There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet; and distribution was made to each as any had need.
It used to be fashionable to note that in this passage one could read a Christian rationale for Marxism or communism. What was not so fashionable was to note that the early Church acted on the formula “from each according to his abilities to each according to his need” on the basis of the love and power of God, not on the basis of state terror and coercion. Now that communism (at least in Europe) is dead, Castro is getting to be an old goat and the regimes in Asia are getting more and more brittle with each passing year, we can now safely say that reading this passage as a justification for the atrocities of Stalin and Mao and the body and soul-killing experiment of communism was—how to put it?—stupid. However, in our healthy and wholesome rejection of communism, we must be cautious not to reject this passage. For in our culture, the problem is not so much state terror as hedonism and an individualism that rejects the claims of the poor upon the well-to-do. This does not mean we need more coercion. It means we need more conversion. In the early Church, Jesus Christ was able to do, through love, what all the guns in the USSR could not do: bring selfish people to abandon their selfishness. Now we must beg him to help us abandon our selfishness. Today, ask God to give you a heart for the poor and then put legs on that prayer in some concrete way.