Created Monday, Jan. 21, 2007,    uploaded July 29, 2008    (it got forgotten for a while)

Sharing - - It's a big topic; more than you might think!


At 1st, Everyone Shared
Sharing is a Command
It's what you value
It's about Love

First Apology of JUSTIN
Eusebius, Philo, & Egypt
Tertullian on Christian ways
Modern Examples
What Have We Learned?

Related Articles

At 1st, Everyone Shared

This will be a very controversial article and one that will make many uncomfortable. For in the USA culture today, being rich is a very good thing and something to be very much desired. Yet, Jesus and other Bible accounts do not reflect well on wealth. I want to show why for I do not believe it is understood at all. In order for an understanding to be reached, I believe one needs to consider a broad range of scriptures on the matter, taking a broad macro view of the subject, while still paying attention to details.

It is about wealth; it is about sharing; it is about love. As I said in the title, it's a big topic, an important topic, and one tragically overlooked. We need to bear good fruit and lots of it as Christians. That is to say, we have to have and take actions that speak well of us. James says we need to have works; works as in fruits, not works of law. Actions, as they say, speak far louder than words. God will judge us by what we do as well as what we say and perhaps more by our actions than our words.

Also do note that what you are about to read shows how close the Christian community was. It was a real community, a strong community, full of love and sharing. For though I wrote an article on Christian community, the example is best shown here rather than that article. But the 2, together, make a perfect coverage of that subject, along with the subject of sharing.

I believe if you want to find the truth, no matter how bitter it might be, you will find it. But it may not be all that pleasing, depending on your situation. But I am going to start by carefully observing how things were done in Acts, the time just after Jesus left and empowered the followers left behind with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I will then take a look at the words of Jesus with a fresh look in view of Acts and other scriptures. But I am going to start with one very profound command from Jesus.

John 13:
34 I give a new commandment to you, that you should love one another; according as I loved you, you should also love one another.
35 By this all shall know that you are My disciples, if you have love among one another.

Jesus pointed out that his followers, his REAL followers and not the phonies, would have love among themselves. It is easy to say that but if I may borrow a line from Pontius Pilate with a slight variation, What is love? What does it mean to have love for each other as Christians? It is not as easy as many Christians might think. We are all very superficial today and we are all very independent, relying little on one another and more upon employers, insurance, and those who render services for money. Our neighbors or our brothers are just people we say hello to or spend a little time with. So now lets think about this next scripture.

Acts 2:
42 And they were continuing steadfastly in the doctrine of the apostles, and in fellowship,
     and in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.
43 And fear came to every soul, and many wonders and miracles took place through the apostles.
44 And all the believers were together and had all things common.
45 And they sold possessions and goods and distributed them to all, according as anyone had need
46 And continuing steadfastly with one mind day by day in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house,
     they shared food in gladness and simplicity of heart,
47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church
     those being saved from day to day.

This group had been all together in a room when the spirit was poured out at Pentecost. They met together to worship and encourage one another. But there was more than that. They shared all they had with each other so that no one went hungry or ate poorly or lacked for clothing and the like. If someone needed some help repairing their roof or needed a few logs for the fire, they probably shared that, too. The Bible said they "had all things in common." It did not mean they all lived under the same roof or house. But possessions were shared among all and they distributed the goods and possessions or the wealth obtained from selling them, to all, according as anyone had need. We might call that pooling our resources and finances today. Insurance sort of does that in spreading the cost, but they do so by making a huge profit, making us pay more than would be necessary if we did it ourselves. Taxes are like that in that we all contribute, according to our income and ability toward common benefits like roads, unemployment compensation, law enforcement, and defense. But many of us pay insurance and taxes because we have to and not willingly. Further, we do not relate to those around us where we live. We do not see the connections between us all. We are isolated, even though there are people all around us. And we often do not care about those in need around us. We feel it is not our job to help them or look after them. It is the job of the government or the insurance company or whoever.

The way we do it today does not bring people together, it separates them and does not make us appreciate how we really need each other. It destroys human bonds. God's way is perfect. It unites people, it bonds people. It teaches us compassion and empathy. It forces our hearts to open and give to people and see people as people and not just treat them like objects. It is ridiculous that we can look at people and see them in need and do nothing. The way it was done in Acts is God's way. It is called love, real love. Now that is love if ever there was such a thing. We don't have to wonder at what love was, do we? It was and is, spelled out for us in black and white, the old handwriting on the wall.

Also note that these first Christians shared food in gladness and simplicity of heart. They were happy with small things in life and did not demand a lot out of life. They had each other and that was enough. How different is that from today where it matters where you live and what you drive and what job you have and so on. Are we sure we are Christians?

Let me put it another way. It would have been unbearable to any of them to think of their fellow believers, human beings, going without or lacking. Compassion compelled them to share so that no one would lack or go without. No one was worried that they might have to make due with less than they were accustomed. As long as they ate reasonably and were clothed reasonably, it was enough. They did not need a mansion or a brand new horse and cart. They did not need to dress like kings or the upper class. They really and truly cared about other people who loved and served God. Does our love go that far for those we worship with? I know of few churches that do this. I recall in the church I was a member of at one time, that there was plenty of difference between the upper middle class and the marginal ones.

The uppers as I will call them, ate out at least once a week, if not more. They had lots for everything. Some had time-shares in Florida. They had very impressive homes and cars. They all had good clothes. They stayed at good hotels and took nice vacations and trips. Some had swimming pools.

The poor, using that work loosely, for poor in the USA can have lots of different meanings, the poor sometimes could not afford new books at assemblies that were said to be valuable and important to our spiritual growth and progress. They did not eat well, even if they were not hungry. Their furniture was often used and of poor quality. Clothes were not so good. You could tell they were poor. They didn't have money for even many fun local activities or recreation that the others always enjoyed. And yes, they were not as well accepted by the uppers as they did not have the money or status to join the uppers. Some did not even have licenses or vehicles and had to depend on rides. If they had a car, it was often a wreck. Ask me about that.

There were lots of discrepancies between the 2 groups and the poor could feel it. They were disadvantaged in the world, and they continued to be disadvantaged in the congregation. I was there; I saw it all. But it could have been different. The uppers could have shared more. They could have invited the poor to their swimming pools, maybe given them a ride over, too. Or bring them up to the one or 2 who had camps, taken them out to eat, bought them some nice clothes and the like. Or maybe get them something that others enjoyed routinely that was not that costly and was very desirable and common. For instance, Atari put out a video game console back then that was the delight of kids everywhere. Such a unit was relatively affordable at that time, well, unless you had little money. Nor were the games graphic or realistically violent. This was something that meant a lot to the poor kids and would have made them feel more loved and cared about. It would been far more meaningful than jackets or clothes as far as the kids were concerned.

Necessity is hard to define in our culture. But as I see it, if nearly everyone else has it, then it seems hard to deny it to a few. How do they feel when they get left out of everything that everyone else is into? If something is expensive and uncommon, there is no reason to get or give it. But if common and inexpensive, what is the excuse for not getting or giving?

Everyone needs to be accepted, wanted, loved, cared for, a place and people where they fit in and belong. How do you make people feel like they fit in and belong? How do you show them you care? By sharing? Of course!!! Now how about some more of Acts.

Acts 4:
31 And they having prayed, the place in which they were gathered was shaken,
     and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the Word of God with boldness.
32 And of the multitude of those who believed, the heart and the soul were one.
     And no one said any of the possessions to be his own, but all things were common to them.

Need to borrow a tool? No problem, brother! Wanna borrow our video game console for a week or two? After all, my kids have had enough time to play on it quite a bit. In fact, maybe too much time. Your turn now! Hey, listen, we are going away for the weekend and thought you might like to make use of our pool while we are gone. Come over sometime this week and I will show you how to maintain the pool after using it so it remains in good condition. We are cooking a big meal Friday night. How about your family coming over? I can get someone to pick you all up as well. Yes, there might be a little more wear and tear on what you have with many getting use of it, but knowing how they are enjoying it, well, isn't that what it is all really about??? Are we more concerned with a new looking, spotless, immaculate house? Or is it people we care about? It is a good question to ask yourself, as you take the bold brave step of looking deep into your own heart and searching out yourself for your true feelings and beliefs.

Well, you would do these things if you were all of one heart and one soul. Part of the problem I suspect is that really, too many of us are half-hearted and maybe we do not show a lot of effort. We want everyone to carry us. That would certainly hurt those trying to help you, no? It might frustrate them since they work hard and try hard which is why they have what they have in today's world.

When everyone really believes and nobody wants a hand out or thinks it is owed to them and all are willing to do what they can in one way or another, it lifts the spirit of all and makes everyone want to give. So this love thing works both ways. Everyone at that time was of the same frame of mind and attitude. No slackers to be found anywhere. The uppers didn't mind sharing for they had full confidence in their brothers and sisters. Of course, when the world of your time is firmly against you, it tends to unite and solidify. The first group was a great example. But we have to take a good hard look at ourselves. Could we have measure up to them back then? Maybe we have it too easy now so that we imagine we do not need anyone or anything. So much to consider! But this is a start.

Acts 4:
33 And with great power the apostles gave testimony of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
     and great grace was upon them all.
34 For neither was anyone needy among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses,
     selling them, they bore the value of the things being sold,
35 and laid them at the feet of the apostles. And it was distributed to each according as any had need.
36 And Joses, the one surnamed Barnabas by the apostles, which being translated is,
     Son of Consolation, a Levite, a Cypriot by race,
37 a field being his, selling it, he bore the proceeds and placed them at the feet of the apostles.

There is no doubt that none of us would be eager to give over the value of our houses and whatever to any person or group of persons. The apostles were blessed with the Holy Spirit so that trusting in them was kind of easy, right? Today, this is not likely. Lots of con-artists and swindlers. We would be taking a chance, for sure. But it should make us realize how far we have fallen from the good standard that existed at that time. Some say nothing has changed from then to now, but that clearly is not true.

The Holy Spirit had a big part in keeping the order they enjoyed at that time. As the spirit or those who had that spirit died off, things would begin to degrade and ferment. But we have a very high standard to consider. If we do not aim high, we will fall rather low and short.

Acts 5:
1 But a certain man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a property,
2 and kept back from the price, his wife also aware of it, and bringing a certain part,
   he put it at the feet of the apostles.
3 But Peter said, Ananias, why did Satan fill your heart for you to lie to the Holy Spirit
   and to secretly keep back from the price of the land?
4 Remaining, did it not remain yours? And being sold, was it not in your authority?
   Why is it that this action was put into your heart? You did not lie to men, but to God!

No one had to sell and share what they had. It was not mandatory. Most did it out of their own desire and love. Love makes us do all sorts of crazy things, doesn't it? Yeah, like . . . sharing? Yep! But lying to God and the obvious manifestations of His spirit all around you, can really get you in big trouble. They should have kept what they had or not lie about what they kept in reserve. When sharing, you do not have to equalize what you have with others. You make sure they are not lacking, but that does not mean that they have to have everything that you do. While necessities are important, luxuries are definitely not required, obligated, or owed. I believe this is the lesson of the law where houses within walled towns were not protected like inherited fields were. For God did seem to distinguish between necessities to be protected and luxuries that were not owed to anyone; or a right that they had.

Some people who are willing to work hard, will usually reap good and plenty as a result. For what we sow and plant, we reap and harvest, right? Those who do the work deserve the reward of that work. Those who develop certain skills or abilities deserve to profit from those abilities. They should not be begrudged their due, nor should any covet what they have. The worker is worthy of his wages. Jealousy and envy are evil and wicked. As long as they do not neglect their friends, neighbors, and relatives in need, they should be allowed a certain measure of success.

The trouble is that some who have large amounts of success, often begin to begrudge sharing much with anyone. They want it all to themselves. We see this trait commonly in kids but as we grow older, we should be out growing this natural tendency of the flesh. Success and profit are not, and should not be resented; but if one has far more in abundance than the rest, the scales of balance get too far out of balance. One who has an abundance really has no reason not to give and share that abundance to some degree. I will deal with this more, later in this article. But first, lets wrap up Acts 5.

Acts 5:
5 And hearing these words, Ananias fell down and expired. And great fear came on all those hearing these things.
6 And rising up the younger ones wrapped him, and carrying out, they buried him.
7 And about three hours afterwards, his wife also entered, not knowing that happening.
8 And Peter answered her, Tell me if you gave over the land for so much? And she said, Yes, for so much.
9 And Peter said to her, Why was it that it was agreed with you to tempt the Spirit of the Lord?
     Behold, the feet of those burying your husband at the door! Yea, they will carry you out.
10 And she immediately fell at his feet and expired. And entering, the younger ones found her dead,
     and carrying her out, they buried her beside her husband.
11 And great fear came on all the church and on all those hearing these things.

Acts 6:
1 But in those days, the disciples having multiplied, a murmuring of the Hellenists toward the Hebrews occurred,
   because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving.
2 And having called near the multitude of the disciples, the Twelve said, It is not pleasing to us,
   having left the Word of God, to serve tables!
3 Then brothers, be looking for men among you receiving testimony, seven men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom,
   whom we shall appoint over this need.
4 But we shall continue steadfast in prayer and the service of the Word!
5 And the saying was pleasing before all the multitude. And they chose out Stephen, a man full of faith
   and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas,
   and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,
6 each of whom they made stand before the apostles. And having prayed, they placed their hands on them.

It is not clear to me whether the daily serving was made at the same place sort of like a big kitchen or whether it was handed out to take home, or whether delivered. But there appeared to have been a problem with fair distribution and the Apostles did not want to be bothered waiting on tables when they had the word of God to preach. So they appointed good men who would be responsible for doing so. But one can see how the food was distributed to all. The Christians of Jerusalem were working together day to day as one big family, possibly living in a sort of communal fashion as some later groups elsewhere such as in Egypt did as the preaching reached other nations.

Acts 11:
27 And in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.
28 And one of them named Agabus rising up, he signified through the Spirit that a great famine
     was about to be over all the habitable earth, which also happened on Claudius Caesar's time.
29 And according as any was prospered, the disciples, each of them, determined to send for ministry
     to those brothers living in Judea,
30 which they also did, sending to the elders through the hand of Barnabas and Saul.

So Christians from other towns and cities were looking out for their recognized fellow believers in other places. They cared about the larger group and shared at a larger wider level. Impressive, isn't it? It shows unity but also organization and communication; and of course, the love!

Romans 15:
25 But now I am going to Jerusalem, doing service to the saints.
26 For Macedonia and Achaia thought it good to make certain gifts to the poor of the saints in Jerusalem.
27 For they thought it good, also being debtors of them; for if the nations shared in their spiritual things,
     they ought also to minister to them in the fleshly things.
28 Then completing and having sealed this fruit to them, I will go through you into Spain.

I like this one for it was the Jews who were the custodians of the law and word of God. So because the other nations who become Christian recognized how they benefited from these people, gladly sent physical fleshly gifts of need to their fellow believers. Besides, it would be hard to ignore the plight of any fellow believers, for any reason.

1 Corinthians 16:
1 And about the collection for the saints, as I charged the churches of Galatia, so also you do.
2 On the first of a week, let each of you put by himself, storing up whatever he is prospered, that there not be collections then when I come.
3 And when I arrive, whomever you approve through these epistles, I will send to carry your grace to Jerusalem.
4 And if it is suitable for me to go also, they shall go with me.

2 Thessalonians 3:
7 For you yourselves know how it is right to act like us, because we were not disorderly among you; 
8 nor did we eat bread from anyone as a gift, but by labor and toil, working night and day in order
   not to burden anyone of you.
9 Not that we do not have authority, but that we give ourselves as an example to you, for you to act like us. 
10 For even when we were with you, we commanded this to you: If anyone does not desire to work,
     neither let him eat.
11 For we hear some are walking in a disorderly way among you, not working at all, but being busybodies.
12 And we command such and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that working with quietness,
     they may eat their own bread.

Paul was the writer of 2nd Thessalonians and he made it clear he did not want to be seen as a free-loader or lazy, so he earned his keep, even though he was entitled to be kept for free in exchange for his service to them in Godly things. Nobody was to be a free-loader or lazy. That certainly would not be Christian or be a fruit of the spirit. Everyone was to earn their keep in one way or another.

Sharing is a Command
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James 4:
13 Come now, those saying, Today or tomorrow we will go into this city, and we will spend one year there, and we will trade and will make a profit,
14 who do not know of the morrow. For what is your life? For it is a mist, which for a little while appears, and then disappears.
15 Instead of you saying, If the Lord wills, even we will live, and we will do this or that; 
16 but now you boast in your presumptions. All such boasting is evil.
17 Therefore, to anyone knowing to do good, and not doing it, it is sin to him.

Did you notice verse 17? If you know of good to be done and how to do it, and do not; it is a sin. Yikes! Gives us all good reason to reexamine ourselves to make sure we are living up to our obligations to God and our spiritual "kin."

James 5:
1 Come now, rich ones, weep, howling over your hardships coming on.
2 Your riches have rotted, and your garments have become moth-eaten.
3 Your gold and silver have rusted over, and their poison will be a testimony to you, and will eat your flesh as fire. You heaped treasure in the last days.
4 Behold, the wages of the workmen who have reaped your fields cry out, being kept back by you. And the cries of the ones who have reaped have entered "into the ears of the Lord of Hosts." [Isa. 5:9]
5 You lived luxuriously on the earth, and lived in self-gratification; you nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter;
6 you condemned; you murdered the righteous; he does not resist you.
7 Therefore, brothers, be long-suffering until the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being long-suffering over it until it may receive the early and the latter rain.
8 You also be long-suffering. Set your hearts firmly, because the coming of the Lord has drawn near.

This should be a very sobering account for those who are employers for it suggests that they ignore the decent treatment of those who labor for them. They were accused of holding back wages. Those employed and abused have cried out to God, even as Abel's blood cried out to God when killed by Cain in Genesis. And all the while the employers have lived lives of luxury and self-gratification at the expense of the laborers. The rich have murdered the little people, the workers who did not resist the rich in their evil treatment of the workers. So James urges them to repent with long-suffering.

Many Christians have also been employers and they believe it is OK to do as every other businessman does in paying employees the minimum wage and being miserly. They are wrong, dead wrong. If Christians are not any better than the rest of the world around them, then they will also die at God's hand as the rest around them will. Their faith is meaningless! How's that for a wake-up call? Now I want you to pay special attention to what Jesus has to say in view of everything we have covered up till now.

Matthew 19:16 And, behold, coming near, one said to Him, Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life? 17 And He said to him, Why do you call Me good? No one is good except One, God! But if you desire to enter into life, keep the commandments. 18 He said to Him, Which? And Jesus said, "You shall not commit murder, nor commit adultery, nor steal, nor bear false witness, 19 honor your father and your mother," and, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." [Ex. 20:12-16; Lev. 19:18; Deut. 5:16-20] 20 The young man said to Him, All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?

Matthew 19:21 Jesus said to him, If you desire to be perfect, go sell your property and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in Heaven; and come, follow Me. 22 But hearing the word, being grieved, the young man went away, for he had many possessions. 23 And Jesus said to His disciples, Truly I say to you that a rich man will with great difficulty enter into the kingdom of Heaven. 24 And again I say to you, It is easier for a camel to pass through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. 25 And His disciples were exceedingly astonished when they heard this, saying, Who then can be saved? 26 But looking on them, Jesus said to them, With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.

Jesus instructed the young man to sell his property and give to the poor. Now many have thought this to mean the poor in general. I do not believe this is so. Jesus was suggesting that he give it to the poor who are among the house of God, his fellow believers, even as it was later done this way by most believers. Jesus was telling him to share and accompany Jesus and learn from him. Listen, that was a damn good offer. You got to hang out with the son of God and learn from the best. How many would love to have had that opportunity? But the man turned it down because he could not bear to part with his riches or share them.

Jesus pointed out how very difficult it would be for a rich man to let go of his wealth and share with his brothers and enter the kingdom of God as a result. This rather shocked the disciples who evidently imagined that if they were rich, they might have trouble doing that as well. They did well to recognize that. They asked if it was possible for anyone to be saved as giving up that sort of thing would be nearly impossible from a human standpoint. Jesus agreed and pointed out that only God could help overcome this human defect or it would be otherwise impossible. Peter now speaks.

Matthew 19:27 Then answering, Peter said to Him, Behold, we left all things and followed You. What then shall be to us? 28 And Jesus said to them, Truly I say to you, You who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of man sits on the throne of His glory, you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who left houses, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. 30 But many first ones shall be last, and last ones first.

Jesus points out that while we give up our own land, houses, or even families, we shall get back much more for the quality of those who we gain as fellow believers and spiritual "family" will be better than what we lost and will be far more numerous. We might lose a house or field of our own but gain 10 from other brothers and sisters who share with us. We gain far more by sharing than by just looking out for ourselves. For we might lose a dozen family members but gain thousands of believers in our new family. And if that ain't enough, we get everlasting life as well. How's that for a deal! There are a couple of more accounts of this from two other witnesses which remembered one or two different details perhaps worth noting.

Mark 10:17 And He having gone out into the highway, running up and kneeling down to Him, one questioned Him, Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 But Jesus said to him, Why do you call Me good? No one is good except One, God. 19 You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, do not commit murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother. [Ex. 20:12-16] 20 And answering, he said to Him, Teacher, I observed all these from my youth.

Mark 10:21 And looking at him, Jesus loved him, and said to him, One thing is lacking to you. Go, sell what things you have, and give to the poor. And you will have treasure in Heaven. And come, follow Me, taking up the cross. 22 But being sad at the word, he went away grieving; for he had many possessions.

Here we see reference to treasure in Heaven, a very good thing to have, indeed, for one can not lose treasure stored in Heaven and it pays off, big time. And Jesus invites him to follow him, taking up the cross in doing so. So it is apparent that though the words are few in this account, they are only a brief summarization of all that Jesus must have said to him.

Mark 10:23 And looking around, Jesus said to His disciples, How hardly those having riches will enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were astonished at His words. And answering again, Jesus said to them, Children, how hard it is for those trusting on riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle, than for a rich one to enter into the kingdom of God. 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, saying to themselves, And who is able to be saved? 27 But looking at them, Jesus said, From men it is impossible, but not from God. For all things are possible from God.

Mark 10: 28 And Peter began to say to Him, Behold, we left all and followed You. 29 But answering, Jesus said, Truly I say to you, There is no one who forsook house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My sake and the gospel, 30 that will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the coming age, eternal life. 31 But many first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

Luke 18:18 And a certain ruler asked Him saying, Good Teacher, what may I do to inherit eternal life? 19 But Jesus said to him, Why do you say Me to be good? No one is good, except One: God. 20 You know the commandments: "Do not commit adultery," "do not murder," "do not steal," "do not bear false witness," "honor your father and your mother." Ex. 20:12-16 21 And he said, I have kept all these from my youth. 22 And hearing these things, Jesus said to him, Yet one thing is lacking to you: sell all, as much as you have, and give to the poor; and you will have treasure in Heaven. And come, follow Me. 23 But hearing these things, he became very much grieved, for he was exceedingly rich. 24 And seeing him having become very much grieved, Jesus said, How hardly those having riches shall enter into the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go in through a needle's eye than for a rich one to enter into the kingdom of God. 26 And those hearing said, And who is able to be saved? 27 But He said, The things impossible with men are possible with God.

Luke 18:28 And Peter said, Behold, we left all and followed You. 29 And He said to them, Truly I say to you, There is no one who has left house, or parents, or brothers, or wife, or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who shall not receive many times more in this time, and in the age that is coming, everlasting life.

Consider that most families have a fair amount of discord and most people who become serious Christians do not have many of their families who follow their same course. But we gain much bigger families, at least back in those times. What you get now is hard to say. But surely we can appreciate the depth of riches we get in knowledge and spiritual riches as we approach the end and can see the unfolding and fulfillment of God's purpose and promises coming true. And really, one truly good friend in the faith is worth a hundred mediocre half-hearted or distant family members. My parents both come from big families. Yet, hardly a one of them is close or maintains a meaningful relationship. I am closer to a friend in the faith than any of them.

But Jesus made it clear that we would get more now in the present. More now and much more later. But we also have to endure persecution in the present as well. Of course, he was talking more in particular to them at that time as the things done then are not seen much now. Those people back then saw the fulfillment of what Jesus said back then. Many of us today do not seem to experience persecution of the same kind in the same way as they did back then. But our time will come and we do have a worse life to live as the world becomes a nastier, more depressing place in which to live, as the world goes from bad to worse. So we do suffer in the spirit though we may not be as aware of it due to its subtlety.

Luke 14: 25 And great crowds came together to Him. And turning, He said to them, 26 If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers and sisters, and besides, even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. 27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me, he cannot be My disciple. 28 For who of you desiring to build a tower does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has the things to finish; 29 that having laid a foundation, and not having strength to finish, all those seeing begin to mock him, 30 saying, This man began to build, and did not have strength to finish. 31 Or what king going to attack another king in war does not first sit down and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet those coming upon him with twenty thousands? 32 But if not, he being still far off, sending a delegation, he asks the things for peace. 33 So then every one of you who does not abandon all his possessions is not able to be My disciple. 34 The salt is good, but if the salt becomes tasteless, with what will it be seasoned? 35 It is not fit for soil nor for fertilizer; they throw it out. The one having ears to hear, let him hear.

How sobering is 33 and 35? If you do not abandon all your possessions, you can't follow Jesus. Ever heard that one before??? I doubt it. But there it is in your own Bible if you care to look! If you lose your flavor, if you bear no fruit, what good are you? Let the one having ear listen up. Jesus is telling you to read between the lines. This is a real important commandment. When he says abandon possessions, what he is really saying is share with fellow believers if you really want to follow me. You can not love your brothers in the faith if you do not share with them! Count the cost! Give it some careful thought and calculation! Do you have ears to hear?

It's what you value
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James 2:14 My brothers, what is the gain if anyone says he has faith, but he does not have works? Is faith able to save him? 15 But if a brother or a sister is naked and may be lacking in daily food, 16 and any one of you say to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, but does not give them the things the body needs, what gain is it?

For my money, although only 5 chapters, James is the hardest hitting writer in the New Testament. If you allow a brother or sister to be hungry, cold, poorly clothed, or whatever, are you really a Christian, full of faith and spirit??? I think not! Those who say they have faith and have the spirit of God in them ought to be able to prove it by their works of love and faith. They would never let another believer lack in anything if they did not lack it themselves.

James 2:17 So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself. 18 But someone will say, You have faith, and I have works. Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith out of my works. 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; even the demons believe and shudder. 20 But are you willing to know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is dead? 21 Was not our father Abraham justified by works offering up his son Isaac on the altar? Gen. 22:9 22 You see that faith worked with his works; and out of the works the faith was made perfected. 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled, saying, "And Abraham believed God, and it was counted for righteousness to him;" and he was called, Friend of God. [Gen. 15:6; Isa. 41:8] 24 You see, then, that a man is justified out of works, and not out of faith only. 25 But in the same way Rahab the harlot was also justified out of works, having received the messengers, and sending them out by another way. 26 For as the body is dead apart from the spirit, so also faith is dead apart from works.

The lesson here is that there is no such thing as faith if there is not also works along with it. Faith produces works, fruit, results. Love also produces works, fruit, results. Hope produces works, fruit, results. Having the spirit of God produces works, fruit, results. If you are going to go around saying you got'em, you better be able to prove it with tangible results we can all see and glorify God for. Some Christians think this is saying that we can buy our way to heaven. No, we do not buy our way to heaven or justify salvation with works of faith and love. But we can not be said to have faith and love if we do not have works to show for ourselves. Works won't buy us into heaven, but we won't get in without them.

Luke 14:12 And He also said to him who had invited Him, When you make a dinner or supper, do not call your friends, nor your brothers, nor your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also should invite you in return, and it become a repayment to you. 13 But when you make a banquet, call the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; 14 and then you will be blessed, for they have nothing to repay you. For it will be repaid to you in the resurrection of the just.

Jesus made this clear enough but how many do it? Don't we seek out those we like or love? Do we give enough attention to the downtrodden and the poor among the worshippers of God? I do not think we do. I never saw it. Jesus spelled it out for us. He commanded us to "call the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind." But do pay special attention to the fact that Jesus actually offered payment for doing this. Can you argue with a deal like that? If you look out for the poor and socially undesirable among your brothers, Jesus will bless you and you will be repaid come resurrection time. How's that for a salary and benefits package? Go out of your way to make life better for those who are not as skilled, advantaged, or blessed as you are, and you will be rewarded by Jesus, guaranteed!

Besides, look at it this way. In order for our world to be perfect and wonderful, we all have to look out for those who don't as quickly grasp or understand what we do. We help them get up to speed with us. We show them the ropes and give them the love and sense of belonging that they are lacking and is probably the cause of why they are behind in the first place.

God gave all humans, but especially those of us with looks, charm, talent, skill, or the like; great power to help, to heal, to restore, to excite, to inspire, to motivate and energize people in behalf of God. We can only reflect God's image when we become as He is, in looking out for the flock and shepherding the sheep for their benefit. And make no mistake about it, there is a great reward for those who willing serve as good shepherds of God's sheep. Do you want to be part of the solution or part of the problem? You have a choice.

Luke 16:
19 And there was a certain rich man; and he was accustomed to don a purple robe and fine linen, making merry in luxury day by day. 20 And there was a certain poor one named Lazarus who had been laid at his porch, being plagued by sores, 21 and longing to be filled from the crumbs that were falling from the table of the rich one. But coming, even the dogs licked his sores. 22 And it happened, the poor one died and was carried away by the angels into the bosom of Abraham. And the rich one also died and was buried.

23 And being in torments in Hell, lifting up his eyes, he sees Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosoms. 24 And calling he said, Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Child, remember that you fully received your good things in your lifetime, and Lazarus likewise the bad things. But now he is comforted, and you are suffering. 26 And besides all these things, a great chasm has been fixed between us and you, so that those desiring to pass from here to you are not able, nor can they pass from there to us.

27 And he said, Then I beg you, father, that you send him to my father's house; 28 (for I have five brothers, so that he may witness to them, that they not also come to this place of torment). 29 Abraham said to him, They have Moses and the Prophets, let them hear them. 30 But he said, No, father Abraham, but if one should go from the dead to them, they will repent. 31 And he said to him, If they will not hear Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if one from the dead should rise.

A rich man living it up in great splendor and luxury but ignoring the poor Lazarus who had been laid at his door and would have been grateful for the crumbs from the rich man's table. This had a dramatic effect on what happened to the both of them after they died. The rich man, because he ignored the suffering and deprivation of Lazarus, could not see heaven or be with Abraham.

And really, while the rich man had it good for a brief time on earth, he would give up eternal life for it. Was it worth it? I don't see how! Lazarus ended up much better off. So do not ignore the law and the prophets, or Jesus, for that matter.

Now pay attention in Luke. Evidently, someone coveted what his brother had inherited and wanted Jesus to make his brother share. Jesus wanted nothing to do with it and proceeds to speak about covetousness.

Luke 12:13 And one from the crowd said to Him, Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me. 14 But He said to him, Man, who appointed Me a judge or a divider over you? 15 And He said to them, Beware, and keep back from covetousness; for one's life is not in the abundance of the things which are his. 16 And He spoke a parable to them, saying, A certain rich man produced well from the land. 17 And he reasoned within himself, saying, What may I do, for I have nowhere I may gather my fruits? 18 And he said, I will do this; I will tear down my barns and I will build larger; and I will gather there all my produce and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take rest, eat, drink, and be glad. 20 But God said to him, Fool! This night they demand your soul from you; and that which you prepared, to whom will it be? 21 So is he treasuring up for himself, and not being rich toward God.

An abundance of material wealth does not make a life worthwhile. Being rich toward God does! Jesus was saying to pay attention to Godly riches and Godly things rather than the riches that do nothing for you in the resurrection. Another way of saying you need treasures in Heaven, Godly treasure, good works of love, generosity, kindness, caring, giving, sharing. Jesus continues in the same account:

Luke 12:22 And He said to His disciples, Because of this I say to you, do not be anxious as to your life, what you should eat; nor as to the body, what you should put on. 23 The life is more than the food and the body than the clothing. 24 Consider the ravens, for they do not sow, nor do they reap; to which there is no storehouse or barn, and God feeds them. How much rather you differ from the birds! 25 And who of you by being anxious is able to add one cubit to his stature? 26 Then if you are not able to do even the least, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they do not labor, nor do they spin, but I say to you, not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of these. 28 But if God so dresses the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much rather you, little-faiths? 29 And you, do not seek what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, and stop being in anxiety. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you. 32 Stop being afraid, little flock, because your Father was pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give alms. Make for yourselves purses that do not grow old, an unfailing treasure in Heaven, where a thief cannot come near, nor moth can corrupt. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

There is so much in these verses. We should not give too much attention to the little things of life, the mundane things, such as food, clothing, and those sorts of things. Most people give them lots of concern, choking out the more important Godly things that will preserve us at God's judgment. God made a system and human nature that looks after decent people to a reasonable degree, just as He created nature to look after the birds, the plants, and all the rest. If we seek the kingdom of God and its interests, these other things will be added to us, without our giving them a whole lot of attention. But notice what Jesus says after that in verses 33 & 34.

Sell your possessions! Is that not what the early Christians did? It was the way Christians were to do back then. Where does it say we should not be doing that now in some way??? And look at what else Jesus says. Where your treasure is (what you value), there your heart will be also. If your treasure is in heaven, so will your heart be. But if your treasure is here on earth, in the flesh, that is where your heart will be and not in heaven with God to protect it. Love for people is what pleases God and makes life worthwhile. The things on earth will not last. One day they will all vanish. But love lasts forever.

Matthew 6:19 Do not treasure up for you treasures on the earth, where moth and rust cause to vanish, and where thieves dig through and steal. 20 But treasure up for you treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust cause to vanish, and where thieves do not dig through and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 The lamp of the body is the eye. Then if your eye is sound, all your body is light. 23 But if your eye is evil, all your body is dark. If, then, the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 No one is able to serve two lords; for either he will hate the one, and he will love the other; or he will cleave to the one, and he will despise the other. You are not able to serve God and wealth.

You see that last verse? "You are not able to serve God and wealth." Ya know, some Christians do not believe that. They believe you can have your cake and eat it, too. But Jesus never said that. We have to decide which one we will serve, God . . . or riches. The two do not go together very well at all. Jesus continues:

Matthew 6: 25 Because of this, I say to you, Do not be anxious for your soul, what you eat and what you drink, nor for your body, what you put on. Is not the soul more than the food and the body than the clothing? 26 Observe the birds of the heaven, that they do not sow, nor do they reap, nor do they gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Do you not rather excel them? 27 But who of you by being anxious is able to add one cubit onto his stature? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They do not labor nor do they spin, 29 but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed as one of these. 30 If God so enrobes the grass of the field (which is today, and is thrown into a furnace tomorrow) will He not much rather you, little-faiths? 31 Then do not be anxious, saying, What may we eat? Or, what may we drink? Or, what may clothe us? 32 For after all these things the nations seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 Then do not be anxious for tomorrow. For the morrow will be anxious of itself. Sufficient to each day is its own trouble.

I have heard what Jesus said put another way. What good will worry do about something? It does nothing to help. So stop worrying, right? We should place a priority on learning about God and Godly things and not let the small matters of life concern us much. Jesus promises that things will take care of themselves without our worrying about them. God would see to that.

I also ask something else Jesus brought up. "Is not the soul more than the food?" Not just your soul. Is not the soul of your brother also with more than food? so share food with him if he is lacking. "Is not the body more than the clothing?" Isn't our brother's body with more than clothing? Which do we care more about? Our possessions or the people who could use those possessions? In order to be perfect citizens of God's kingdom, we have to value people more than possessions. That is not an option, it is an essential requirement of God. You have to get your priorities straight or you can not be saved. It's a fact!

John 15:8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 "This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 This I command you, to love one another.

We must bear fruit; we must have something to show for ourselves. We must prove what we are by our actions. Our actions reflect what is truly in our hearts. Do we love our fellow believers? Enough to die for them? That might be questionable, yet that is what Jesus did for us as an example. His actions spoke much more effectively than his words. And how can we say we love our fellow believers if we will not share with them when they are in need? If we are willing to die for them, are we not also willing to share with them?? So if ya wanna talk the talk and walk the walk, you have to sell all your belongings, so to speak, and give to the poor of your congregation, or otherwise, your just a lot of hot air. This is the true test of whether you have God's spirit or not.

Some Christians like to go around claiming they are born again and have God's spirit. Yeah, that is real easy to say, but then lets see how much they share with the rest of the flock. We'll find out who's born-again then, won't we! Don't tell me, show me! Where are your works, Mr. Born-Again?

Now tell me this, all you readers out there, how many other places have you ever come across a message quite like this that I am dishing out? Come on, be honest! Damn few. Too few! A few groups go to the extreme, if that is possible. The Hutterites, for example, live in communes, colonies, really, of about 60-120 people. When they get bigger than 120, they form 2 smaller colonies. What they do is impressive. But they are not obligated to go quite that far. It is enough to share. A little bit of autonomy is also good. I think the Amish are a little more balanced in that respect, mixing love and community with independent families and homes.

Most Christian leaders have done a horrible job of getting out the right message. Why is that? Could it be that they crave money more than truth and want to tickle ears to keep the cash coming in to the collection plates? I think so! Those of you who long to be rich are sure to not like this message I am throwing out there but I doubt you can prove me wrong, but don't worry, you'll find plenty of willing ears to go along with you in dumping all over my message and me, too. You will say, I am an extremist and that I go too far. I am not realistic. God wants to bless us and make us rich. But what you are serving up if you say that, is fool's gold, fake gold, a false message. I give you the following:

It's about Love
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Romans 13:8 Do not continue to owe anything, except to love one another. For the one loving the other has fulfilled the law.

1 Thessalonians 4:9 Now as to brotherly love, you have no need for me to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another.

1 Peter 1:22 Having purified your souls in the obedience of the truth through the Spirit to unpretended brotherly love, love one another fervently out of a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not by corruptible seed, but incorruptible, through the living word of God, and remaining forever.

1 John 3:10 By this the children of God and the children of the Devil are revealed: Everyone not practicing righteousness is not of God; also the one not loving his brother. 11 Because this is the message which you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.

1 John 3:23 And this is His commandment, that we should believe the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as He gave command to us.

1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God, and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God.

What a great scripture, huh?

1 John 4:11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love having been perfected is in us.

2 John 1:5 And I now request you, lady, not writing as a new commandment, but one which we had from the beginning, that we should love one another.

1 John 4:20 If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar. For the one not loving his brother whom he has seen, how is he able to love God whom he has not seen? 21 And we have this commandment from Him, that the one who loves God also loves his brother.

Wow! Tons of great scriptures! John was full of those goodies, wasn't he?. Are we buying them? There is no way to be saved unless we do. Love means sharing!!!

I wanted to show you what some early 2nd and 3rd century Christian writers had to say about how Christians practiced in the days not that long after the Apostles and God's holy spirit had been around. I think you might find it quite enlightening.

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Chap. 67

And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.

Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succors the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.

So you see, it is not just me or those in Jerusalem after the death of Jesus. All Christians did this for a while, till the devil made his way into the churches and sowed weeds among the fine wheat planted by Christ.

The next account you will read tells of the Egyptian Christian converts. They started out quite passionately. But as time would go on, they would press on to extremes in many ways, and not remain in the sound balanced teachings of Christ. But Philo records their behavior in the later 1str century so that we can get a glimpse of them before they go off the deep end. And Eusebius tells us of Philo's account so that we can appreciate those early days of dedicated faith.

Eusebius, Philo, & Egypt
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Eusebius of Caesarea Describes Christians
Church History: Book II (2)      Chapter 16: Mark first proclaimed Christianity to the Inhabitants of Egypt

And they say that this Mark was the first that was sent to Egypt, and that he proclaimed the Gospel which he had written, and first established churches in Alexandria. And the multitude of believers, both men and women, that were collected there at the very outset, and lived lives of the most philosophical and excessive asceticism was so great, that Philo thought it worth while to describe their pursuits, their meetings, their entertainments, and their whole manner of life."

Book 2 chap 17:

In the work to which he gave the title, On a Contemplative Life or on Suppliants, after affirming in the first place that he will add to those things which he is about to relate nothing contrary to truth or of his own invention, he says that these men were called Therapeut' and the women that were with them Therapeutrides. He then adds the reasons for such a name, explaining it from the fact that they applied remedies and healed the souls of those who came to them, by relieving them, like physicians, of evil passions, or from the fact that they served and worshipped the Deity in purity and sincerity. Whether Philo himself gave them this name, employing an epithet well suited to their mode of life, or whether the first of them really called themselves so in the beginning, since the name of Christians was not yet everywhere known, we need not discuss here. He bears witness, however, that first of all they renounce their property. When they begin the philosophical mode of life, he says, they give up their goods to their relatives, and then, renouncing all the cares of life, they go forth beyond the walls and dwell in lonely fields and gardens, knowing well that intercourse with people of a different character is unprofitable and harmful.

[{Eusebius writes in the 4th century, speaking of Philo's time, near to Christ. But we see things similar to what Christians did in Acts 2. They leave their worldly possessions behind, either selling their houses or leaving them to relatives, too. Unlike Christians in Acts, they leave the city behind and live in more remote and isolated places. This can be confirmed by archaeology, where Coptic Christians lived in desert places, years and centuries later. They did this to avoid being too influenced by the population who lived apart from God's ways. We might wonder how much of this was at the direction of Mark or whether these "Egyptian" Christians of probable Jewish, Greek, Roman, and Egyptian lineage in that country did not become extreme on their own account, if indeed, it is extreme.

Even today, we see many people not even Christian, who head out for the suburbs and rural areas to escape the less favorable conditions that exist in densely populated cities. And today there also exist small groups such as the Amish, Hutterites, the Bruderhof, and perhaps a few others of some Christians persuasion who prefer an existence more isolated from the world in general. There is some good sense behind it.

But I say that with this warning. We can try to run from temptation, but we can not hide or escape it entirely, or blame bad results we might get on the world and its temptation. I believe God can preserve us through temptation and help us overcome it. But lets face it, wouldn't it be nice to live among people we know, trust, and love? For sure! If you find such a place, you are lucky. I find some groups of Christians search each other out and meet together, but seldom live on the same street. They live scattered though out towns and cities. How much they share, I do not know, but they should do so as much as possible.}]

Eusebius/Philo continues:

They did this at that time, as seems probable, under the influence of a spirited and ardent faith, practicing in emulation the prophets' mode of life. For in the Acts of the Apostles, a work universally acknowledged as authentic, it is recorded that all the companions of the apostles sold their possessions and their property and distributed to all according to the necessity of each one, so that no one among them was in want. "For as many as were possessors of lands or houses," as the account says, "sold them and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles' feet, so that distribution was made unto every man according as he had need."

[{It would seem that Eusebius also recognizes that how they lived was a little bit different from Christians in Eusebius' day, living with more dedication closer to what was done in Acts. Eusebius recognizes that God's spirit is what enabled this very devoted loving and sharing atmosphere. And Alexandria did turn out to be a Christian center of notable education and prolific reputable writers and scholars of the Christian faith.}]

Eusebius/Philo continues:

Philo bears witness to facts very much like those here described and then adds the following account: "Everywhere in the world is this race found. For it was fitting that both Greek and Barbarian should share in what is perfectly good. But the race particularly abounds in Egypt, in each of its so-called nomes, and especially about Alexandria. The best men from every quarter emigrate, as if to a colony of the Therapeut's fatherland, to a certain very suitable spot which lies above the lake Maria upon a low hill excellently situated on account of its security and the mildness of the atmosphere."

[{The Word and Faith seemed to abound in Egypt. And they sought out a place to live, not based on material prosperity, but on security and mild climate.}]

Eusebius/Philo continues:

And then a little further on, after describing the kind of houses which they had, he speaks as follows concerning their churches, which were scattered about here and there:

"In each house there is a sacred apartment which is called a sanctuary and monastery, where, quite alone, they perform the mysteries of the religious life. They bring nothing into it, neither drink nor food, nor any of the other things which contribute to the necessities of the body, but only the laws, and the inspired oracles of the prophets, and hymns and such other things as augment and make perfect their knowledge and piety."

[{What Philo seems to describe is a room dedicated to scrolls or a codex like books containing the laws, prophets, hymns, and the like, dedicated to God. Today we might call this a library or office. But writing back then took time and effort. They were clearly busy with the word of God, not business. Many people today have bookshelves or collections of their own so it is not anything unusual. But it is quite clear that they were very dedicated and occupied with Christian learning and devotion. Are we listening?}]

Eusebius/Philo continues:

And after some other matters he says:

"The whole interval, from morning to evening, is for them a time of exercise. For they read the holy Scriptures, and explain the philosophy of their fathers in an allegorical manner, regarding the written words as symbols of hidden truth which is communicated in obscure figures. They have also writings of ancient men, who were the founders of their sect, and who left many monuments of the allegorical method. These they use as models, and imitate their principles."

[{It was well recognized that they interpreted scripture in an allegorical manner. What a contrast between this and modern worshippers who seem to take a fundamentalist literal approach to the Bible. They also seem to have the writings of the Apostles, their "ancient men" who founded the so-called sect. These also used an allegorical method of writing, according to Philo. He could recognize that but why is it we do not grasp that?}]

Next up is Tertullian, writing to his wife, I guess. What is interesting is his description of the things a Christians woman would like to be busy doing, were it not for the non-believing husbands that some of them married. We see a life very much involved in caring for one another in various ways, including sharing with those among them in need in some way or another.

Tertullian on Christian ways
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Tertullian: To His Wife: Book 2

But let her see to (the question) how she discharges her duties to her husband. To the Lord, at all events, she is unable to give satisfaction according to the requirements of discipline; having at her side a servant of the devil, his lord's agent for hindering the pursuits and duties of believers: so that if a station is to be kept, the husband at daybreak makes an appointment with his wife to meet him at the baths; if there are fasts to be observed, the husband that same day holds a convivial banquet; if a charitable expedition has to be made, never is family business more urgent.

[{Having been in a congregation where many women came to know Christ, only after having been married and without the husbands likewise accepting Christ and the church, I know what Tertullian says when he points out that when there are Christian or church observances such as a charitable expedition mentioned, then never is family business more urgent. Yes, given the church/religious functions of the early years of Christianity, a husband would often object to the wife's being a part of it. But there is more to consider.}]

For who would suffer his wife, for the sake of visiting the brethren, to go round from street to street to other men's, and indeed to all the poorer cottages? Who will willingly bear her being taken from his side by nocturnal convocations, if need so be? Who, finally, will without anxiety endure her absence all the night long at the paschal solemnities? Who will, without some suspicion of his own, dismiss her to attend that Lord's Supper which they defame? Who will suffer her to creep into prison to kiss a martyr's bonds? Nay, truly, to meet any one of the brethren to exchange the kiss? To offer water for the saints' feet? To snatch (somewhat for them) from her food, from her cup? To yearn (after them)? To have (them) in her mind? If a pilgrim brother arrive, what hospitality for him in an alien home? If bounty is to be distributed to any, the granaries, the storehouses, are foreclosed.

[{The paschal solemnities were the observance of the passover where Christ shared the bread and wine with his disciples which we were commanded to keep. Can you imagine the wife staying out all night to observe these? We don't even do this today ourselves. And Paul mentions in at least 3 letters to greet each other with a holy kiss. And we can see that this was observed and Tertullian wonders how unbelieving husbands would react to this. In addition, it was more difficult to be charitable, or to offer hospitality to traveling Christians, or anything else.

But what most stands out to me is how close knit, affectionate, and community oriented the early Christians were. They had a lot more concern and care for each other. I think that we should be moved to shame. We have become so indifferent, so removed from each other, so cold in our affections, so distant, without any sense of community or purpose, and putting almost no effort into really understanding God's word. I think leaders of churches have done a terrible job of cultivating proper love and devotion among the flock. We were allowed to drift apart and become indifferent, so much so that we can not be distinguished from the world in general.

Jesus said that by this all will know you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves. If this is the measure, we will never be able to prove we are really his disciples. This should all give us plenty of reason to reconsider our devotion to God and each other. We certainly do not measure up to the standard of the past. We should be repenting in sackcloth and ashes, with our garments ripped in two.}]

Modern Examples
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I have previously mentioned the Hutterites, the Amish, the Bruderhof. You can look them up on the internet. There are videos of the Hutterites and Amish. Haven't checked in on the Bruderhof in a few years. I point out these because they have been doing this for about 400 years. They are not just fly by night'ers or recent startups. They did not start out great and then give out and give up. They have endured and prospered and for that they deserve some recognition. They are not perfect, but they show far more love for their own, in most respects, than the main religious organizations in the USA and around. and I notice some who sort of emulate certain aspects of these groups. Some sort of splinter small groups or families will sometimes wear more modest conservative clothing very similar to the Amish or Hutterites, though they might differ a little doctrinally.

When an Amish member has their barn burn down, all the rest chip in to help rebuild it. They see themselves as a community who owe each other when someone is in need. It would be unthinkable to let someone lack for help or comfort. So even though I find some fault for Amish being particularly harsh in their demand for adherence and obedience to things such as clothing or life styles prescribed by the group and severely punished if they do not, something the Bible does not allow in the case of clothing or choices such as phone service, or whatever, I can still see some merit in some of those choices they enforce and admire the love they show for each other in many ways.

I will also point out that there are not many other groups or choices to point out. I certainly admire the Duggars, the large family that has been frequently on the Discovery Channel and have a regular weekly reality/documentary series in at least since 2009. There is real love in that family or they could not accomplish what they do. They are outstanding in their orderliness, warmth, organization, and exceptional conduct. By their fruits you will know them and it is not hard to see where the Duggars hearts and faith are. They dress a bit more modestly than most mainstream or conservative Bible belt groups.

I will also mention some other large families that have been shown on either the Discovery Channel or Discovery Health that are of a Christian persuasion and dress more modestly and are good examples as well, though for my tastes, the Duggars are the gold medalists in this category. Even if they were to spit on me and hiss at me, I would understand and still admire them. My vision is certainly bold and uncommon and while I stand by it, I understand that for most, it is too much, too quick and too radical. Not a problem for Christ shall unite us all in time. Only he can bring the unity once had in the 1st century AD and quickly lost after.

I am sure there are other isolationist or home school types who deserve recognition but have not won over great numbers. Indeed, what impresses me most about them is that they think for themselves and make their own individual decisions based upon their own unique consciences as it should be. They do not seek the comfort of a large group just for the sake of belonging. They put God above belonging. And many still find small numbers of others who see things their way. I'm the only reed being tossed about by the wind in the wilderness and I'm just fine with that. I gotta be me and say what I believe and practice what I believe, no matter what.

But these modern day examples show us a better way, a closer way, with more feeling and compassion for their fellow brothers and sisters, and that example is sorely needed in a world that has lost that fellow feeling and compassion and embraced fear.

What Have We Learned?
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1st, that Christ commanded us to love each other. And to love is to share everything we have so that no one is lacking. That is how far our love needs to go in order to be saved.

We also know that most today are not living up to that standard as it was first practiced for perhaps at least 100-200 years, though not any longer and maybe not quite that long. Maybe only 50 years or so in some places. Let us hope it was longer than that.

But not to forget, not only were the blessed generous with their good fortune, but those in need were not lazy or bums. They did what they could, in most cases. Paul had to counsel a few but not many. But it is also clear that God's spirit made the excellent standard of sharing and loving possible. Today, we are sorely missing that spirit. Who can we blame for that? Ourselves only!

We live in a much worse world. And we, I supposed by necessity, reflect the world and times we live in, sadly. So we see less quality now than was seen in the days of the Apostles. But it is not likely that we could achieve the level of love and cooperation evident right after Pentecost.

Just as Paul mentioned that the law of Moses existed in part, to made it clear to us how impossible it is to live up to that law in a whole or perfect way. The law made it clear that we fall short of the high standards of God for humans. It provides the contrast between what we do vs. what we should do.

This law of sharing between all those in our Christian communities makes it clear how far we have gotten from that fine standard. We don't come anywhere near it today. As the world has gotten worse and further from God, so have God's people. We have allowed the spirit of the world creep into our faith and practice. We are in need of God fixing the world before we can be fixed ourselves. Only God can undo all the mess started in the Garden of Eden.

But neither should there be anything stopping us from trying a lot more to emulate that fine and high standard set for us so long ago. We have an obligation to try as best as we can, being careful not to make too many excuses for ourselves.

And when Jesus says to give to the poor, he does not mean all the poor in general. He is referring to the poor among fellow believers. Of course, any kindness that can be extended to neighbors not in the faith is good and as pointed out by Jesus, our love and our sharing have to extend to some degree beyond just those who are our own. But our own do get our first, our best, our most. It is principally our own poor we look after.

This is in quite the contrast to charities who take the burden of all the earth's poor upon themselves. Neither I nor any of you are responsible for what people on the other side of the world do. Governments and big business bear most of the responsibility for how people live and are treated. We look after our own and God will make those who are primarily and principally responsible for the world being the way it is, accountable for what they did or did not do. We just our own and care for our own. God takes care of the rest.

We can not change the world overnight and nor can we change how people are, who become Christian. They come from a world very much alienated from God and far from what is normal or healthy for people. It should not surprise us that they are a little dull in their senses. But as times get tougher, we all need to get tougher, too. We can not be soft on ourselves and make all sorts of excuses for ourselves. The world separates the men from the boys, the wheat from the chaff, the sheep from the goats.

God is looking for people who will stop passing the buck and stand firm in the faith. Courage and strength are admirable qualities for Christians to possess. I will say this. God blesses effort and dedication. If we really apply ourselves, we will be blessed. Let me show you since I sense some of you are doubting.

Malachi 3:
7 From the days of your fathers, you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you, says Jehovah of hosts. But you say, In what shall we return?
8 Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me. But you say, In what have we robbed You? In the tithe and the offering!
9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the nation, all of it.
10 Bring all the tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house. And test Me now with this, says Jehovah of hosts, whether I will not open the windows of the heavens for you and pour out a blessing until there is no sufficiency.
11 And I will rebuke the devourer for you, and he shall not destroy the fruit of your ground against you; nor shall your vine miscarry against you in the field, says Jehovah of hosts.
12 And all nations shall call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land, says Jehovah of hosts.

Malachi 3:
16 Then those fearing Jehovah spoke together, each man to his neighbor. And Jehovah gave attention and heard. And a Book of Remembrance was written before Him for those who feared Jehovah, and for those esteeming His name.
17 And they shall be Mine, says Jehovah of hosts, for the day that I will make up My treasure. And I will pity them as a man has pity on his son who serves him.
18 Then you shall again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between him who serves God and him who does not serve Him.

Call God's bluff and test Him out by serving Him with extreme dedication and see what happens. If you do it in faith, and do it, whether rewarded or not, do it with patience and long-suffering and I guarantee you will be amazed. The real problem is that so few take God up on His offer. So few ever really find out the truth. But for the few that have, we know! We just don't tell, for we do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.

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