To Share or Not to Share?
July 20, 2023 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
In Paul’s ethical teaching for the Christian community, we come to his treatment of the 8th commandment in Ephesians 4:28. He says, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” We will be digging into this verse on Sunday, but I wanted to use this space to think about what the Bible teaches on sharing. As an alternative to stealing, Paul commends the readiness to share.
The concept of sharing one’s goods is commanded by God. In Leviticus 19:9-10, God says, “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” This comes in a string of commands that impact our interactions with others. God concludes this series of verses with the catch-all command, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18).
There are several principles undergirding the command to not consume all the production of our hands (or the wages we earn). First, God reminds the Israelites that they had been “strangers in the land of Egypt” (Lev. 19:34). This principle emphasizes that we can never presume to think we are better than others. We enjoy provisions and comfort only as a gift of God’s grace. Second, God reminds the Israelites that their bountiful harvests are gifts from him (see Deut. 6:10-15). In fact, he warns them to “take care lest you forget the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (v. 12). This principle emphasizes that all things we enjoy, even the wages of our labors, are gifts from the Lord. Third, God calls his people to love their neighbors as themselves. This principle emphasizes the Golden Rule, which states that we should do to others as we would have them do to us (Matt. 7:12). If we are in need, we would want our “neighbors” to be open to sharing with us.
In a nutshell, the call to not horde all our possessions for ourselves is a call to be like God. He is infinitely rich, and he freely shares with the Israelites in the Old Testament and with the church in the New Testament. As God has freely given to us, we are to freely share with others.
Some have deduced from this calling that Christians should live in some sort of commune where no one holds personal property. The Jesus People in Chicago sought to practice such a community. The Bible, however, does not teach this extreme view. In the early church, believers sold possessions and brought the proceeds to the apostles for distribution to those with need (Acts 4:34-35). When Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property, Peter affirmed that the proceeds were at their disposal (Acts 5:4); there was no obligation to give all the proceeds (side note: they lost their lives because of the lie they told, not because they didn’t give all their proceeds). Then in 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12, Paul commands the church to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” The Bible teaches a proper work ethic where we seek to support our lives with the labors of our hands.
The call to share is a call to understand that every penny we earn is not for us alone. The power of the gospel enables us to fulfill this call. By God’s grace our hearts are freed from the love of money, or the dependence on money, to keep us secure. We give freely because we have nothing to fear to lose. Christ is ours and we are Christ’s and nothing can take that away from us.