Last week, I enjoyed reading an article about Anabaptists and writing about that article in my post “Which Distinctive Practices and Beliefs of Anabaptists are Important for the Church Today?” Reading that article, writing the post, and following the discussion in the comments reminded me of a great book that I read online last year called “The Secret of the Strength.” One of the things that I love about that book is that the author (Peter Hoover) includes many, many quotations from the Anabaptists themselves.
For the next few days, I’m going to post a few of those quotations. You may not agree with everything they wrote, but hopefully they will help us thinking about our new life in Jesus Christ.
This quotation was written by Ambrutz (Ambrosius) Spittelmayr just before he was beheaded in 1527:
Nobody can inherit the kingdom unless he is poor with Christ, for a Christian has nothing of his own, no place where he can lay his head. A real Christian should not even have enough property on the face of the earth to stand on with one foot. This does not mean that he should lie down in the woods and not have a job, or that he should not have fields and pasture lands, or that he should not work. It simply means that he should not think that these things are for his own use and be tempted to say, “This house is mine. This field is mine. This dollar is mine.” Rather he should say, “It is ours,” even as we pray “Our Father.”
A Christian should not have anything of his own but should have all things in common with his brother, not letting him suffer need. In other words, I will not work that my house be filled, that my pantry be supplied with meat, but rather I will see that my brother has enough, for a Christian looks more to his neighbour than to himself.
This teaching directly contradicts the “American Way.” (I can’t speak as much about the culture of greed in other countries.) Saving, building, hoarding, storing… this is the way of life in America, but it was not the way of life among the Anabaptists or among the early believers as recorded by Luke in the Book of Acts.
So, which way of life are we going to follow? Are we willing to admit that we have been so influenced by the greed of the American dream that we have missed the call of the Spirit to give to others? Or, do we continue to make excuses, blaming others for their lack or need, finding reasons not to help those who need it?
When you hold a dollar in your hand (or a hundred dollars, or a thousand dollars, or a million dollars), do you assume that God gave it to you for your own benefit? Could it be that God gave that to you so that you could use it to benefit others? It would be just like him, wouldn’t it? He is, after all, the God who gave and gave and gave… even giving his own son.
Interestingly, I’ve spent a short time in two cultures (outside of the United States) that are known to be among the poorest in the world. And, I found the Christians in those two cultures to be more giving and sharing than many in the USA.
Do you find it easier to share when you have much or when you have little? Why do you think the voluntary sharing of property was so important to the early church or to the Anabaptists in the 16th century?