Everything In Common

 

Sharing is a good thing. Charity is a good thing. Helping one another is a good thing. But there are problems when we try to institutionalize these good things.

*   (Acts 2:29-47 NIV)  "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. {30} But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. {31} Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. {32} God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. {33} Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. {34} For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said, "'The Lord said to my Lord: "Sit at my right hand {35} until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."' {36} "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." {37} When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" {38} Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. {39} The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call." {40} With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation." {41} Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. Here is where the early church tried to live according to these good things.{42} They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. {43} Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. {44} All the believers were together and had everything in common. {45} Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. {46} Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, {47} praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

But only three chapters later we read this.

*   (Acts 5:1-11 NIV)  Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. {2} With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. {3} Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? {4} Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." {5} When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. {6} Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. {7} About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. {8} Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price." {9} Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also." {10} At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. {11} Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

 

So this communal living idea was attractive. So attractive that to this very day men continue to give it a try. We call it communism. Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto, made this statement, which is a summary of the premise behind Communism.

*   “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.”

And although it sounds like a good idea it has one fatal flaw.

 

James Madison, our fourth President, commonly known as the, “Father of the Constitution” made this observation that explains the flaw very well.

*   “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

 

The Mayflower Compact

by William Bradford

November 11, 1620

The Mayflower Compact was drawn up on the Mayflower, under these circumstances as described by Gov. William Bradford: "This day, before we came to harbour, observing some not well affected to unity and concord, but gave some appearance of faction, it was thought good there should be an association and agreement, that we should combine together in one body, and to submit to such government and governors as we should by common consent agree to make and choose, and set our hands to this that follows, word for word. ."

 

IN THE name of God, Amen.

We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord, King James, by the grace of God, of Great Britain, France and Ireland king, defender of the faith, etc., having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith, and honor of our king and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.

In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the 11 of November, in the year of the reign of our sovereign lord, King James, of England, France, and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domine 1620.

 

This same communal type of government was tried in our country even before we became a country. Thankfully William Bradford recognized the problem before everyone died from that, “Good” idea. Here is what I am talking about.

 

Writing in his diary of the dire economic straits and self-destructive behavior that consumed his fellow Puritans shortly after their arrival, Governor William Bradford painted a picture of destitute settlers selling their clothes and bed coverings for food while others "became servants to the Indians," cutting wood and fetching water in exchange for "a capful of corn." The most desperate among them starved, with Bradford recounting how one settler, in gathering shellfish along the shore, "was so weak … he stuck fast in the mud and was found dead in the place."

The colony's leaders identified the source of their problem as a particularly vile form of what Bradford called "communism." Property in Plymouth Colony, he observed, was communally owned and cultivated. This system ("taking away of property and bringing [it] into a commonwealth") bred "confusion and discontent" and "retarded much employment that would have been to [the settlers'] benefit and comfort."

The most able and fit young men in Plymouth thought it an "injustice" that they were paid the same as those "not able to do a quarter the other could." Women, meanwhile, viewed the communal chores they were required to perform for others as a form of "slavery."

On the brink of extermination, the Colony's leaders changed course and allotted a parcel of land to each settler, hoping the private ownership of farmland would encourage self-sufficiency and lead to the cultivation of more corn and other foodstuffs.

As Adam Smith would have predicted, this new system worked famously. "This had very good success," Bradford reported, "for it made all hands very industrious." In fact, "much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been" and productivity increased. "Women," for example, "went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn."

The famine that nearly wiped out the Pilgrims in 1623 gave way to a period of agricultural abundance that enabled the Massachusetts settlers to set down permanent roots in the New World, prosper, and play an indispensable role in the ultimate success of the American experiment.

A profoundly religious man, Bradford saw the hand of God in the Pilgrims' economic recovery. Their success, he observed, "may well evince the vanity of that conceit...that the taking away of property... would make [men] happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God." Bradford surmised, "God in his wisdom saw another course fitter for them."

 

The point I am making is this. God made us free and intended us to interact freely. As good as it may seem, coercing one another to share or help or to be charitable is a bad idea. Force is a form of slavery and we were made to be free. How can we expect good results when we go against the essence of God’s intentions? Force almost never works. Can you force someone to love or be creative or to give full effort by force? Force, or enslavement, is only appropriate in response to illegitimate force. That is why God required Capital Punishment for murder. When we violate God’s laws we forfeit our God given rights.

*   (Gen 9:6 NIV)  "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.

We need to love one another. Freely we receive and freely we should give!