No Needy Persons Allowed?1
There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the salesand put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
- from Acts 4:34-35
There are a bunch of different reasons why there might be no needy persons in a faith community. Can you think of some of them?
Perhaps the faith community charges for entry. This was common in the ancient world: pay to pray. And this practice continues in the spiritual-social circles that sell classes, access to teachers, and an exclusive transcendent experience. The poor are priced out.
Perhaps the faith community locates in a place that’s inaccessible to the needy. Walls and gates and interstates can bar the way. And the décor and design of a space can send signals that only people of a certain socioeconomic status are welcome. The doors may be unlocked, but they’re still closed.
Perhaps the faith community ignores, isolates, and ostracizes those who have need. People often know when they’re not wanted. They sense it in their bones. It’s not a perfect perception (sometimes we misread our environment), but it is a familiar one that all who have struggled to make ends meet will recognize. The eyes that pass over you. The eyes that don’t smile even when the mouth moves. The eyes that narrow when you approach, that search you for threats, that wait for a request for help.
Why might there be no needy persons in a faith community?
If only it were possible that every faith community had no needy persons among them because – compelled by the uniting and generosity-inducing power of Jesus’ resurrection – several faith communities took meaningful steps to share their resources so that the needy in their midst would lose that label. And, over time, the needy in other communities would hear about this generous network of do-gooders. And conversations might start and spread. Inspiration. Dominoes.
What one thing can you do this week to help make our community more welcoming to folks who have needs? What one thing can you do this week to help someone in our community who has a need?