Acts 2:45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need.
We can’t legislate morality. We can’t regulate motive. We can’t socially engineer utopia.
If ever there was a social utopia, this was it. They were together, devoted to each other, joyful, humble, favored and held all things in common (v. 44-47). For a moment, try to put yourself there, a place and time among a people where no ego was at work, no one had distasteful thought for another, there was no envy, no selfishness, no power struggle, no loneliness, and no unmet need. Of all the Bible, this four verse passage describes the phrase “heaven on earth” more than any other. And although many of us, in this imperfect world of hurtful people, have become content living in a more isolated fashion, there is still a divine drive in our spiritual DNA for heaven and yes, if we can have it, heaven on earth.
How can we get it?
I don’t think I’ll ever forget these five words I spoke years ago: “I think I’m a socialist.” I spoke them aloud and if you were one in the room when I said it, don’t bother trying to tell my friends what you heard. Today, they wouldn’t believe you. Why would I ever say that?
Because I wanted it.
I wanted Acts 2 to come true. Here’s the problem. When you want an end more than the means, you’re at great risk of short-cutting the right means to get there. It’s human tendency to construct an end rather than to arrive at it.
We arrive at this Acts 2 scene by means of the Spirit. We can’t get there by political means. We can’t arrive by legally enforcing the redistribution of goods to those who have less. We can’t legislate morality. We can’t regulate motive. We can’t socially engineer utopia. All attempts to do so are attempts to bypass the proper means to our desired end.
The story of Pinocchio is a good example. The woodcarver, Gepetto, is struck with envy one day when some boys come in his shop. He wishes he had a boy, too. So, he constructs one. It’s a nightmare. The boy is mean, selfish and a liar and their relationship is horrible. The moral of the original story is in that Pinocchio lacks the virtues of bravery, honesty and selflessness. Once he demonstrates them, he becomes a real boy and their relationship flourishes.
Gepetto had tried to construct an end he wanted; a boy who would both be good and love him. But bypassing the proper means of raising a child, instructing him in the virtues of honesty, bravery and sacrifice left Gepetto, for the most part, with an empty shell that only looked like a boy.
We don’t want a life that looks like one. We want a real life that flourishes.
Or do we?
It seems to me we want the end of a paycheck more than the means of work to get there, so we ride the clock or do less than what we could.
We want good kids more than the means of instruction and discipline, so we give in and give out, sacrificing their character development so they smile and look happy.
We want an impactful ministry that reaches the multitude, so we bypass the means of reaching the one for a rock show that draws thousands.
We want a nation where there is no poverty, so we bypass the means of face to face relational charity for a welfare state.
In the end, we end up with empty shells, replicas that bring no real joy. If we’re not careful, we’ll find ourselves in a shell of a nation filled with replicas of Acts 2. And just as Pinocchio was one day surprised to find himself clothed in humanity, we might one day look at ourselves and find that our humanity has deformed into the same lifeless substance of the replicas we’ve created.
They arrived by means of the Spirit. In everything you do, do the same. Don’t bypass Him. His ends for you are good.