Communism or Community?

“And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 KJV)

And now we come to a really difficult passage. At least it was for me. I think most of us have a good grasp on the necessity of the love of God, the love for our brother / neighbor, and that it is the love of God that allows us to love our neighbor. Not trying to diminish the importance of that in the least. Then the chapter takes an interesting turn. “…be quiet..” “…own business…” “…own hands…” “…that ye may have lack of nothing.” Now, hold on a minute. At first glance, this seems to be in blatant contrast to Acts 2:44, 45. What about having all things in common? Was that not the end of private property? The passage in 1 Thessalonians on first glance appears to be a very sharp shift and a prelude to what is coming in 2 Thessalonians. “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.” (2 Thessalonians 3:10 KJV) Is there a rift here or is there something worthy of closer inspection?

In Acts 2, why did they sell their goods? Yes, I know they saw a need, but why sell their goods? Goods that they had ownership of and the right to or not to sell. Why not force those who have to redistribute to those who do not have? There is an enormous leap between an individual who has experience in working for something, ownership of that something, and then willing lets go of it to meet another’s need; and, someone who dictates the redistribution of something that they have no ownership in. This is where the “…that ye may walk honestly…” part comes in. This is a huge problem with modern politicians. They have a ton of compassion for those who have not. As long as it is someone else’s money and property that they are redistributing. An understanding of ownership is key to being able to understand giving. Individual ownership is earned one item at a time. The process of giving to fulfill a need is a surrender process that is repeated over and over again out of compassion as an expression of love and never under the duress of regulation. What kind of compassion is it to give from someone else’s wallet? The giving is because the individual wants to give, wants to meet a need, and wants to minister to a bad situation. Ownership is a prerequisite to giving. Each gift is from the heart and is legitimately theirs to give.

This is in stark contrast to managed societies. As good as the ideas out there may be and as lofty as the intentions that they sell them with, very few models can ever compare with the community that genuinely loves one another. A community that has an interest in knowing each other, watching out for each other, filling needs as they are found, and releasing possession of duly obtained goods universally surpasses the results from any of the managed systems that have been tried so far. The value of each gift is never lost or stolen as there is a specific effort and intent behind each grant. Love only gives of what it knows, not of what it merely imagines to be possible.

“No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (John 10:18 KJV)

One Response to Communism or Community?

  1. Jeff Milam says:

    This is very well written. I somehow stumbled upon this blog from Larry Crabb’s website. I live in a Christian community that models what you’re talking about in this post. I look forward to reading more.

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