On the surface it looked so good – it was what was lying below the surface that really made us think!
We were all together, sharing and giving as we were able. There was something amazing about being one in mind and heart and not being territorial with the possessions we each had. And the joy in sharing with anyone and everyone ensuring that no one among us was in need – surreal really. So foreign to what we experienced in the world around.
I don’t know why it surprised me. As an apostle, I was testifying all the time about the death and resurrection of Jesus – where great grace is given, great grace should be shown! What I saw before me was quite simply the obvious outworking of the gospel. Sometimes we saw it in extremely tangible ways, like when folk sold houses or land and gave the proceeds to be used wherever there was a need in our church family. Such an encouragement.
Let me tell you about Barnabas, we called him ‘Son of Encouragement’ – a fitting name really. He was always looking for ways to care for others including their financial needs. He sold a field and gave the money without specification to be used as needed! Can’t help be encouraged when someone does that!
The punch to the gut came when Ananias and Sapphira unwittingly showed us how important the right motivations really are. It happened like this. Ananias arrived first and he handed me a huge sum of money – the proceeds from the sale of some property. It looked so generous – just like what Barnabas had offered.
But the Holy Spirit saw right through it. Ananias and his wife had kept back part of the proceeds from the sale – that itself was no problem, but what they did was try and deceive me, our church and worse still God, to think that they were being as generous as Barnabas. They weren’t giving the money first and foremost to help others, they were giving it to make themselves look good before others! That is attempting to buy favour. That is the opposite to grace.
So prompted by the Holy Spirit, I said; ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit. You have not lied to men but to God’. And right there and then he fell down dead!
We were rattled.
Then Sapphira came in and it was clear that she had no idea what had happened to her husband, but that didn’t seem to matter because she was after the same thing. So I asked her about the money she was giving: ‘Is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?’. And you know what she said? She lied. ‘Yes, that is the price!’. She died too!
On the surface, all this money looked so good and what they were giving looked so generous, but below the surface it was a betrayal. It made us realise that being one in mind and heart was not just for show – it was real, it was meaningful, it was about putting others needs before our own – just like our Lord Jesus did. That’s grace in giving! That’s generous!
Inspired by Acts 4:32-5:11
For other articles in this series:
Generous in Giving
Christians are givers!
Godly in Giving
How does a Christian Organise their Godly Giving?