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Acts 4:32-35

There’s an old folktale you probably know; it’s been told in various forms and through different media for decades, even centuries. There are numerous variations, but the main story goes something like this:

A weary traveler comes into an unfamiliar village; he is tired and hungry from the road, but he has no money to buy food. So, he goes from house to house in the center of the village asking if anyone has any food to spare. Each house refuses saying they have no food and are themselves starving. The man suspects the residents are lying. So, he takes a large iron pot, fills it with water, and puts it over a fire in the middle of the village. Some children come running up to him, curious as to what he is doing. He tells them he is going to make stone soup. At this point the villagers who had turned him away begin watching and listening outside their doors and windows. The man places a large stone into the pot and lets it boil for a while. Eventually he dips a ladle into the liquid and takes a deep sip. The villagers all hold their breath to hear his pronouncement. He says it is a little bland–to finish the soup he just needs a few other things: some salt, a little beef, some carrots, a cabbage, a couple of onions and some herbs. With these items, the soup will be just perfect. Each villager goes back into their home and comes back with one of the requested items. The man places them into the pot, lets it cook a while longer, and eventually has enough soup for not only him, but the entire rest of the village.

The moral of the story can be read different ways. Some folklorists believe the point is the man tricking the villagers out of their stinginess, making this an example of the popular “clever man” tale. However, in wider culture the story is most often used as an example of how a group of people working together can accomplish something far greater than any individual could do on their own.

This story always comes to mind when I read Acts 4:32-35.

The Book of Acts is basically the only extant text we still have that gives us insight into what happened with the earliest Christ-believers in the first decade or two after Jesus’s death, resurrection and ascension. Paul’s epistles weren’t written until 20-30 years after Christ’s death (and, remember, he never met Jesus); but Acts tells stories about what happened in the immediate a