It’s been a while since I’ve done a post for my church folk, church-y folk and otherwise church-ified folk. So, I’ma do one this time, and maybe for a minute . . . . just so ya know.
Picture it, Jerusalem . . . . After Jesus has ascended, but not much after. Folks was up in the church house, and the service was high. The Spirit was movin’ and Joseph, called Barnabas (“Son of Encouragement”), was led to place the money he received from selling a piece of land in the offering that Sunday. And, it was a common practice in the church back then, to express the Spirit through generosity. The folks in the church gave to the extent that there were no more needy people in the church because the ones that had much gave to the ones that had little.
Now, also in this congregation were a couple named Ananias and Sapphira. They got caught up in the moment and made a pledge to the church, too. But, then they got home. And, they realized just how much money they were going to give up. It wasn’t that they didn’t have it to give. They weren’t hurting. They just weren’t quite ready to give up that much money. They wanted to keep a bit of it for themselves. So, the talked about it, and they decided that they would give most of the money to the church, but not all of that money to the church. They just wanted to keep a little bit of it.
Now, up until this point, they were fine. It wasn’t like they were knocking over 7-Elevens to get the money for the church. And, even if they wanted to keep some of it, that was fine, too. After all, it was their plot of land, and they could do what they wanted to with it. But, when you read what happened in Acts 5, you see that they lied when they brought their offering to the church and told the church folk that they brought all the money from the land. Can we say epically bad move? Like, that was not even in the same ZIP Code of the right move . . . . not even on the same side of the solar system of the right move. But, they lied because they wanted to appear better than they really were . . . . to the other church folk, not to God.
It’s the same sort of lie that Judas told, earlier in the Scripture. (Yeah, if you’re following along carefully, you see that these folks didn’t end up well . . . . take note.) Jesus was about ready to be crucified, and a woman who the scriptures identify as Mary (popular name back in the day) brought a bottle of expensive ointment/perfume and poured it all over Jesus. Judas objected to her offering because he said, in front of all the people, the perfume was valuable and could have been sold and given to the poor. But, the Holy Ghost told off on him in the scripture and said, “He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6).
What makes these lies similar? The liars lost sight of exactly who they had committed to, and thus who they were lying to. It’s bad enough to lie to people. But, these people thought they were going to pull a fast one on God. And, I don’t care how good your hustle game is, it ain’t that good. Look at how Anaias and Sapphira end up. Peter wasn’t worried about the offering, as a lot of people seem to think. Peter didn’t get into how much money they were short on the offering. He didn’t quote any dollars and cents. He said, “You lied to the Holy Spirit!” His concern was that they had committed something to God, and they were going to lie about fulfilling their commitment rather than tell the truth about where they were spiritually. They didn’t want to risk having to give up their little treasure trove. But, they wanted to appear sold out to God.
The fact that they were holding out meant that they didn’t have faith to believe that God really wanted good things for them, that God didn’t really need their little offering to make the kingdom of heaven work, that God would supply and was truly the source of all their needs, and a lot more. If they would have been honest about it, they could have been discipled to grow in some areas. And, while they saw where they were short, they hid and covered up. Not because they cared what God thought, but because they wanted to make friends and influence people.
Peter told them, “Wasn’t this your land to do what you wanted to with?” That means, they could have kept the money, if they wanted to. But, he was concerned about their heart. And, God was concerned enough about it to make them an object lesson for the rest of the congregation. Yeowch. They lifted themselves up to get shut down. Majorly shut down. Like, that’s a “404″ for you, right there . . . .
Your gifts are your own, and they can either bless you, or kill you depending on how you use them. But, don’t lose sight of who you’ve committed them to. Don’t let the approval of people become the ultimate set up to get shut down.