Question: In the Acts of the Apostles readings this week, the life of the early Christians ,where everything they had was shared in common, has always sounded to me a little "marxist". I realize that none of this sharing was forced from any government, but are there further distinctions that I am missing?
Answer: This one verse description of the early life of the first Church community has fascinated thousands of persons over the centuries. Many have seen here an outright endorsement of Marxism on the part of the Bible. But nothing could be further from the truth. The Story of Ananias and Saphira in Acts 5 prove that the selling of private property and putting it into the common pool was entirely voluntary (St Peter tells Ananias and his wife that they were foolish to lie to the Alpostles about whether the money they gave was all they had because they were not under any obligation to give it all in the first place). Christians in this early community were under no coercian to sell their property, nor to give all to the common pool. So the concept of the right to private property was preserved even in that first community. This common-pool arrangement did not survive the first generation of Christians. By the time the Church entered the 2nd century the more normal arrangement of Christians owning their own property and not having a common pool of posessions had emerged. But this does not mean that they did not give generously to the poor and Churches did maintain a fund for the poor. The Church has never made any attempt to revive this common-pool arrangment except for religious orders who pledge to own all possessions in common. Marxist forced common-ownership and voluntary common-ownership are world's apart. In fact, the Bible defends private property and praises giving to the poor precisely because people give from their own private funds. Forced charity is useless, which is why former and current Communist countries are the least generous in the world when it comes to international aid to the poor. Jesus was friends with both rich and poor and he never said that private property was sinful (though he warned about making money into an idol).