“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” (Reference: Acts 4:32-35 )
Andreas Ehrenpreis was very clear and definite in his writings found in Brotherly Community (1650). He wrote “They who would enter into life must come through love, the highest commandment; there is no other way through the narrow gate, Matt. 22:34-40; John 14:1-14. Hundreds of Scriptures and many witnesses make it very clear that whoever wishes to have the precious and hidden jewel must go and sell everything, yes, hand over everything they possess, Matt. 13:45-46; Acts 2:43-47.” Perhaps the historic Anabaptists of that time, while committed to the brotherhood (and sisterhood) of all believers, and equality before the eyes of God, did not particularly want to share the financial resources and possessions that they had. There might have been a great disparity between different believers; we can see this when looking at the family history and background of some of the historic Anabaptists. Perhaps that is why Ehrenpreis wrote further, “Different interpretations of these texts have been given because people want to keep what they have, but we cannot deny the work and power of the Holy Spirit, by which the apostles set a firm example in the first church in Jerusalem and three thousand were aded [sic], Acts 2; Acts 4:32-37. Therefore no one can think otherwise of this truth, or prove that the people did not understand what they were doing, or that they acted wrongly, or that it was not necessary to sell their houses and land to have community. They laid the proceeds at the feet of the apostles; no one said that anything belonged to them; they had everything in common.”
Do you think it is fair, beloved, to glean from this the interpretation that the historic Anabaptists might NOT have shared equally what each had, and that they did NOT sell what they had (houses and land) to share with their less well off brethren? It was the very attitudes of entitlement by leaders in the state church that caused the historic Anabaptists to break free of those fetters and establish a faith for the common person. How then do you reconcile that with retaining wealth and possessions? Especially in the face of persecution of your brothers and sisters?
One of the things that sets apart Anabaptists/Mennonites who follow faith practices from the 1700’s & 1800’s (and perhaps later decades) is that they do not have or believe in insurance or social security. They say, we take care of our own. This is both to uphold the sense of community and to not mingle with non-believers. This is very easy to do when faith is lived out in an agrarian culture. Harder to do with a more technology based life.
There is much to think about here beloved; reason to search one’s own heart and faith practices. Do we pay only lip service to sharing what we have with others? Or are we finding new ways to help others that is more compatible with our modern lives, and keeping to the spirit of this passage with dedication and authenticity? May you beloved ponder these things in your heart. Selah!