She was definitely the type of person that you would expect to work in the collection office of a school of higher learning. She had horn rimmed spectacles, her hair in a bun, in a gray business suit, sitting behind a desk that seemed to take up her own office. Although I can’t remember her name now I do remember being in that office on many occasions.
Even though the Bible College that I went to had subsidized tuition students were required to pay for room, board and many various fees. We were discouraged from using any type of financial aid and the school had strict rules on how many hours a student could work a week. So this left me in a quandary. I had worked for the first two semesters on campus, but I was still always short on cash. So, I generally ignored the notices that I received from this woman until she called me into her office. I would sit and plead my case. Asking her to keep me in school for just one more month and then maybe I could scrounge up enough money to make it. It was a humiliating process.
I took to taking the used cloths thrown in the bin that eventually made its way to the missionaries called the missionary barrel. The longer that I went to school, the more precarious my financial situation became. It got to the point that this woman gave me an ultimatum. I must pay my outstanding debt within the next month or I must pack up and leave. I was desperate, I prayed hard, I was too far into my BA to drop out now. So, the time went and I paid what I could, but it was nowhere near enough to cover my bills.
Having been summoned to her office I knew that the meeting could not go well. I wondered what I would do with three years of Bible College and no degree? As I entered her office she seemed uncharacteristically happy and friendly.
“is this how they treated the students that had to leave?” I thought as I sat in the uncomfortable chair.
“Mr. Merritt, I have good news. Someone has decided to pay your bill in full. It was an anonymous donor that heard about your plight and decided to help you out. You have nothing to worry about for the rest of the year.”
Shocked, I didn’t know what to do. I thanked her, but I knew that the bigger thanks would never be returned. For by making it anonymous there was no way to thank them for the utter gratitude that I felt.
That is what the Spirit does to people. I have been troubled and agitated by today’s text from Acts for many years. Is the early church participating in a primitive form of Socialism? Is this what is being asked of us as followers of Christ, as a gathered community of one Spirit? I have come to one conclusion, yes.
Hold on McCarthy before you haul me before a congressional hearing to have me declare whether I have ever been part of the communist party. Let’s think spiritually and not politically or economically for a minute. There is no mistaking that what is happening in the book of Acts is the radical redistribution of wealth. There is a common understanding that there will be no private property. There is a distribution system that does not correspond to productivity or merit.
Yet, if so many before us, we try to fit it within some sort of Utopian system of governance it seems to evaporate with the humanistic goodwill that always seems to be at the core of such systems. Then there must be something different, something much more dynamic, something that could only come with the transformative power of the Spirit.
We are told that the Spirit has brought together people of all languages, ethnic backgrounds, sexes, sexuality and class to form the new church in Acts by the miraculous sign of tongues of fires and speaking a common praise language. This must then be an extension of that same Spirit. In bringing us together as a society of friends it clears the blurry vision that we have in relation to things.
Don’t get me wrong, I love possessions a lot. Yet, I am constantly troubled by how much I love things. Do I love them more than you, or you, or you? If so maybe I am more like Ananais and Saphira who try to hold something back from the community of faith. The reality of the community that you have agreed to be a part of is one that has a common purpose and that is following Christ. It is not individual salvation, networking, feel good spirituality or duty that brings us to this place of worship. It is to answer the call of Jesus Christ. When we answer that call the Spirit begins to transform many aspects of our lives, most notably about things. We become less attached to what is in the cabinet and more attached to the elderly woman at the table across from you. You can do without the golf clubs but not the friend with whom you ask open questions about life.
There is no possession on earth that substitutes for an active and living faith through community. If this means that we sacrifice for our community, so be it. It is when we are unwilling to sacrifice out of fear or selfishness that we know we have chosen the wrong way. It is not that the early church had discovered a majestic form of government that would usher in peace and productivity, it was that they discovered each other and saw in each other the Spirit of the Christ whom they dearly loved.
3 Comments so far
Leave a comment