I’ve spent some time thinking about the words in Acts 2: 42-47 and Acts 4: 31-35 as I’ve worked on my lessons these past 2 weeks. This is an amazing account of the fellowship of the early church. But I think it is much more than that. As I’ve read it and prayed on it over time, the central sentence that keeps speaking to me is from Act 4: 34: “There were no needy persons among them.”
I live in an rather affluent area. Luxury cars abound. Designer clothes are common. Families don’t complain about lacking financial resources to do things only about the time to do them. But as I look around my area, my neighborhood, even in my church, there are a lot of “needy people”.
I am not pointing fingers, because, clearly, there are many times that I act that way myself. It seems to take two forms, when we over focus on ourselves and when we over focus on others. In the first we get self absorbed. We think about how down we feel or sad or lacking or whatever, but we “need” other people to boost our ego. The second is when we focus on what others have that we do not and covet those things, whether material or not. Both paths lead to the same place, this personification of being a “needy person.”
In contrast, my family has been spending some time working with our church and a sister church in Joplin, MO. In case you don’t know, on May 22nd a Category 5 tornado , 1/2 mile wide with winds of over 200 mph left a 6 mile path of destruction through the town. 160 lives were lost, 22,000 vehicles, 15,000 jobs, 7,000 home, 3 schools. An entire Wal-Mart and Home Depot, including the building and all the shelves, contents, etc. were completely wiped off the map. But, here is the amazing part. When you meet with people at the church, when you see the volunteers and helpers, there aren’t needy people. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of needs in the community. With cold weather quickly approaching, there is a glaring need for shelter, for warm clothes, for healthy foods. But, the people themselves at the church don’t talk about being needy. They talk about how hard everyone is working. They talk with awe about how many christians have flocked in. They marvel at how God is moving to bring kids into a new after school program to learn about God and His Word. They talk about the beauty they see in the spirit moving in the people that pass through their doors.
I get the sense that the lack of need in the early church wasn’t just that everyone shared money and possessions. I think it was first and foremost the Holy Spirit filling them, but with that, the fact that the Holy Spirit was filling them to work, to testify, to spread the word that Jesus is the Lord. As we start to feel ourselves feeling needy, maybe we should look at what work the Holy Spirit is filling us to do and who He is calling us to reach out to and fellowship with. That, to me, seems like the main way the church today can grow like the church grew in the beginning.