Summary: Why do you worship? Ever catch yourself just going through the motions? Check out these thoughts on becoming motivated to worship again.
(Opened sermon by playing Matthew West’s “Going through the Motions”)
If you’ve ever watched the classic “Monte Python and the Holy Grail”, you may recall the scene where they are accusing a woman of being a witch and were encouraged to apply the Duck Test- if it walks like a duck, if it swims like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it just might be a duck. Being inside a church building does not make one a Christian any more than being in a garage doesn’t make something a car. In fact, our garage holds just about anything BUT our car.
Today, I want each of us to examine our motivation for being here. Why do we…
Show up at 10:30 on Sunday morning, sing some songs (at least make a joyful noise), share our prayer requests, put money in the offering plate, partake in communion, and listen to a sermon? Is it because that’s just what we’ve always done? Maybe it’s to appease a parent or other loved one? Possibly we just don’t have anything better to do? Or is it because we worship a risen Savior who loved us before we ever even thought to love Him and are here to join together to grow in faith, fellowship, and service? When it comes down to it, are we just going through the motions or are we here to truly worship the God who not only created us, but saved us from our sin? Today we’re going to read Acts 5:1-11 and look at a couple who was going through the motions. Hopefully, we’ll learn some what not to dos. Read text.
There are three sins that Ananias and Sapphira committed from which we can learn.
The first of these sins is that they worshiped from a wrong motivation (although I don’t think this is what killed them). It’s really a mark of immaturity in our faith, yet there are days we all fall into it. I’ve heard a story of a preacher who woke up one Sunday morning, saw how beautiful the day was, and decided to call the church to have someone else preach claiming to be sick, and went fishing. God was watching this happen with one of His angels and told the angel, “Check out how I’m going to punish him for his deceit.” Soon, the preacher had snagged a huge bass on his line and battled to reel it in for nearly an hour. He managed to get it within reach and pulled it up to the dock where he was sitting. It was the biggest bass he’d ever seen, possibly even a world record! The angel turned to God, “I thought you said you were going to punish him, but you gave him a record catch. I don’t understand.” God replied, “Who’s he going to tell about the fish?”
You see, Ananias and Sapphira, like this preacher, were doing something good, but they went about it for the wrong reasons. It’s possible for us to do the same things. Now, I’m going to give you some homework as we quickly look at both poor motivations for giving and good motivations for giving.
Poor motivations for giving include:
Guilt- King Saul- 1 Samuel 15
Obligation- Cain and Abel- Genesis 4
Recognition- Ananias and Sapphira- Acts 5
Good motivations for giving
Fulfill a need- Barnabas- Acts 4
Expression of love- Zacheus- Luke 19
Worship- David- 2 Samuel 24- (Araunah)
With each of these instances, look for how God responds. When the giver is motivated by the right reasons, God responds favorably. When the giver appears to have an ulterior motive, God responds with punishment.
The second sin that Ananias and Sapphira committed was that they told a lie to God (but notice that they’re still not dead when they did this). Now, Ananias told a lie of omission- he simply didn’t say anything. The lesson here is that to withhold the truth is the same as telling a lie. I see this all too often when my daughters decide to tell on each other. Somehow, when they give their report, the part about what they had done to bring about their sister’s action gets left out. Sapphira, on the other hand, told a blatant lie. I can just imagine the deer caught in the headlights look on her face when Peter asked if this was the full amount of the sale as Ananias had claimed.
I think the saddest thing about their lies was that they were completely unnecessary. They had forgotten what the Psalmist wrote in chapter 24- that everything belongs to God already. Worse yet, there were no rules for how much they had to give- 2 Corinthians 9 teaches us that each of us are to determine the amount we are able to give. They could have sold the land for $1,000, given $500, told Peter they gave half, and been perfectly fine. Now, I believe that the tithe is a good starting point. Abraham set the example for us back in Genesis 14 when he gave a tithe to Melchizedek. In Malachi 3:10-12, God challenges us to test His math- give the tithe and see how He blesses. But Ananias and Sapphira chose to lie about what they gave, still motivated by the attention their gift could bring them.