Online Bible Commentary
Our Possessions are Not Our Own
Acts 4:32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles' feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. 36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. (NKJV)
The New Testament church is now an up and coming reality, in the A.D. early thirties. There were now at least five thousand believers that made up the worldwide church. The new believers shared a love of Jesus and a love for their fellow believers. Out of this love came a desire to share their belongings with one another.
The believers “were of one heart and one soul” (v. 32a). They denied that their possessions were their own, instead sharing with their fellow believers (v. 32b). They “had all things in common”, a result of having one heart and one soul (v. 32c).
The apostles preached “the resurrection of the Lord Jesus”, boldly through the power of the Holy Spirit (v. 33a). God’s grace was upon them (v. 33b). None of the believers lacked for anything, because the believers sold their possessions and used the proceeds to provide for those believers in need (vv. 34-35).
“Joses” was one of those who sold his possessions to provide for his fellow believers. The apostles had renamed him Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement”, because of his encouraging ways (v. 36a).
Barnabas was a Levite, of the priestly class. The priestly tribe of Levi was not given land like the other eleven tribes of Jacob, whom God renamed Israel. Instead they were distributed throughout the Promised Land in order to provide ministry to the other eleven tribes. So the Levites were not originally land owners. However, they could receive gifts from those whom they served, which could include land. Barnabas possessed land and sold it in order to give the proceeds to his fellow believers (v. 37).
The early believers understood that God owns the whole world and everything in it. Since He owns everything, we own nothing. If we are blessed with possessions they are only ours to use until God decides otherwise. If we use our possessions in a manner that does not glorify God, He may decide to give those blessings to someone who will. So, the early believers did not look at their possessions as their own. They shared with their fellow believers.
Theirs was not an example of communism in action. Those who sold their possessions did so voluntarily, not by law as in communism. The proceeds were distributed according to who had needs, not equally as in communism. Theirs was an example of Christian love in action.
This Christian love in action still exists in the world today. We still see Christians selling property and giving the proceeds to their fellow Christians in need. Christian charities do great works all over the world, honoring Christ in the process. Believers all over the world support their church and other ministries with their giving.
God owns it all. When we give to His works we are merely giving back a small portion of what He owns anyway. Our possessions are not our own to use strictly for ourselves. A portion is to be used to glorify God by furthering His work on earth.