Summary: This message looks at why Ananias and Sapphira had to die after giving half of the price of their field to the early church.
It’s one of those bizarre stories in the Bible that make you scratch your head and say: Huhh? And it’s one of those stories that people sometimes ask me about, it really seems more fitting in the Old Testament than as one of the first stories about the early church in the New Testament.
This is week three of our Skeletons in God’s Closet series. We are looking at some of the stories in the bible that sometimes cause people to question the character of God. In week one I looked at the reasons we need to open closet door. For some they would just as soon not have to explain or look deeper than they have to, perhaps afraid of what they might see, or afraid that it might challenge how they view God.
So that first week we looked the fact that we need to open the closet door in order to better understand the story, in order to better understand God and to better understand ourselves. Too often we cherry pick from the bible picking the stories we like and ignoring the ones we don’t like or don’t understand, and that leads us to developing a caricature of God instead of seeing his true Character. And until we understand God we can never understand what he wants us to be as we follow him. And perhaps we need to heed George Bernard Shaw’s advice because he said. “If you can't get rid of the skeleton in your closet, you'd best teach it to dance.”
Last week Rob McDowell looked at one of the most problematic stories in the bible and it involves when the Israelites entered into and conquered the promised land after their Exodus from Egypt. And Rob told us that we Need to Understand the Backstory, God is seeking Justice not Genocide, Realize that God punishes sin and offers grace to sinners, The Solution to War is The Cross. If you missed the service last week you should check out the message on our website. It was excellent.
And now we are going to jump into the New Testament and a story from the early church that sometimes confuses people.
The church is seeing astronomical growth, thousands of people are coming to the faith and with that come practical problems and practical solutions. The apostles are working full time to administer and teach this growing group of people, which means they are no longer fishing, farming and doing whatever else it was they did for a living prior to this. And so there is now a need for providing for the leaders monetarily so they could provide for the needs of their families.
There were also needs of those within the community of faith. The widows, orphans and others had needs that had to be met. And the church responded. We read in Acts 4:32 All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And then if we skip down a little further it says Acts 4:34-35 There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need. Now we don’t know if the Apostles had preached on giving or money, don’t know if they passed the plate or had an offering box. We don’t know anything other then the people were generous and the needs were met. And then was even an example given, Acts 4:36-37 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas . . . He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles for those in need.
Cool. And if that was all she wrote we would marvel at the generosity and unselfish nature of the early church and that’s how many people view the early church. But the story continues and gets a little confusing.
There was a couple in the early church by the name of Ananias and Sapphira and they were obviously impressed with what Barnabas did and so they attempted to replicate his actions. They sold some property they had and brought a portion of the money to the apostles for the church. So far so good. But that wasn’t all the story, we don’t know how much they sold their property for, let’s say it was one of the lots behind us in Kingswood North, in which case they sold their land for $100,000.00.
I’m sure they were looking at the money and thinking, “This is a lot of money, the church probably doesn’t need it all”. And so Ananias brought part of the proceeds to the church, let’s say it was half, or $50,000.00 A pretty good chunk of change. And I’m sure it could have been used for a lot of good. The problem came because when Ananias came to the disciples he said, “Hey guys, I sold my property down on Gatehouse Run and got fifty grand for it, and here it is, aren’t I a great guy?”