Anabaptists on Economics

Originally posted at Koinonia Revolution.

Schleitheim Congregational Order:

“Of all the brothers and sisters of this congregation, none shall have anything of his own, but rather, as the Christians in the time of the apostles held all in common, and especially stored up a common fund, from which aid can be given to the poor, according as each will have need, and as in the apostles’ time permit no brother to be in need.”

Andreas Ehrenpreis:

“They who would enter into life must come through love, the highest commandment; there is no other way through the narrow gate, Matt. 22:34-40; John 14:1-14. Hundreds of Scriptures and many witnesses make it very clear that whoever wishes to have the precious and hidden jewel must go and sell everything, yes, hand over everything they possess, Matt. 13:45-46; Acts 2:43-47. Different interpretations of these texts have been given because people want to keep what they have, but we cannot deny the work and power of the Holy Spirit, by which the apostles set a firm example in the first church in Jerusalem and three thousand were added, Acts 2; Acts 4:32-37.”

“Whoever claims to belong to Christ in love, but cannot give their possessions to the community for the sake of Christ and the poor, cannot deny that they love worldly goods, over which they have only been placed as caretakers for a time, more than Christ. Therefore Christ says, blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 5:3.”

Balthasar Hubmaier:

“Always and everywhere I have said as follows about the community of goods: that each man should have regard for his neighbor, so that the hungry might be fed, the thirsty refreshed, the naked clothed. For we are not lords of our own property, but stewards and dispensers. Assuredly no one could say that we claim that one should take his own from anybody and make it common property; rather we should say: if anyone would take your cloak, give him your coat also.”

Bernhard Rothmann:

“The living communion of saints has been restored, which provides the basis of community of goods among us. For not only have we put all our belongings in a common pool under the care of deacons, and live from it according to our needs: we praise God through Christ with one heart and mind and are eager to help one another with every kind of service. And accordingly everything which has served the purposes of self-seeking and private property, such as buying and selling, working for money, taking interest and practicing usury—even at the expense of unbelievers—or eating and drinking sweat of the poor (that is, making one’s own people and fellow creatures work so that one can grow fat) and indeed everything which offends against love—all such things are abolished amongst us by the power of love and community. We know that such sacrifices are pleasing to the Lord. And indeed no Christian or saint can satisfy God if he does not live in such a community or at least desire with all his heart to live in it.”

Ulrich Stadler:

“All gifts and goods which God gives and dispenses to His people ought to be held in common with all children of God, and that must be with faithful and unburdened hearts in Christ, truly believing and trusting, and completely and entirely dedicated to Christ. He who is thus free from encumbrance and is inwardly certain in the Lord, gives up all possessions and goods, yes, brings them to be shared with all the children of God, and it is God’s grace in Christ which prepares men and makes them ready, willing, free and unburdened.”

“A brother should serve, live, and work for the other, none for himself; indeed, one house for another, one community for another in some other settlement in the land, wherever the Lord grants it that we gather together, one communion, as a body of the Lord and members one to another. This we see in all the writings of the holy apostles, namely, how one brother, one congregation, serves the other, extends assistance and supplies to the other in the Lord. Such is the life of the elect, holy children of God in their pilgrimage.”

George Schnabel:

“Concerning the community of believers and their material goods we say that everyone willingly helps his poor brother in his need out of his surplus.”

Peter Riedeman:

“Now, since all God’s gifts—not only spiritual, but also material things—are given to man, not that he should have them for himself or alone but with all his fellows, therefore the communion of saints itself must show itself not only in spiritual but also in temporal things; that as Paul says, one might not have abundance and another suffer want, but that there may be equality. This he shows from the law touching manna, in that he who gathered much had nothing over, whereas he who gathered little had no less, since each was given what he needed according to the measure.”

Pilgram Marpeck:

“Would to God, for their sake, that it were not true that today there are worse and even more evil merchants than the Jewish Pharisees, who bought the Lord from Judas because of envy and hate. [But, today], whole lands, armies, and peoples (many hundreds of thousands of people, even though they are not good people), are betrayed, sold, and bought by their loans, finance, and usury. It is done out of avarice, envy, and hate, an attempt to preserve their earthly pomp, pride, and vain honor. Moreover, all the actions, of both the old and new forcers of faith, are done in the semblance of Christ and his gospel. I am concerned that, shortly, the words of James, “Howl and weep, you rich,” etc., will be fulfilled in them.”

Menno Simons:

“For the sake of this accursed thirst for profit, some [merchants] become thieves, some murderers, some holdup men; others become necromancers, sorcerers, some harlots and brothel keepers; others, gamblers, betrayers, executioners, and tormentors; also persecutors and slayers of the pious, etc., and all this, I say, for the sake of accursed profit. By these things they openly testify, since they walk in such a way and are so intent on unlawful gain, that they are the devil and not of God, that they have not the faith and Word of Christ, but in every respect hate them.”

Eberhard Arnold:

“The new awakening must therefore be both religious and social; a Christ-centered communist awakening, an awakening to God’s kingdom, to grace as a reality.”

“Simple communism existed among primitive people. And throughout history the revolutionary struggle, the fight against materialism, has continued. We who see the appalling results of capitalism today stand at the point where the uprising against capitalism begins. The words of Jesus—“He who is not with me is against me”—hold true also for us. We are on the same side as all revolutionaries who fight against mammon.”

“The movement of conscience that is alive in socialism and communism is directed against the rule of mammon and bloodshed, against class hatred and greed. This movement comes from deep within; it is a movement of God. But this does not prevent me from recognizing, at the same time, the presence of powerful satanic and demonic forces at work in these same political movements.”

Ronald Sider:

“However embarrassing it may be to some today, the massive economic sharing of the earliest Christian church is indisputable (see, for example, Acts 2:43-47, 4:32-37, 5-1-11, 6:1-7). Whenever anyone was in need, all shared. Giving surplus income to the needy was not enough. The Jerusalem Christians regularly dipped into capital reserves, selling property to aid those in need.”

“Over and over again God specifically commanded his people to live together in community in such a way that they would avoid extremes of wealth and poverty—that is the point of the Old Testament legislation on the jubilee and sabbatical years, on tithing, gleaning and loans. Jesus, our only perfect model, shared a common purse with the new community of his disciples. The first church in Jerusalem and Paul in his collection were implementing what the Old Testament and Jesus had commanded.

“The powerful evangelistic impact of the economic sharing at Jerusalem indicates that God approved and blessed the practice. When Scripture calls for transformed economic relations among God’s people in some places, and describes God’s blessing on his people as they implement these commands in other places, then we can be sure that we have discovered a normative pattern for the church today.”

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