christians.)

1 Corinthians 9:3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this, 4 Have we not power to eat and to drink? 5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas? 6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? 7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? 8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also? 9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen? 10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope. 11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul surrounds this axiomatic scripture concerning "muzzling the ox" with other clear references to financial support, such as the right to have food provided to them (v. 4), the right to "forbear working" (v. 6), a soldier paying for his own expenses (v. 7), and "reap your carnal things" (v. 11). None of these statements relates to the idea of respect or reverence. They all relate to the idea of financial support. And lastly, in verse 11, Paul concludes with a familiar principle that we have already seen Paul cite in Romans 15:27 and Galatians 6:6. Specifically, Paul once again asserts that those who provide spiritual teaching should receive in return material support. Paul even couples this principle with the metaphor of sowing and reaping in 1 Corinthians 9:10-11, just as he does in Galatians 6:6-10.

Romans 15:27 It hath pleased them verily; and their debtors they are. For if the Gentiles have been made partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister unto them in carnal things.

Galatians 6:6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate (2841) unto him that teacheth in all good things (18). 7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. 8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. 9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. 10 As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good (18) unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Consequently, Paul's appeal to not "muzzling the ox" in support of giving "time" to the local elders, clearly demonstrates that "time" (like "timao") is being used in regard to financial support, not respect.

Fifth, Paul's specific assertion that the elders should receive "double honor" itself corroborates that Paul is talking about financial support. In our article entitled, "Church Leadership and Authority Conditional," we demonstrate how the phrase "double honor" is a clear reference to the Old Testament instruction found in Deuteronomy 21, which states that when a father dies, the eldest son is identified as his successor by receive a double portion of the father's inheritance. Likewise, in 2 Kings 2, when the prophet Elijah was carried away to heaven, Elisha was shown to be his successor among all the "sons of the prophets" because Elisha received a "double portion" of "Elijah's spirit." In the same way, Paul is saying that the elders should be counted as the apostles' successors in the local church communities. Consequently, Paul's use of the phrase "double portion" inherently equates the church's communal distribution with the distribution of the financial inheritance among the family in the Old Testament Law. So, once again, we see that Paul's language connects "time" and "timao" with the communal distribution, rather than merely giving respect. (As indicated earlier, additional discussion concerning the difference between financial support for apostles and financial support for local leaders can be found in our article series titled, "Financial Support for Ministers.")

In fact, the only objection to interpreting both "time" and "timao" in reference to communal living arises in the verses that immediately follow in 1 Timothy 6. In verse 1 of chapter 6, Paul instructs servants to count their own masters worthy of all honor. Although there are slight differences, the Greek wording for "counted worthy" and "honor" is very similar in chapter 5:17 and chapter 6:1. (Specifically, in chapter 5 Paul uses a single word "axioo," Strong's No. 515, for the phrase "count worthy," while in chapter 6 the same phrase is comprised of the related word "axios" combined with "hegeomai," Strong's Nos. 514 and 2233 respectively.)

1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy (515) of double honour (5092), especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.

1 Timothy 6:1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count (2233) their own masters worthy (514) of all honour (5092), that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.

This counterargument stems from the idea that the use of "time" with regard to servants and masters must refer to "respect" and, consequently, for the sake of consistency the use of "time" and "timao" should be interpreted as "respect" throughout chapters 5-6. However, there is no reason that in 1 Timothy 6:1 "time" cannot refer to monetary value instead of respect. There are many ways in which a servant could withhold money or the value of his work from his master or even take or skim money or other valuable goods from his master. Given that Paul has elsewhere felt it necessary to instruct Christians not to steel, it would be equally fitting to think of Paul giving such instructions to servants here in 1 Timothy 6. And concerning Paul's warning about God's doctrine being blasphemed, it would be equally blasphemous for servants to deprive their masters of money as it would be for servants to be disrespectful. Moreover, since Paul is giving instructions about communal living, it would be necessary for Paul to inform servants that giving to the church should not be done at the expense of holding back or steeling from their masters, which could be the very reason Paul makes this statement to servants in the midst of his discussion about communal living. And so, ultimately, there is nothing about Paul's use of "time" with regard to servants and masters in chapter 6 that is contradictory or problematic for interpreting "time" and "timao" in reference to monetary distribution.

After taking a few verses to chastise anyone who would disagree with his instructions, Paul directs his comments back toward communal living issues. In the process, Paul provides a few additional evidences that communal living is indeed his focus.

1 Timothy 6:1 Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. 2 And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. These things teach and exhort. 3 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; 4 He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself. 6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content. 9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. 13 I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; 14 That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: 15 Which in his times he shall shew, who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; 16 Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen. 17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; 18 That they do good (14), that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute (1511) (2130), willing to communicate (2843); 19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Sixth, in verse 5 Paul refers to men who consider themselves Christians but think of Christianity as a means to become wealthy or acquire money. Here Paul parallels Jesus' instructions in Luke 12. Similar to Jesus' words in Luke 12:15-20, in verse 7 Paul teaches that it does no good for men to store up treasures for themselves because when they die, they cannot enjoy any of it. In verse 8, Paul references Luke 12:22-30 with regard to Jesus' instructions to be content with having food and clothing, rather than seeking more. In verses 11-16, Paul gives some general encouragements for Timothy to flee from such material pursuits and instead to follow Jesus' commands, which again parallels Jesus' instructions in Luke 12:31, to seek first the kingdom of God. Lastly, in verse 19, Paul states that the rich should be "Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life." This language directly parallels Jesus' words in Luke 12:21 and the parallel passage in Matthew 6:19-20, where Jesus instructs his followers "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth" but "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven." This language also parallels Jesus' instructions to the rich young ruler, whom Jesus told, "go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven" (Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22). In particular, we note the phrase "sell that thou hast, and give to the poor." Luke 12, which Paul repeatedly cites throughout this chapter, culminates in verse 33 where Jesus taught his followers about communal living with the similar instruction, "Sell that ye have, and give alms." Consequently, by referencing Jesus' teaching from Luke 12, Paul is clearly also instructing Christians to live communally.

Seventh, after finishing these encouragements to Timothy, in verses 17-18, Paul once again turns his attention explicitly back to communal living. He states that wealthier Christians should "do good," using the Greek word "agathoergeo" (Strong's No. 14). "Agathoergeo" is directly related to "agathos" (Strong's No. 18), which Paul used in Galatians 6:6-10 specifically in reference to communal giving. And then, Paul goes on in verse 18 to use the Greek word "koinonikos" (Strong's No. 2843), which is the adjective related to the words "koinonia" (Strong's No. 1248) and "koinoneo" (Strong's No. 2841). Paul has used "koinonia" and "koinoneo" repeatedly in reference to communal giving. In fact, the lexicon recognizes that the secondary definition for "koinonikos" is "inclined to make others sharers in one's possessions, inclined to impart, free in giving, liberal."

Eighth, in verse 18 Paul also uses the Greek word "eumetadotos" (Strong's No. 2130) for "distribute." "Eumetadotos" means "ready or free to impart," which clearly speaks of generosity and alludes to the idea of communal distribution to the poorer saints. Furthermore, "eumetadotos" is derived from "eu" (Strong's No. 2095), which means "to be well off, prosper." This language inherently conveys the idea of wealthy or prosperous Christians imparting their riches among the Christian community.

In conclusion, these eight facts demonstrate that here in 1 Timothy 5-6 Paul is once again discussing communal living.


New Testament Communal Living Survey Summary

With our examination of the Gospels and the epistles now complete, we can summarize our findings so far. First, we have seen that far from being an obscure, incidental practice, communal living was firmly established by Jesus throughout the Gospels in both his teaching and his own life with his disciples. Second, we have seen that far from being a mere footnote in Acts 2 and 4, instructions for communal living appear in 15 out of the 27 New Testament books, including Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, Hebrews, and James. That's more than half of the New Testament books. Third, we have seen that far from being an isolated, culturally unique occurrence, communal living was practiced in communities ranging from more than a dozen people to 120 people to several thousand people in not only Jerusalem but also reaching across from Asia to Europe and including Christians from both Jewish and numerous Gentile cultures. Rather than disappearing as time went on and the Gospel entered new cultures, communal living grew and grew, overturning the customary ways of converts in various new cultures along the way. From these facts, we can firmly conclude that communal living was an intentional, divinely designed, and divinely instituted characteristic of the church.

Now that the importance of communal living has been firmly established from the New Testament as an indispensible and essential part of the Christian way of life, we can turn our attention to outlining some of the basic requirements and guidelines established by the apostles for conducting communal living.


New Testament Requirements and Guidelines for Communal Living

Although there was no obligation concerning when or how much to give an individual Christians should give, there were a few "rules" or "requirements" related to communal giving.

1.) Perhaps the most prominent protocol concerning communal living was that it is geared to helping the poorer members of the church. (The Greek word for "alms" in the passages below is "eleemosune," Strong's No. 1654, which refers to "charity, a donation to the poor.")

Matthew 19:21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. 23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Mark 10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

Luke 12:16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully…33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth.

Luke 18:22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. 23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

Luke 19:2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich…8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

John 13:29 For some of them thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus had said unto him, Buy those things that we have need of against the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.

Acts 24:17 Now after many years I came to bring alms (1654) to my nation, and offerings.

Romans 15:25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints. 26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.

1 Corinthians 13:3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: 9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. 10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness.)

Galatians 2:10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

Ephesians 4:28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

James 2:14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?

The emphasis on providing for the poor reveals an underlining rule of providing for needs, not wants. Communal living should not be used to pay for recreational spending or for some to live in luxury or ease, especially not at the expense of others. This leads us to our next guideline for communal living.


2.) Communal living was not a means to help wealthier people make ends meet or balance their own budgets. Consequently, those with lesser incomes should never be expected or asked to help support the greater expenses of those with greater incomes. Paul makes such comments in 2 Corinthians. According to Paul, communal living was not intended to supply for the ease or luxury of some at the expense or burden of those who had less.

2 Corinthians 8:13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: 14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: 15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.

Ultimately, communal giving was never intended to transfer money from those with lesser resources to support the ease or more luxurious lifestyle of their fellow Christians with greater income or greater resources.



3.) For wealthier people, God's instructions were for them to simplify their lives by turning their excess into funds that could be used to help others. We have already seen the emphasis on the rich selling their goods to provide for the poor in Matthew 19, Mark 10, Luke 12, Luke 18, and Luke 19 above. This theme is also reflected in 2 Timothy 6.

2 Timothy 6:17 Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; 18 That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute (1511) (2130), willing to communicate (2843); 19 Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Likewise, we have already seen the emphasis that money is a distraction for those who are wealthier. And this distraction makes it difficult for them to pursue the kingdom of God first since, according to Jesus, men cannot serve both God and money. In Matthew 13 and Mark 4, Jesus taught plainly that concern over riches and pursuit of material things chokes out or supplants the central place of the word of God in our hearts and the result is that we become unfruitful.

Matthew 13:22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. 23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

Mark 4:18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. 20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.

Both Jesus and John the Baptist stated plainly that those who do not bear fruit are cut down and cast into the fire.

Matthew 3:10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Luke 3:9 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Luke 13:6 He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7 Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? 8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

John 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.

Jesus' instructions to the rich young rulers must be understood in this context. When Jesus tells him to sell his possessions, Jesus is not just thinking of the poor. Jesus is thinking of the rich young ruler who is distracted by wealth, which by its very nature threatens this young man's entrance into the kingdom. This is why Jesus concludes by saying, "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" On this note, it is relevant that Jesus' closing line is not a lament for the poor who would not be receiving the benefit of the rich man's wealth. Instead, Jesus' closing thought is a lament for the rich man because in Jesus' eyes, the probability was extremely high that the rich man's riches would distract him from the kingdom of God. It is extremely interesting that Jesus' saw the rich man's refusal to give up his riches as having the most detrimental impact, not on the poor, but on the rich man himself and his prospects of entering the kingdom. Clearly, Jesus' words here convey that God's sentiments toward the rich are to simplify their lives by removing their riches since riches are such a distraction.

Matthew 19:16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?..21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. 23 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Mark 10:17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?...21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. 23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

Luke 18:18 And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? 22 Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. 23 And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. 24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

In more general terms, Jesus' statements to the rich young ruler are convey the need for Christians to rid themselves of the distractions of monetary pursuits so that they won't end up servants to money and can instead pursue the kingdom of God first, be fruitful, and enter the kingdom. And that is why elsewhere, Jesus instructs his own followers not to pursue storing up wealth on earth because doing so leads to us being servants of money. According to Jesus, such monetary pursuits are the ways of the unbelieving pagans.

Matthew 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: 21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also…24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?... 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Luke 12:13 And one of the company said unto him, Master, speak to my brother, that he divide the inheritance with me. 14 And he said unto him, Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you? 15 And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. 16 And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully:…20 But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? 21 So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God. 22 And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on…30 For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. 31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. 32 Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. 34 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

The result of all these teachings from Jesus is a clear instruction for wealthier Christians to simplify their lives and their budgets (in part by selling to provide for others) so that they will no longer be distracted by their wealth and the luxuries it buys.


4.) Although it is not directly stated in scripture, it is presumable that financial support would not have been available for those who were not managing their own finances responsibly. Such a rule is necessitated by the principle that communal living was not intended to provide support for those living a life of greater ease or abundance, which would necessarily include irresponsible spending on unneeded recreational or luxury items. This kind of irresponsible spending or neglect to properly budget for the needs of one's own family is indicated by Paul's words in 1 Timothy 5.

1 Timothy 5:8 But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.

Surely, Paul is not condemning those who are poor and lack the means to provide for their family. Rather, Paul is condemning those who have sufficient means, but squander their resources on other things resulting in the neglect of their family's needs.


5.) Local communal living was regular, occurring daily and weekly at church gatherings. But giving to other communities located in different areas was irregular and on an "as needed" basis. We see the continuous nature of local sharing in Jerusalem's "daily ministration" in Acts 6.

Acts 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

Likewise, in 1 Timothy 5, the instructions regarding distribution to the widows, the poor, and even to the elders refer to a local community. The local nature of the distribution in 1 Timothy is indicated by the fact that "elders" by nature, were a local leadership position. The distribution most likely occurred during regular church gatherings, just as it did in Acts 6.

In contrast, Paul's orchestration of communal giving to Jerusalem from Macedonia, Achaia, and Corinth (as well as presumably other churches), took more than a year to carry out, a fact that rules out the idea of frequency or regularity to such inter-community distributions.

2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

Of course, with modern advancements in communication and transportation, we can greatly increase the speed of such efforts. But the increased ability to facilitate distant distributions does not change the fact that such distributions from one community and another were not regular, but only initiated by abnormally difficult circumstances. The normal means of provision for any given community was the communal giving of its own local members, not those in other communities.

2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality…10 And herein I give my advice: for this is expedient for you, who have begun before, not only to do, but also to be forward a year ago. 11 Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness to will, so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have…9:1 For as touching the ministering to the saints, it is superfluous for me to write to you: 2 For I know the forwardness of your mind, for which I boast of you to them of Macedonia, that Achaia was ready a year ago; and your zeal hath provoked very many. 3 Yet have I sent the brethren, lest our boasting of you should be in vain in this behalf; that, as I said, ye may be ready.

Acts 24:17 Now after many years I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings.

In addition, the “as needed” basis of global communal living is also demonstrated by a fifth passage in Acts. In Acts 11, we see that the Christians in Antioch gave to the Christians in Judaea specifically in response to a coming famine. The word for “relief” is “diakonia” (Strong’s No. 1248) the same word used for the daily ministration to the widows in Acts 6 and 2 Corinthians 8:4 and 9:1, 13. (Acts 12 uses the same word again to refer to the completion of this same act of financial distribution.)

Acts 11:25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: 26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. 27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch. 28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world (3625): which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar. 29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief (1248) unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: 30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

Acts 12:25 And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem, when they had fulfilled their ministry (1248), and took with them John, whose surname was Mark.


6.) In order to receive out of the distribution, a man had to be endeavoring to work to provide for himself. Those who refused to work were not allowed to receive from the communal distribution. (In 2 Thessalonians Paul says that he established this rule himself by working with his own hands as an example. It would seem that as a leader, Paul's example would apply to other leaders, such as elders, and not just to lay persons. As indicated earlier, additional discussion concerning the difference between financial support for apostles and financial support for local leaders can be found in our article series titled, "Financial Support for Ministers.")

2 Thessalonians 3:6 Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. 7 For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; 8 Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: 9 Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. 10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. 11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. 12 Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread.


7.) The goal of communal living was to eliminate poverty, lack, and significant economic class distinction in favor of economic equality.

2 Corinthians 8:13 For I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened: 14 But by an equality, that now at this time your abundance may be a supply for their want, that their abundance also may be a supply for your want: that there may be equality: 15 As it is written, He that had gathered much had nothing over; and he that had gathered little had no lack.


8.) As we have seen repeatedly earlier in this study, although communal living is a necessary part of church life and church leadership is obligated to implement communal living, when it came to the individual Christian how often and how much to give was entirely voluntary.

In the example of Ananias and Sapphira, Peter states that both before and after Ananias sold the property, the authority to keep the value of it belonged to Ananias so that there was utterly no reason to lie about holding back part of the price.

Acts 5:1 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 hath Satan filled thine 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 thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.

In Luke 19, it is entirely the decision of Zacchaeus to give any, let alone half, of his goods to the poor. Jesus did not give him any hints or instructions about such an amount.

Luke 19:1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. 2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich…8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

And we have already documented how many different ways throughout 2 Corinthians 8-9 that Paul emphatically demonstrates how communal giving is voluntary for the individual. Here again are a few highlighted portions of those chapters.

2 Corinthians 8:1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; 2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. 3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves (830); 4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship (2842) of the ministering to the saints…11 Now therefore perform the doing of it; that as there was a readiness (4288) to will (2309), so there may be a performance also out of that which ye have. 12 For if there be first a willing mind (4288), it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not…9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 7 Every man according as he purposeth (4255) in his heart (2588), so let him give; not grudgingly (3077), or of necessity (318): for God loveth a cheerful (2431) giver.

(It should be noted in closing, that communal living did not require Christians living together. No verse in the New Testament institutes this kind of requirement. However, it is unavoidable that many of the Christians who sold "lands or houses" to provide for the church in Acts 4:34-35 would presumably have moved in with their fellow Christians. So, while living together is not a component of communal living instructions and by no means a requirement, some degree of living together is a natural outgrowth of communal living.)


Study Conclusions

As we conclude this study, we can see that communal living is not an incidental, fleeting, minor footnote tagged onto the bottom of a small page in the New Testament. It was instituted by Jesus Christ in both his life and his teachings. It was carried on by the apostles no matter how large the church grew and no matter how many different cultures and communities or continents it spread into. It was incumbent on the church as a whole but voluntary for the individual. It flourished in a free economy with most of the participants being effectively small business owners, farmers, or servants of land owners and small business owners. And it was instructed in 15 out of the 27 books of the New Testament.

For all these reasons, communal living should be reinstated among modern churches. The goal should be to replace the current model in which each family operates as a separate unit of isolated income with a model in which the entire local church community thinks of itself as a collective earning unit. In this communal model, each individual Christian would be viewed comparable to the way that individual family members are cared for under the previous isolated family unit model. In other words, beyond just our wife, our husband, our children, and our parents, we should view each Christian brother and sister as a family member that we are responsible for helping take care of.

In addition, in the current model giving is focused primarily on providing salaries for full-time pastors, church staff, church building and maintenance costs, and a token portion devoted to simply storing canned goods, blankets, and used clothing to their fellow Christians. This focus on the pastors, staff, church building, and "food bank" should be replaced with a primary focus on meeting the needs of the entire community with equity, allowing the staff and the pastors to participate as needed, including the provisions for pastors who labor well according to 1 Timothy 5. (Of course, if the church building and maintenance costs prove to be an obstacle, the ideal situation would be a return to home churches, just like the ancient church which had no church buildings to support and could, therefore more appropriately focus on meeting the needs of the church community itself.) One deliberate result of these efforts would be a decreased discrepancy in living standards among different members and families within the church. There should be fewer instances in which some Christians have large houses, expensive cars, and many luxuries while their fellow Christians struggle to make ends meet, have no insurance, run-down vehicles, and low-income housing in declining neighborhoods.

What a testimony it would be for the world to see all Christians meeting each others' needs equally, caring for our fellow Christian families as much as our own family, eliminating poverty in the church, and lifting financial burdens so that all can pursue the kingdom of God and the study of Jesus' teaching equally and without distraction. This was the testimony that the ancient, unbelieving world saw in our Christian ancestors of the first few centuries A.D., an era in which the church experienced unmatched growth.