Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
When John Lennon composed 'Imagine', early one morning in 1971, it's doubtful that he had this famous, almost communistic proof-text in mind, though it's possible. Many Christians immediately apply the brakes with the first line of Lennon's song, where he sings, 'Imagine there's no heaven.....', but if one dares to continue searching, they might see that John's lyrics are predicated on the notion that 'Heaven' is somewhere out there, up there in the sky, out in space, etc. John Lennon was not a Christian, by any stretch of the imagination ( most likely Buddhist, if he followed any religion ), but he seemed to be aware that the Greek word translated 'heaven', ouranos, simply means 'sky'.
Religion divides; that's all there is to it! As Christians, traditional, anyway & orthodox, we understand that division is not necessarily a bad thing, but is it really a good thing? We are used to viewing the world & humanity in two main categories; us & them, in traditional Christianese, those who are headed for heaven & those who are destined for hell. The Bible DOES say, 'Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you' ( II Corinthians 6:17 ( Isaiah 52:11, Ezekiel 20:34, 41 ), but when read in context, it should be noted that these were written in the days of that first [ age/covenant ], thus being directed at true Israel. As a matter of fact, the communistic-sounding statement at the beginning of this post should also be taken in context, with the understanding that the Christians who thus divested themselves of their property ( 'possessions' ) quite probably did so because they knew that it would soon be worthless, as the city was about to be destroyed.
Speaking of possessions, we now come closer to the heart of the matter! What is the biggest cause for fights, even wars? Quoting at some length here, from James 4:1-3, 'Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do [ they ] not [ come ] from your [ desires for ] pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend [ it ] on your pleasures'. Say what you want about John Lennon & his ideals, but at least he seemed to understand, maybe better than most, that it's not about possessions, what you have or don't have, materially speaking, anyway. We read elsewhere in Scripture ( Romans 14:17 ) that, 'the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit'; Again, it's not about possessions, materialistically speaking, it's a spiritual reality, basically how we treat our fellow human beings: as John put it, 'the brotherhood of man'!
Possessions, though, are not a bad thing; like riches of any kind, the problem is not in having them, but how we come by them & what we do with them once we get them. James mentioned that the Israelites were guilty of breaking the tenth commandment, which instructed them, 'You shall not covet.................................' ( Exodus 20:17 ). 'He/she has something I want & they won't give it to me, therefore I will take it from them!' The problem is not in the having ( of possessions/riches ); the problem is in doing whatever is necessary to get them, usually whether it's right or wrong. Lennon was not saying that it would be ideal not to have anything of one's own, but rather, that we should look at what we have been blessed with as not simply ours, but a blessing for the collective whole, for the good of humanity. Hence, the line 'Imagine all the people sharing all the world'.
We tend to view our possessions in the same way that Gollum viewed The Ring, in the epic, 'The Lord of the Rings'; 'My OWN, my prrrrrrrrecious!' Witness what he did to retrieve his 'prrrrrrecious': he would have done whatever he could to get it back, even if it meant murder. As it 'happened, he simply bit Frodo's finger off before he himself perished, along with the Ring. The point is, that looking at what we have been blessed with as 'our possessions', ours & ours alone is what has been the cause of many battles & wars, even if it's only within our own hearts. James also ask the question, 'If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what [ does it ] profit?"' ( James 2:15 & 16 ); when we fail to share our blessings with those in need, simply because they are ours ( 'I' worked for them! ) then we fail to live as Jesus taught.
So then, when read in the context of the current situation, at the time of Luke's writing ( Acts 4:32 ), we may correctly ascertain what was originally meant by those words. Not so much a plea for
Christian Communism, but rather a sharing of what they were blessed with, although it was probably made easier by the knowledge that these possessions would soon be worthless anyway. However, the point is; they did not look at these things as their own ( 'MY prrrrrrecious' ), but as a blessing to be shared with those in need! This being a universal truth; how much need is there in the world today? Our 'world', even? What should we do, then, with our possessions?
I'm not saying that we should not have anything of our own; I'm simply saying, as I believe Lennon was, that we should not cling to what we have been blessed with, but that we should share, without expectation, with those in need. 'The brotherhood of man' does not extend only to those who live & believe like we do! What we have been blessed with is not for us alone; it is to be shared with the world, regardless of whether we think they deserve it or not.
Agree with John Lennon's life or not, his ideals were lofty & true; what he imagined was a world at peace rather than a world at war, no heaven above, but rather, 'heaven' here below. He 'imagined' a world where the collective consciousness ruled the day, not one in which some were destined for 'heaven', while others were headed for 'hell'. As the unorthodox 'heretics' that we are, fulfilled believers know that it is not the traditional 'heaven' or 'hell' scenario, but rather that Heaven is here & now, that in sharing its blessings, we embrace 'the brotherhood of man'!
Charles Haddon Shank