“Tell me, what is your own? What did you bring into this life? From where did you receive it? It is as if someone were to take the first seat in the theater, then bar everyone else from attending, so that one person alone enjoys what is offered for the benefit of all-this is what the rich do. They first take possession of the common property, and then they keep it as their own because they were the first to take it. But if every man took only what sufficed for his own need, and left the rest to the needy, no one would be rich, no one would be poor, no one would be in need. …” Saint Basil the Great
Lately, I have been dating myself when I write or speak! Here is possibly another example of that. Some of you may remember Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady of the Philippines. She became known as the ‘Steel Butterfly’ for her ability to survive numerous allegations regarding the family’s source of wealth, as well as accusations that her husband’s government was involved in the assassination of a political rival.
But, what most of us that were living during that time in the 70’s and 80’s think of when Imelda Marcos’ name is mentioned, was her collection of shoes. 3,000 plus pairs of shoes to be exact! Her shopping sprees were so legendary that in 2013, New York Magazine wrote about her in their article, “5 Shopping Sprees So Wild, They Made History.” To say she had more than enough is no exaggeration.
There are two passages in Acts that have helped form my views on the issues of wealth and sharing. In chapter two we have the apostle Peter addressing the crowd right after Pentecost. At the end of the chapter it is recorded that about 3000 people were baptized that day after hearing the message from Peter about Jesus Christ and him crucified.
The result was that there was a community of believers that came together in fellowship; ‘All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as they had need.’ (Acts 2:44-45)
And, in chapter four, we get even more insight into the workings of the early church and how they cared for each other; ‘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. 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 as they had need.’ (Acts 4:32, 34-35)
In my study of the early church and how it grew, these passages came into play significantly, as there was a real spirit of caring for each other and especially those with great need. The early church seemed to grasp the words of Jesus, to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves’. Those with an abundance of resources were willing to sell what they had because they knew they had more than enough.
There is no doubt in my mind that Christians throughout the world give to those in need. But, do we share that same spirit of the early church where they were willing to sell their personal possessions and goods to care for those in need? Do we dare live out the words of Saint Basil and take only what we need? Are we afraid that we might not have enough?
In May, I traveled to England for two weeks and had the opportunity to preach at several churches. One of my favorite places to visit is St. Luke’s in Watford. Reverend Dave Middlebrook, along with his congregation and family, have become dear friends.
As I was preaching at St. Luke’s, the children had been given a sheet to color with the Amor logo on it. Dave had also given them the option to create their own Amor logo on a blank sheet of paper. Ollie Jones made us a new logo that looked something like this:
Obviously, Ollie was listening to my message! A mere child of seven got that we have more than enough. Even Jesus said that it was the children that understood him more than anyone!
What is our greatest fear if we let go of what we have? Are we willing to live in a world where no one is rich and no one is poor?
Amor passionately believes that housing is one of the ways that we can love our neighbors as ourselves. A home not only keeps a family together, it meets a basic human need that gives parents a real chance of realizing the dreams they have for their children - just like you and me have for our children!
This fall we have an opportunity for you to join us as we love our neighbors south of the border in building 35 homes in honor of Amor’s 35th anniversary. Because we have more than enough.