“The early church was socialist.”
Talk about economics and the church and you’ll eventually hear a Christian make that claim. The idea that the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles supports the idea that Christians should be socialists is an oft-repeated as if it were both obvious and true.
But is it? Art Lindsley explains why those passages do not pertain to socialism:
Does Acts 2-5 really command socialism? A quick reading of these four chapters might make it seem so. Acts 2:44-45 says that immediately following Pentecost, “[A]ll who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
Acts 4:32-35, referring to the early congregation, says: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.”
Though these passages may sound like socialism to the average reader, such a superficial reading may miss what a closer examination of the text reveals. There are three major reasons why Acts 2-5 does not teach socialism.