Troublesome Topic: Helping the Needy Made the Early Church Very Attractive

Acts 2:45


and they had the habit of selling lands

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and possessions and dividing [the proceeds] to all, accordingly as anyone had need,

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and they had the habit of selling pieces of land and other possessions and dividing the proceeds among everyone, especially to those who had need of basic things that are hard to do without,

Here are some key points about the use of money in the early church:

1. The people in the early church didn’t just give a little, they were extreme in their giving! The selling of lands and possessions should tell us that they did more than just give a tenth of their regular income; they looked for ways to convert things they owned into cash so they could give more to the ministry of helping the needy. Acts 4:32 tells us that they did not consider any earthly possessions to belong to them, this means they realized that everything really belongs to God and we should be grateful that He lets us borrow it for a while. But if He wants someone else to use it for a while, we should be willing to give it up because it does not really belong to us anyway.

2. The money was used to help those in need, first the needy among them and also those outside their number. It appears that, at the beginning, the leaders of the church did not accept “payment” for doing ministry. It also appears from 1 Corinthians 9:6 that some of the Apostles occasionally did accept monetary gifts, although I doubt this was a regular thing and definitely not anything like a salary.

3. The result of the way they helped those in need was that people outside the church took notice and had favorable thoughts about the believers, even if they did not want to join them. Their willingness to help the needy was a huge part of their witness and a major reason for their winsome reputation in the community. The way they helped the needy was a continuation of the teaching of Jesus about loving others and it served as authenticating proof that they were no longer living for themselves, but for others.



The word used here usually pertains to “land” in the form of “land that is owned by someone.” It can also refer to other “possessions,” but land was the primary meaning. This likely meant that believers sold pieces of land that they or their ancestors had been acquired over time which were not their original homestead. They sold off their excess land so they could help the poor, but I do not think they sold all their land, including the family’s homestead. In the law they were not to acquire land for the long term, only lease it till the year of Jubilee. Since the Jews seldom followed that regulation, certain families acquired large amounts of land. By selling their extra land (hopefully to someone in the original family of Jewish owners) they were doing more to obey the Law than most had ever done.


“had need” implies the lack of a basic necessity, not just an inconvenience. First they took care of those among the followers of Jesus who had serious needs. We know from things stated elsewhere that they were also generous toward those who were not followers of Jesus.