The Holy Spirit Empowers Radical Generosity With Every Kind of Resource (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-38)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

Two final points are important to note with regard to the use of resources in the early Christian community. First is the necessity of the Holy Spirit to the practice of radical generosity. The descriptions of the community in Acts 2:42-47 and 4:32-38 follow immediately from the first two major manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Luke could not be clearer in forging a link between the Spirit’s presence and power and the ability of the community to live with Christ-like generosity. We must understand that one of the fundamental works of the Spirit in the life of the early Christians was the cultivation of a community that took a radically different stance toward the deployment of resources. So, while we often get caught up in looking for the more spectacular manifestations of the Spirit (visions, tongues, and so on), we need to reckon with the fact that the simple act of sharing or consistent hospitality might be one of the most magnificent gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Second, lest we begin to think that this word is only for those with financial resources, we see Peter and John demonstrate that all resources are to be used for the sake of others. In Acts 3:1-10, Peter and John encounter a beggar at the gate of the temple. The beggar is looking for money, though Peter and John have none. They do, however, have a witness to the coming of the kingdom through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Hence, Peter replies, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6). Here is an example of resource sharing that is not connected to monetary wealth. The use of power and position to build community will occur on several further occasions in Acts.

Perhaps the most moving expression occurs when Barnabas—who, in Acts 4:32-38, is an example of radical generosity of financial resources—also puts his social resources at Paul’s disposal, helping welcome him into the reluctant fellowship of the apostles in Jerusalem (see Acts 9:1-31). Another example is Lydia, who employs her high social standing in the textile industry in Thyatira as a means of entry for Paul into the city of Thyatira (Acts 16:11-15). Social capital is to be deployed, like any other capital, for the good of the kingdom as understood by the Christian community.