First Reading (B): Acts 4:32-35

One in Mind and Heart

Popular Translation

32 The entire community of the believers met together with one mind and heart. No one claimed some of his possessions as strictly his own. Everything was shared in common. 33 The Apostles gave powerful speeches about the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God blessed them all with many gifts. 34 No one was in need. Many followers who owned small farms or homes sold them, brought the money they made to church, 35 and placed their profit at the feet of the Apostles. That money was shared according to the needs of the people.

Literal Translation

32 The complete (group) of the (ones) believing was one in heart and in life, and not a single (person) was claiming some of his possessions to be (his) own, but everything was to them in common. 33 With great power, the Apostles gave up (their) witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and (God's) great favor was on them all. 34 For, no one of them was in need. For, as many as owners of small farms or dwellings were holding (them), selling, (they) brought the profit of (holdings) being sold, 35 and set the (moneys) at the feet of the Apostles, (and the moneys) were distributed according to (those who) had any need.

4:32 "one in heart and in life" is literally "one in heart and soul." Heart, for ancient people, was the seat of all interior activity, both intellectual and emotional; hence the emphasis on "mind." Soul could also be translated "spirit" or "breathe," even "life." The unity of heart and soul described the Greek concept of "person." The phrase also expressed a unity of purpose and lifestyle in the community.

"not a single (person) was claiming some of his possessions to be (his) own, but everything was to them in common" did not refer to an exclusive communal lifestyle. It had a greater sense of sharing one's possessions for the good of others (in the same way a neighbor might lend out his tools). Even the sale of property in 4:34 meant tithing of profits for the good of the community. But, the early Christian community did function as a clan or extended family. And the Apostles did have the power and prerogatives of family patriarchs. So they did have some say in the financial affairs of community members.

4:33 "with great power" could mean "with vigor" (as in the popular translation) or "with huge results." In either case, the power came from the Spirit.

"(God's) great favor was on them all" could also be translated as " the great favor (of the population in general) was on them all." In the first sense, God blessed the activity of the community. In the second sense, the reputation of the Christian community grew in the esteem of the populace. Both senses are not mutually exclusive. God's blessings created a "buzz."

What does the word "community" really mean? How do we really sense "community?"

In the early chapters of Acts, Luke painted an ideal portray of the Church in Jerusalem. Early Christians created this "ideal" more out of need than out of some sense of utopia. After all, many of believers left their extended families to become Christians. They banded together and shared their possessions/incomes. This was not a commune, as many liberal scholars would like to think, but more like a fraternal organization. Friend helping friend. [32]

The Apostles were spiritual and organization leaders of this group. They were the ones who distributed goods to the poor in the community, so everyone could live. Eventually, the Apostles ordained deacons to care for the poor (i.e., the widows and the orphans who were homeless). Again out of necessity. [33, 35]

The spirit of unity was expressed in financial outreach. The "haves" shared with the "have-nots." Notice that those with property were not forced to sell their possessions for the Church; the offerings were made freely. This point would be made later in Acts 5:1-10. [34]

Like the early Christian community, our parishes or assemblies are quilt works. Different people from different backgrounds earning different salaries with different needs. This diversity creates a tension that can tear the community apart. Or it can spark a growing together. The resources for growth are usually present. Openness is needed to make that growth happen. Openness to others. Openness to the Spirit.

Where do you see sharing among Christians? How does that sharing inspire you?