Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Caring for the Poor (7) - Voluntary

Caring for the poor must always be voluntary. God does not force us to do good, so sharing must always be a free choice.

Christian love produced a radically different attitude to possessions. Instead of being something to enjoy, they were seen as a gift from God to be used to strengthen the Church.

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:32-34).
Christians like Barnabas responded to the gospel by selling their property and giving to those in need (Acts 4:36-37). There was not compulsion. All this giving was voluntary.

The story of Ananias and Saphira is well known, but we often miss the point of incident. It does show the dangers of lying to God, but more important, it shows that giving and sharing must always be voluntary. Peter’s words are important.
Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? (Acts 5:3,4).
Peter’s key point is that Ananias’s land belonged to him before he sold it. The money belonged to him after he had sold it. He was under no compulsion to give anything. He could have kept the whole value of the property for himself without condemnation.

Christian sharing must always be a free response to the love of Jesus. The motivation must be compassion, not condemnation. Sharing must always be voluntary. It must motivated by love and not by peer pressure. Demanding that someone share is always unacceptable. Charity is a privilege, not a right.


Steve Scott said...

Would you say that it is also unacceptable to demand that our children "share" their toys with others? We adults don't readily share our BMW's but we expect our children to share their toy Beemers.

Ron McK said...

The best way to teach children to be generous is to let them see their parents being generous.