Tonight in my teen class we will closing out class talking about Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. Both die in Acts 5 for lying to the Holy Spirit about the price they had received for the land they sold (Acts 5:2-4, 7-8). The problem wasn’t so much that they kept some money. Peter even acknowledges that land was theirs to do with as they please (Acts 5: 4). It seems that to have selected to do so would have been fine as long as they didn’t pass on what was left as the total.
It’s also interesting to note the contrast with Joseph/Barnabas who also sells some property but gives the whole amount to the apostles to use. The selling of property and the subsequent giving of the proceeds seems to be a common practice at this early stage of the church’s life. Property was sold and the money was brought to the apostles to be used for anyone as they had need.
The heart of the problem is a heart problem.
Ananias and Sapphira apparently weren’t content with the equality of the early church. They were fine with everyone else being equal, as long as they could be more equal than their brothers. It was all good and well that everyone shared everything they had. Ananias and Sapphira seem to be unhappy with their share. It appears to me that they loved the world and its ways a little to much. Selfishness was a problem then, and it is a problem for believers today. They were hoarders and hiders.
Maybe in our churches today, we need the spirit of Ananias and Sapphira to die in us yet again. Selfishness, and the love of money is alive and well. As a minister, I share Paul’s desire for Christ to be formed in and within each follower of Jesus (Gal 4:19). Many of us would rather hold on to a little bit of this world, and hold on to Jesus. The problem is we can’t follow Jesus and hold onto the world and its ways. We are called to die to self. Taken up our crosses daily involves laying down everything in us and around us that competes for our loyalty to Christ. We are called to a life of full unconditional surrender. We can’t carry our crosses when we are holding onto our checkbooks.
I hate to admit it, but the spirit of Ananias and Sapphira lives in me as well. My love for the world and the stuff I hoard haunts me daily. If were honest about how we spent our money, what would our bank records indicate? I think for me, the answer leaves me realizing a need to die to the selfish pursuits that rear their ugly head in my life. Like Ananias and Sapphira I find myself trying to hide this desire too. I think we all try. No one wants to admit they are selfish.
The church is at her best when she gives. When God’s people are aware of the mission we are called to, we should want to be loose with our possessions. We are meant to be cravers of God’s daily bread, not hoarders and hiders of God’s gifts and resources. In Matthew 25 the servant that went to hide the talent that was given to him by the master was called “wicked and lazy servant,” (Matt 25:26). May we not be seduced by stuff and allured by the pursuit of a lot and instead may we find and practice generosity and self-sacrifice to be freeing and fulfilling. May we trust our God who promises to provide for his children!