The New Testament gives us two inspiring calls to transform our relationship to money. Jesus tells a young man, “Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). The early church had an equally compelling model: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need” (Acts 2:44”“5).
In the imagination of many Christians there’s a perpetual sense that this is what our relationship to money would be like if we were doing it properly. But on closer look, the picture that Acts 2 offers is different from the one seen in Jesus’ words to the rich young man. The rich young man model is about living vulnerably before God and simply following Jesus. The Acts 2 model is about making a collective commitment and finding the activity of the Holy Spirit in the worship and practices of a community. Both models are compelling, but they’re not the same. The two dominant kinds of medieval monasticism””the mendicant friars and the wealthy monasteries””represent these two poles of the ideal of somehow getting money right. But both models turn out to be flawed when translated into a vision for a whole society.
For the most part the church has found these two models too challenging to implement and too disruptive to be sustainable.