Learning from the Financial Practices of the Early Church

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“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” GALATIANS 5:22–23 (NRSV)

Big Idea: Early church Christians followed the teachings of Jesus. Their living, giving, serving, and loving resulted in the spread of the gospel across the ancient world.

The first disciples revealed that obedience to the finan-cial teachings of Jesus positions followers to take hold of life. We learn our role. We get to serve as conduits of God’s material and spiritual blessings! The early church showed love by giving to God and caring for the needs of their neighbors. They developed a reputation for serving the poor. The early church demonstrates simplicity with regard to spending, intentionality associated with saving, and generosity linked to giving. The video for this lesson cele-brates seven themes that sum up the financial practices of the early church. These themes show us how to live, give, serve, and love like Jesus!

1. The Generous Community of Faith

God’s people exhibit contentment through the enjoyment and sharing of material possessions with one another in community. They give money to church leaders who manage the funds to care for needy people (see Acts 2:44–47; 6:1–7; Philippians 4:11–13; 1 Timothy 6:17–19).

On what did the early church spend money? What strengths and sins do you see in these texts? Do you see the same strengths and sins today? How does early church spending compare to your church today?

2. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Early church giving flows according to the ability of each giver. The Holy Spirit empowers believers with spiritual gifts to glorify God and serve the church (the body of Christ), and one of those gifts is the gift of giving (see Romans 12:3–8).

Even as the example of Barnabas encouraged the early church to give generously, how might those with the gift of giving use their gift today to inspire others to participate generously in God’s work (see Acts 4:32–37)?

3. The New Testament Parameters for Financial Giving

God’s people give in proportion not percentage; as they are blessed, they bless others. Under grace, giving is motivated by love rather than the law, flows from gratitude rather than guilt, and is measured with fairness instead of favoritism. Serving the poor shifts from an obligation to making the most of every opportunity (see 2 Corinthians 8–9; Galatians 6:9–10; James 2:1–9).

4. The Flow of Provision

As believers grow in Christ, they become generous because Christ is generous. Faithful stewards don’t hoard God’s resources because greed is idolatry. They give sacrificially like Christ. Generosity is a fruit of the Spirit (see Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5; Galatians 5:22–23; Philippians 2:5–11).

Explain why our handling of money reflects where we place our trust. What message does our generosity (or lack thereof) send to the world about God?

5. The Impact of Collective Obedience

As new creations, saved by grace through faith in Christ, we have been created for good works. Faith without good works is dead. Faith with good works caused the gospel to spread throughout the ancient world (see 1 Corinthians 1:26; Ephesians 2:8–10; James 2:14–17).

If the early church was largely poor, how did their collective obedience to do good works change the world? How might our disobedience contribute to the decline of the modern church today?

6. Participation in the Gospel

Believers remember the poor and give according to their ability to help others hear the gospel as they received it. This participation does not leave them empty, but rather, enriched for greater generosity (see Galatians 2:9–10; Romans 15:25–33; Philippians 1:3–5; 2 Corinthians 9:8).

Why can participation in the gospel never be separated from serving the poor?

7. The Promises of the Kingdom

Jesus offers followers the gift of His presence until the end of the age, and unfathomable blessings in the eternal kingdom (see 1 Corinthians 2:9; Matthew 28:19–20).

Does obedience to the teachings of Jesus result in emptiness? Or do we gain far more?

Did you find this article helpful, challenging, or promising? It’s part of a larger resource designed to help you think about finances and stewardship in a biblical, godly way. In Good and Faithful: Ten Stewardship Lessons for Everyday Living, Dr. Gary Hoag offers three sections of helpful financial teaching: 1) Biblical foundations 2) Core practices 3) Financial skills. Throughout the book and video resource, you’ll learn how to practically apply Bible verses and biblical principles to everyday tasks like budgeting, investing, and debt management. It’s perfect for individuals, families, or group studies. Get your copies from our store here.

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Dr. Gary G. Hoag has been encouraging Christian generosity for more than 20 years, serving in leadership positions at Denver Seminary, Colorado Christian University and BIOLA University. Hoag launched Generosity Monk in 2009 to encouraging Christian generosity by providing spiritual and strategic counsel.

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