Neither Social Revolution nor Utopian Ideal: A Fresh Look at Luke's Community of Goods Practice for Christian Economic Reflection in Acts 4:32-35

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Arts and Humanities | Biblical Studies | Religion


“Luke’s second summary passage of the common life of believers (Acts 4:32–35) employs language couched in the Greco-Roman ideal of friendship as a way to address the practice of sharing possessions. The ideal of friendship lends support to Luke’s claim that the whole group of believers was of one heart and soul and shared everything in common. In this essay, however, I will argue that the Greek notion that ‘friends have everything in common’ is at best only a partial explanation for Luke’s motivation to speak of the practice of sharing possessions. I contend that the believers were more than just friends modeled after the Greco-Roman ideal. Luke’s description of friendship serves rather as an invitation to a more Christian notion of friendship that includes friendship between socially unequal persons, as well as a new motivational guide for social relations: concern for those most in need. This is the case for at least two reasons. One, Luke describes the early Jerusalem community of believers as being of one heart and soul. Second, he further explains that no one claimed private ownership of any possessions in the community, but rather held everything in common. That is, the early Jerusalem community practiced a kind of sharing of possessions, and this practice satisfied his concerns expressed throughout the Luke-Acts narrative that the person in need remain at the heart of any particular model of how to meet the needs of the poor.” –Page 777