The writer of Acts likes absolutes. Look at the definitive, all-encompassing, leaving-no-room-for-exceptions declarations in the four sentences below, from chapter 2, vv 32-35:
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
It could seem hard to believe that these statements are actually true. Were they truly of only one heart and mind? Did they really disown all of their possessions and share everything? Were there truly no needy persons among them?
But why not? Have we become so cynical and possessive and seen so much greed and poverty that we can’t possibly imagine a community where everything was shared, and no one had a need that wasn’t met? Picture a room, a town, a city, characterized by so much generosity, so much joy in testifying about Jesus, so much shared, real, powerful experience of God’s grace.
Sounds a little bit like Eden and the kingdom of God on earth. The kind of kingdom and community that God knew would support His children and reveal His character: loving, shepherding, providing—full of kindness, mercy, and abundance.
“There was nothing they didn’t share”
The scripture says the community shared everything. What makes that statement true is that the opposite is also true: there was nothing they didn’t share. They didn’t hold anything back for themselves.
When home or land owners sold their property, they “brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostle’s feet.” It doesn’t say they brought the profits from the sale, but the money. Whatever they received from selling the land, they brought it all to be shared.
The love of Jesus and the overpowering need to tell his story and imitate his works led to radical deployment of resources. These people did not hold tightly to anything they owned. They freely gave it away. This one-hundred-percent deployment sends a different message than the usual “I will tithe ten percent of my earnings” and give it to God’s work. Instead, this message is the radical “I will put to work one hundred percent of my earnings and allow God to direct its use.”
This goes beyond just making a tithe off of a profit. This is full surrender of an entire asset. Many of us freely tithe off of an income or a profit, or even consider donating the profit from a sale, but surrendering ALL the money received from a business transaction, not just the profit? That might be a different story.
God is calling us to look at our investments in the same way. They are not “ours” to manage or profit from as we please, even if we with a good heart donate a portion of any increase.
Not sacred and secular: all sacred
We have fallen into a trap of thinking that donations to charity or to missionaries are considered sacred and investments, because they are connected to business, are secular.
However, the investments we select and how we view the increase on those investments are an equally important component of stewardship. We pray for God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven, but do we invest to achieve that goal?
What does a portfolio that seeks to advance God’s kingdom look like? Are we investing just to increase our personal net worth? The home and landowners mentioned in Acts did not seek to increase their personal net worth – they parted with everything so that God’s kingdom could expand.
We have some work to do in order to understand and believe that businesses themselves and, by extension, investors in businesses, are sacred and not secular. It is possible to see work, jobs, and business enterprise as part of God’s design for the world, included in what He declared good when He created the world and something worthy of investment.
Businesses, whether local or in a foreign country, are an effective and sustainable method of making disciples while we are conducting the normal business of life. Through business, we can build deep friendships with our employees, vendors, customers, and community. When we invest in BAM businesses, we seamlessly integrate disciple making into the ordinary routines of everyday life.
When have you considered fully releasing an entire asset to God’s kingdom work?
Let’s generously deploy all resources entrusted to us, including investments, to fulfill God’s purposes, bringing dignity, health, opportunity, and so much more to people in need.
Photo by Elaine Casap on Unsplash