The Way of Sharing: A Critical Assessment of Dismissing Jesus, Pt. 6

Jones’s fifth chapter, “The Way of Sharing,” calls Christians to a life of bounteous, exuberant generosity, but one which goes beyond the pale, stingy virtue that we tend to think of as “generosity” or “charity.”  Too many of us complacently accumulate vast possessions and then give out of our excess, secretly congratulating ourselves on giving up something that we are entitled to, and making sure (subtly, to be sure) that the recipient knows we have made a sacrifice.  It is not hard to see that this is not a Biblical model of generosity.  Instead, we are called to transcend the opposition between “mine” and “yours,” to be people of whom it might be said, “no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own” (Acts 4:32)  Rather than saying, “This is all mine, but I will deign to give some to you,” we should learn to say, “This is yours, for you have need of it.”  That much, I would agree with Jones, seems clear from the Biblical testimony; and yet this is a subject sorely fraught with confusions and tensions.  Immediately, in our post-Cold War world, our thoughts go to that perennial bogeyman, “Communism,” and its shadowy sidekick, “Socialism.”  Does “sharing” mean giving up private property altogether, and holding all things in common? we worry.  And what, after all, is it that we’re being condemned for—is it sheer abundance of material things, wealth as such?  Or is it some people having more than other people—is inequality as such a problem?  Or is it just some people having too much while others suffer in need—inequality in the face of indigence?  Usually people mean the last of these three, but sound like (or are heard as if) they mean the first or the second. Read More