Christian Communism?

It’s common to hear Christians today espousing the early church’s practice in Acts 2 of liquidating property as being normative for the church today. David Chilton, in a response to Ron Sider’s work, disputes this. Chilton points out why the voluntary liquidation was a one off event and how it was also a shrewd business deal.

(Acts 2) has been used as a proof-text by Christian socialists for centuries. Yes, the early Jerusalem church practiced financial sharing. No, it is not normative for all Christians. The situation was this. On the day of Pentecost, when Jews from around the Roman Empire had gathered in Jerusalem, Peter preached a sermon which immediately added 3,000 new believers to the church (Acts 2:41). Shortly thereafter, 5,000 more were converted (4:4). Because of the urgent necessity of receiving instruction in the faith, most, if not all these new converts stayed in Jerusalem (2:41-42). They had brought enough with them for their stay during the feasts, but they had not planned on staying in Jerusalem indefinitely. Nevertheless, there they were, and the early church was faced with an immediate economic crisis of gigantic proportions. God commands aid to needy brethren, and the Jerusalem Christians stepped in to supply for the needs. Many of the need were apparently from Israel, but many also were “Hellenized” Jews from other nations (2:9-11; 6:1). It was a special situation, and required special measures to deal with it. So believers in Jerusalem who owned property liquidated it as the need arose, using the proceeds for charity. In addition, Jerusalem was “condemned property” anyway, because Jesus had promised to destroy it (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21), and the Christians knew they would have to prepare to leave when the Romans surrounded it. They sold knowingly to Jews who would lose everything in the city. In short, “tough luck” for the rebellious, crucifying Jews of that generation. God’s new people used “inside information” about the future to “rip off” the Jews.