This week, we continue with our Made To Run series through the book of Acts. We’re looking at what it means to live lives that are radically changed by Jesus and influenced by the Holy Spirit. Jesus offers us the opportunity to experience freedom and joy in many aspects of our lives, including our finances.
Read Acts 4.32–35.
In this passage we find the early church actively engaged in radical sharing and generosity, and it was working. There were no needy among them—no homeless, no hungry, no one going without healthcare. All their needs were met as they shared all they had.
We might be tempted to write off this community as extreme or some kind of commune. Historians tell us that there were people in that day who did live in communes. But not the early Church. They had a more balanced approach to life. Individuals owned land, and when they did sell possessions to give to those in need, it was done out of a compassionate desire to help others. In other words, it wasn’t required by the community, and it wasn’t done out of obligation. They were on mission to engage their society, not to isolate themselves. Their generosity wasn’t so much extreme as it was radical. There are two practices of the early Church that will help us demonstrate radical generosity.
1. Radically generous people hold their possessions loosely.
In Acts 4.34, we read that “from time to time” people would sell their property and give the proceeds to help those with needs. This wasn’t a one-time occurrence. It happened with some kind of regularity. They held their possessions loosely. Homes, land, savings, whatever they had was fair game. How could they live and give so freely? They found their security in God, not in their possessions.
The early Church understood that the truth of the gospel was directly connected to how they viewed their possessions and money. Jesus had just risen from the dead. It gave them an eternal perspective of what was to come. Possessions and the lure of their temporary security didn’t matter. They saw the true hope of eternity, so they could hold their possessions in this life loosely.
It isn’t wrong to be good stewards of the resources that God’s entrusted us with. In fact, we’re called to be good stewards. But as we begin to understand His values and priorities, we’ll start to see that, very often, the best way to steward His resources is to invest them in what He holds most precious: people.
Question: What is a next step that you can take to begin holding your possessions more loosely so you can begin living a life that’s radically generous? Maybe it’s creating a budget, committing to tithing, or creating space in your life for giving?
2. Radically generous people value people over possessions
In Acts 4.32, we read that the early Church was “one in heart and mind” and that they “shared in everything they had.” It wasn’t that the members of the early Church never experienced need. We know that needs arose, because we’re told that they gave to those who had need. The difference wasn’t that needs didn’t arise, it was that they rose to meet the needs.
The Church is a family, not just a crowd of unconnected people. And this isn’t the kind of dysfunctional family that some of us may have experienced. We are brothers and sisters bound together by the blood of Christ. His love and sacrifice demonstrated the kind of selfless sacrifice we should be willing to make for one another.
There are a couple ways of thinking that can keep us from helping one another. First, it can be easy for those of us with resources to view the need as someone else’s problem. This means that we can close our eyes to the reality of the needs around us. Often the easiest way to avoid this pitfall is to serve in ministry opportunities where we have regular contact with the needs around us. This doesn’t necessarily mean being involved in a direct compassion ministry, though that is certainly an option. Any opportunity to come into contact with a large cross-section of the body of Christ will expose us to the many needs around us.
Question: If you’re not regularly encountering the needs in the Church community, what might you do to widen your perspective? Is there a particular ministry you feel God calling you to get involved with?
The second incorrect way of thinking is that those of us without as many resources can feel ashamed that we have nothing to give, leading to isolation and resentment. The kind of radical generosity Jesus calls us to isn’t about dollar amounts or the size of our gifts. Jesus pointed out a poor widow who gave a couple of coins and told His disciples that she gave more than all the wealthy people who gave large amounts. Why? Because she gave all she had. It wasn’t about the size of her gift, but the sacrificial heart with which she gave. That is the kind of radical generosity we are all called to.
Radical generosity is about loving one another as Christ did—like family. It isn’t about possessions or security or pride, it’s about people. Acts 4 ends with a statement about a man named Barnabas who sold a field and brought the money to the apostles. This is how God chose to introduce a man who later went on to travel with the Apostle Paul planting churches. His love for God and God’s people was evidenced in his radical act of generosity.
Read Acts 5.1–11.
In this story, which immediately follows our introduction to Barnabas, we see God’s serious response to a lack of generosity. It is easy to look at the significant gift that Ananias and Sapphira gave and wonder why God was so angry with them. But remember, radical generosity isn’t about how much we give. There is a key phrase in this story. We read that Ananias “kept back a part of the money for himself.” God wasn’t furious about what this couple gave, but what they “kept back.” God wants a whole-hearted generosity. In 2 Corinthians 9.7, we’re told that each of us should give cheerfully what we have decided in our hearts to give. Ananias and Sapphira weren’t valuing people over possessions, instead they gave to make themselves look good. They were holding back their hearts from God.
Question: What is an area in your life that you might keep back from God? How might you put people before possessions in your own life?
Read Proverbs 4.23.
God takes the condition of our hearts seriously, because He knows that everything about who we are and what we do flows out of our hearts. God wants what’s best for His children. And radical generosity puts God first in our hearts. When we put Him and His love for others first, we can experience what Acts 4.33 tells us: “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them.” If we hold our possessions loosely and value people over possessions, we will see lives changed—inside the Church and beyond.
Jesus modeled radical generosity towards each of us when He refused to hold anything back but gave everything on the cross. His generosity gave us freedom from spiritual poverty. As a result we can live in freedom and joy. And we are called to let His radical generosity flow in us and through us to impact the world for Him.