I was talking to a friend about my question about how to resist scarcity, and she commented that people in the early church probably didn’t have that mindset. She hit on something. One concrete answer to scarcity is community.

Here’s one often quoted set of verses from Acts about the early church (2:42-47):

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 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, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

I think one root of the scarcity mindset is individualism. Things feel more scarce when we think we are in it alone, that no one will share with us if we have need. So then we’re less likely to share with others what we have, when they have need. What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours. The delineations are clear from when we are very young. There’s more of a collective sense of ownership in structures like marriages and families. But as families begin to fragment (with the nuclear family becoming the focus while distance grows between extended family members), and fewer people are getting married, there’s an increase in the number of individual households and a deeper sense of isolation and self-reliance. Blood ties are not as strong or helpful as before.

So how do we build a community where everyone voluntarily shares resources and we’re all truly in it together? How do we cultivate the mutual trust needed, so that I don’t feel like a fool giving sacrificially to help another, but when I’m in trouble, no one will bail me out? It sounds like someone has to make the first step, take the first risk. I know that the Sunday School answer is that Jesus took that first step for us already, but somehow it doesn’t quite feel enough to make me want to entrust what I have to others.

 

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