In this third and final blog post of my Jesus Church series, I’d like to talk about money. Twice, John points out that the ‘Jesus Church’ had a central fund that Judas was responsible for (John 12:6, John 13:29). The income that the church received, probably from donations (Luke 8:3), seems to have been pooled, and the surplus given to the poor.
This was an obvious practical expression of Jesus’ radical economic teachings.
“Blessed are you who are poor”, he said, “but woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (Luke 6:20, 24). It’s clear that Jesus didn’t want us to be rich.
This is also evident when he said that we should not store up treasures on earth:
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21).
When a rich young man asked Jesus what he should do to receive eternal life, the Saviour responded: “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21).
Indeed, He told all of his disciples: “Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33).
Jesus made it very clear that His call is a challenging one, when He said:
“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33).
As the disciples did what Jesus said and abandoned all their possessions to the benefit of the poor, they were welcomed into a new, big family where simplicity and equality were crucial. Jesus said:
“Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19:29).
I think this refers to Christian community. When the early disciples called each other brothers and sisters, they meant that in a very serious way, sharing all their possessions.
We read that those who belonged to the apostolic church in Jerusalem “were together and had all things in common… selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45).
They continued to do what their leader, Jesus, had taught them and lived out. This wasn’t their own idea, they were following the example of their master that they had grown accustomed to.
When we realise that economic equality and community wasn’t just part of the Jerusalem church but the ‘Jesus’ church, representing how Jesus and the apostles want us to live, we need to re-examine our beliefs concerning how we should live today. If Jesus wanted all of His church members to abandon all personal property and share with each other and the poor, what makes us different?
This post is part three of a three-part series.