Do your giving while you’re living, so you’re knowing where it’s going
Christ-followers were inspired by the generosity of God. They knew Christ was rich in heaven, but left His riches to become poor on Earth. They knew that through Christ‟s poverty on Earth, humans could be heirs to God's priceless kingdom. This radical philosophy of generosity unleashed a new wave of generous benevolence across the Roman Empire. One man named Barnabas, a wealthy land owner, was so generous that he was known as the Son of Encouragement. His giving inspired a wave of financial philanthropy across the globe. His motto could have been: “Do your giving while you‟re living, so you‟re knowing where it‟s going.”
This was not Socialism or Marxism, which mandates giving through government coercion. This was not a top-down government redistribution of wealth, an elimination of property rights, or any form of external coercion at all; this was an inside-out conversion that produced individual, loving generosity. (The Bible teaches property rights, incentive and freedom through enterprise, which clearly contrasts with the economic and political theories of Fascism, Communism, Marxism, and Socialism. The Bible‟s message of compassionate aid for the needy and hands-on service to the poor, positions it against Hedonism, materialism, Gnosticism, and Hinduism.) This message of generosity was unlike any teaching ever seen before or since. These early Christ-followers took their personal income and private property and chose to give it away to others in need.
One couple, Ananias and Sapphira, wanted to be "known" as generous givers. The couple gave a large contribution from some land they sold, but they lied about the amount. They held back some of the proceeds. Peter confronted them. He affirmed that they didn't "have to give" since it was their private property and money. But he held them to account about lying to God and others about the amount they gave. Peter knew their motives; they gave to impress others, not to honor God. Soon after, a significant financial dilemma struck the early church. Many poor widows were being neglected. Some assumed that racism was involved, since some were having their needs met while others were being neglected. Peter brought a group of folks together to take care of the financial needs, including a new church leader named Stephen.
This new team administrated their finances, assessed individual needs, and addressed the issues of racism and neglect. The church and surrounding community responded powerfully. Many were added to the church and joined the radically generous group. The new message of Christ began to bring a new ethic of generosity, compassion, and racial unity to the whole region.