Open Hands, Open Hearts
Open Hands, Open Hearts
Open Hands, Open Hearts
Let’s imagine for a moment you're on a boat. It's a beautiful day. The sun is shining, there's a light breeze, the waters are calm and serene.
Then, all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a storm hits. The waves start crashing, the wind is howling, your boat is being thrown back and forth, and it feels like everything is falling apart.
In the midst of this storm, you see someone in the angry waves struggling to stay afloat.
At great personal risk, would you open your hands to help someone else, or would you cling tightly to the boat, trying to save yourself? An unsettling question, isn't it?
This is a picture of the early Christian church. They found themselves in a storm of persecution, under attack from all sides, their faith challenged.
Yet, it's in this storm that we see one of the most beautiful demonstrations of unity, generosity, and selfless giving.
The early believers didn't cling tightly to their possessions out of fear.
Instead, they opened their hands and their hearts, sharing all they had with one another.
They demonstrated an unwavering spirit of generosity that served as a beacon of hope and unity.
Today, we step into their story in Acts chapter 4, verses 32 to 37, a story that calls us to examine our own hearts, our own hands. Are they open or closed when we see opportunities within our body?
So, buckle up, because we're going on a journey back to the early days of the church to rediscover the transformative power of open hands and open hearts.
And in doing so, we'll find the strength to weather any storm together, as one unified body of Christ.
Let's dive in!"
32 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. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. 36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
What do we see?
The Church Unified
The Church Unified
Let's look at the opening words of verse 32,
32 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.
“They had all things in common.”
Can you imagine this? It wasn't a group of people simply sharing the same space, or the same religious affiliation.
They were 'one in heart and mind.'
This wasn't a superficial unity, it was a profound, deep, spiritual unity.
They were of one heart – they shared the same love for God, love for each other. And they were of one mind – they held to the same truths about who Jesus is and what He had done for them.
It was this unity that was their fortress in the face of external threats and persecutions. They were not just a community; they were a family. They were the church as God intended it to be.
How did Satan’s attack affect the spiritual condition of the church? Not at all!
The fact that Peter and John were arrested, tried, and threatened had absolutely no effect on the spiritual life of the church, because the church was still unified (Acts 4:32), magnified (Acts 4:33), and multiplied! (Acts 4:32)
When the Holy Spirit is at work, giving is a blessing and not a burden.
We must keep in mind that this “Christian communism” was very unlike the political Communism of our day. What the believers did was purely voluntary (Acts 5:4) and was motivated by love.
No doubt many of the new believers were visitors in Jerusalem, having come for the feasts; and they had to depend on their Christian friends to help meet their daily needs.
Nor should we think that every believer sold all his goods and brought the money to the Apostles.
Acts 4:34 indicates that some of the members “from time to time” sold various pieces of property and donated to the common treasury.
When the assembly had a need, the Spirit directed someone to sell something and meet the need.
B. Real-Life Example: We have a HELP fund to help others in need. It’s not just for those outside our fellowship. If you know of anyone here who has a need, we should be willing to help them. But we need to know about the need so we can help.
While the early church’s spirit of sacrifice and loving generosity is worthy of our emulation, believers today are not required to imitate these practices.
The principles of Christian giving are outlined in the epistles, especially in 2 Corinthians 8–9; and nowhere are we instructed to bring our money and lay it at the pastor’s feet (Acts 4:35), as though he were an apostle.
It is the spirit of their giving that is important to us today and not the “letter” of their system.
C. Challenge: "Today, our challenges may be different from those of the early church, but they are real nonetheless.
We live in a world marked by division, discord, and selfish ambition.
But, God calls us, His church, to be different. He calls us to unity.
So, I want to challenge us today, how can we foster unity in our church?
It could be as simple as getting to know someone new, offering a word of encouragement, praying for one another, or even sharing what you have with someone in need.
Or getting to know someone here else outside these four walls. Do something together. We’re not going to grow in unity by just meeting one another inside these four walls on Sunday or Wednesday.
It's these small acts of unity that make us strong, that make us resilient, that make us the Church.
Let's work together to be 'one in heart and mind,' just as the early church was."
So, the church was unified. Let’s look at the how they gave.
The Spirit of Giving
The Spirit of Giving
33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
In verses 33-35, we see the early church in action.
Note this, the apostles taught the church about Jesus with great power. How was it received?
This great power was manifested in the spirit of sacrificial giving, in the collective attitude of selfless love.
"From time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”
This giving was voluntary and was driven by love. They sold their properties and possessions, not because they were compelled by law or social pressure, but out of a deep sense of responsibility and love for their fellow believers. This was the true spirit of Christian giving.
We shouldn’t think that every believer sold all his goods and brought the money to the Apostles.
Acts 4:34 indicates that some of the members “from time to time” sold various pieces of property and donated to the common treasury. When the assembly had a need, the Spirit directed someone to sell something and meet the need.
B. Connection to Today: "Now, let's be honest. In today's world, giving can sometimes feel like a burden rather than a blessing.
We often give out of obligation or because we feel pressured to do so.
Maybe it's a fundraising event where we feel the need to contribute even when our heart isn't in it.
We sometimes give out of guilt, not out of joy.
But look back at the early church. They gave out of love, out of genuine concern for their fellow believers. They gave joyfully, willingly, and sacrificially.
C. Application: So, how can we foster that same spirit of sacrificial giving in our own lives? It starts with our hearts.
It starts with recognizing everything we have is a gift from God and meant to be shared.
It starts with love.
So, I want to challenge you to examine your own attitudes toward giving. Do you give out of obligation or out of love? Do you give begrudgingly or cheerfully?
Let's strive to emulate the early church, to let our giving be an overflow of our love for God and for each other.
It doesn't have to be grand gestures.
Maybe it's buying a meal for someone who's going through a tough time, or offering your time and skills to help someone in need.
Remember, it's not the size of the gift that matters, it's the spirit in which it is given.
The early church was unified. The early church gave in a spirit of love and compassion for one another in the body. Next we see...
The Example of Barnabas
The Example of Barnabas
36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
As we read further in verses 36 and 37, we meet an outstanding example of this spirit of giving in action.
Here we are introduced to Barnabas. His name means 'son of encouragement,' and he truly lives up to it.
Barnabas was a Levite from Cyprus who sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles. In an extraordinary act of generosity, he not only gave his resources but also gave of himself, becoming an essential supporter and encourager within the early church.
Barnabas was a generous giver and illustrated the very thing Dr. Luke was describing.
It’s possible that his example is included here because his noble act apparently filled Ananias and Sapphira, which we’ll hear about in the next chapter, with envy so that they attempted to impress the church with their giving and ended up being killed by God.
Now, it's important to note that Barnabas's giving wasn't for show or to gain favor. Otherwise Luke wouldn’t have included his example.
Instead, we can infer that it was an act of love and sacrifice that was deeply rooted in his faith and commitment to the early Christian community.
His generosity made a lasting impact, setting a benchmark for others in the church.
The spirit of Barnabas – his encouragement, generosity, and dedication – is something we should all aspire to emulate.
B. Challenge: So today, I want to leave you with this challenge: How can you be a Barnabas in our own community?
How can you give not just from your resources, but also of yourself? How can you foster a spirit of encouragement, generosity, and love?
It's not just about the money we can offer, but about the time, the kindness, the love, and the encouragement we can provide.
Think of ways you can be generous this week. It could be as simple as offering a word of encouragement to someone who needs it or giving your time to help a neighbor.
Be inspired by the spirit of Barnabas. Let's be generous, not just with our resources, but with our lives, fostering a spirit of love and unity in our community and our world.
A. Summary: As we unpacked Acts 4:32-37, we’ve journeyed through a portrait of the early church, witnessing their unity, their sacrificial spirit of giving, and the inspiring example of Barnabas.
We’ve seen a community bound by a shared faith and a commitment to care for one another, embodying Christ's teachings of love and generosity.
We've observed how their unity in the face of adversity fortified them, how their spirit of giving transcended the ordinary, transforming it from an obligation into a joyful expression of love.
In Barnabas, we saw an epitome of generosity, a man whose spirit of encouragement and sacrifice left an indelible mark on the church."
B. Final Challenge: As we leave today, I challenge each of us to carry these lessons into our lives and our communities.
The early church didn't just talk about love and unity – they lived it. They didn't just preach about generosity – they embodied it.
They weren't simply followers of Christ – they were active participants in bringing His kingdom to earth.
So let us ask ourselves: How can we foster unity in our relationships, our church, and our communities?
How can we rekindle the joy of sacrificial giving, focusing less on what we 'should' give and more on how we can love others through our generosity?
And how can we follow in Barnabas's footsteps, making a tangible impact on those around us with our encouraging and generous spirits?"
To put these thoughts into action, let's consider three next steps we can take this week:
Foster Unity: Identify one area in your life where unity could be strengthened – whether it's a relationship, a project, or within our church community. Make a conscious effort to promote understanding and cooperation.
Embrace Giving: Consider one way you can give sacrificially this week, not out of obligation, but out of love. This could be financial, or it could be your time, skills, or resources.
Be a Barnabas: Think of someone who could use encouragement this week. Reach out to them, offer kind words, or lend a helping hand. Strive to be a positive force in their life, much like Barnabas was in the early church.
Let's step into this new week with open hands and open hearts, ready to live out the unity, generosity, and encouragement embodied by the early believers.