Saturday, June 23, 2018

Housing Justice, Poverty and Early Christians

For this First Day's Quaker Bible study, we will be reflecting on Acts 4:32-37 and also Acts 5, the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Here are some questions and quotations to help stimulate our reflections:

Early Christians held everything in common
and there was no poverty among them  (Act 4:32-34)

·         In what way was the social life and teaching of early Christians like socialism or communism, and how was it different?

·         What is the relationship between “being of one heart and soul” and sharing all things in common? How did this way of life reflect the power of the holy spirit?

·         According to Act 4, 34. “there was no needy person among them.” How does that apply to today’s world? Are Christians/Quakers called to end poverty?

·         What do you find troubling in the story of Ananias and Sapphira?

·         Do you feel that they deserved to die for not telling the truth when they laid only some of their possessions at the apostles’ feet?

·         According to Peter, Satan led Ananias to lie about holding back from giving all his possessions to the community. What does this say about the nature of Satan (and God)?

·         What do you feel is the purpose of this text?

Early Christian Teachings on Wealth and Poverty

You are not making a gift of your possession to the poor person. You are handing over to him what is his.” –Ambrose of Milan, 340-397.

“The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry man; the coat hanging in your closet belongs to the man who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the man who has no shoes; the money which you put into the bank belongs to the poor. You do wrong to everyone you could help but fail to help.” –Basil of Caesarea, 330-370 A.D.

 “Instead of the tithes which the law commanded, the Lord said to divide everything we have with the poor. And he said to love not only our neighbors but also our enemies, and to be givers and sharers not only with the good but also to be liberal givers toward those who take away our possessions.” –Irenaeus, 130-200 AD

“How can I make you realize the misery of the poor? How can I make you understand that your wealth comes from their weeping?” –Basil of Caesarea, 330-370 A.D.

“The property of the wealthy holds them in chains . . . which shackle their courage and choke their faith and hamper their judgment and throttle their souls. They think of themselves as owners, whereas it is they rather who are owned: enslaved as they are to their own property, they are not the masters of their money but its slaves.” Cyprian, 300 A.D.

John Woolman on Wealth and War

"O, that we who declare war against wars, and acknowledge our trust to be in God only, may walk in the light, and therein examine our foundation and motives in holding onto money! May we look upon our estates, our treasures, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these, our possessions."

"To turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives."


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