Karl Marx summed up Communism with the phrase: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
Communism is the principle that people pool resources and the resources are then distributed according to people’s needs. People have fought capitalism is various ways: changing the symbolism of money, trying to eliminate middleman costs, and even downright pooling of goods. The results are always the same throughout history: utter catastrophe.
In Acts, there is an interesting instance in which communism is attempted.
Act 2:44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common,
Act 2:45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
Act 4:32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.
Act 4:33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all.
Act 4:34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold,
Act 4:35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.
This was communism. One Christian protested to me: “it was not communism, everyone did it voluntarily”. Voluntary communism is still communism and still leads to the same results. All the societies listed above were more or less voluntary, and they all failed. The Acts commune was no different. A famine soon hit Jerusalem, and the saints, impoverished by communism, were hard hit. Part of Paul’s ministry was to travel the world, acting like a Christian “Feed the Children” campaign:
Act 11:28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.
Act 11:29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.
Why Judea? Because they sold all their property and started a commune. Like all other communes, it broke down due to lack of incentives. This left them all impoverished. Here is Paul gathering funds in his letters.
1Co 16:1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:
1Co 16:2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.
1Co 16:3 And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.
2Co 9:5 Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren to go to you ahead of time, and prepare your generous gift beforehand, which you had previously promised, that it may be ready as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation.
Rom 15:25 But now I am going to Jerusalem to minister to the saints.
Rom 15:26 For it pleased those from Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor among the saints who are in Jerusalem.
So the funds are targeted to Jerusalem and targeted to the poor. The collection is very direct and strong (Paul devotes 2 chapters in 2 Corinthians to it). Why are the Jerusalem poor in much worse shape than the “poor” in Galatia and Corinth? Why couldn’t the rich in Jerusalem (the Mecca of Judaism) take care of their own poor? We know the reason: Communism.
So the question remains: why did they create the commune in the first place? And why does the Bible portray it in a positive light? It led to death by starvation within 16 years.
The reason is that the apostles, according to the teachings of Jesus, were predicting an imminent end of the world. If the world is going to end, then it is a really good idea to start a commune. If instead God changes His mind, delays the end of the world, and turns to the Gentiles (as described in Romans 8-11), then that commune will fail.
Communism in Acts is portrayed in a positive light because it really was “a good idea at the time”. Calvinists like to ignore these details, and if they dislike communism then they hang their hat on the “voluntary” aspect, although the scheme is endorsed by the Bible and failed like so many other Communist communes.