Summary: Good people sometimes mess up - but they don’t cover up when they mess up. Luke puts up a sign saying ’Danger - the Church is holy ground’.
The last couple of weeks the news has been all about our poor old British politicians!
Many of them have been exposed for the expenses they’ve been claiming.
Money for council tax, mortgage repayments, home improvements, gardening and chauffer driven cars...
Everyone knows they need an honest wage, but some have given the impression of greediness.
A few seem to have been out to get as much money and benefits as they can...
And all this is bad timing of course.
MPs only recently told off all the bankers for doing that!
Accusations of greed and hypocrisy...
Suddenly Acts chapter 5 comes a little closer to home...
But how close to home does this story come?
Holiness, hypocrisy and heart attacks!
Here in Acts 5 Ananias and his wife Sapphira have done something funny with money!
And just when they thought nobody else knew about it, it was exposed.
Not by the Daily Telegraph, but by the Holy Spirit.
Well, to be honest, it’s a horrible story and I wish it weren’t in the Bible. But it is.
Everything’s been good so far in the new church.
The gospel is spreading! There has been much growth, generosity and devotion to God’s Word and prayer.
Opposition has been overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit - people told them to shut up about Jesus and they wouldn’t!
And then BOOM. Two disciples, Ananias and Sapphira are confronted with their sin, and they die.
It seems that what happened was this:
Ananias and Sapphira owned some land and decided to sell it and give the money to the church. Maybe they’d seen Barnabus do it, and were inspired by his example.
But when they sold the land and had the money in their hands they had a change of heart.
You can just imagine them holding all that ‘lovely’ money...
And started to rationalize... ‘Well, nobody would know if we kept some for ourselves...’
After all, it was our land....
And because they want the glory of people thinking they’d made a great sacrifice, they pretend they’d given ALL the money from the sale of their land.
We see this from what Peter says to Sapphira, v8, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” And she said, Yes it was...
And so Ananias walks in and proudly presents the money before the Apostles... as if he were giving everything.
And Peter says that this lie to the church was a lie to God, vv3&4. And we don’t know if it was a heart attack, but both Ananias and then later Sapphira are confronted with what they have done wrong, and they collapse and die under God’s judgment.
Let’s be clear here: Ananias and Sapphira’s sin was not so much stinginess as it was lying. It was hypocrisy. It was pretending to be something they were not.
In a few moments we’re going to be taking communion together.
When we eat the bread and drink the wine we are remembering Jesus’ death on the cross for us.
When we eat and drink we show each other we are in relationship with Jesus.
Communion is for sinners, and that’s all of us.
But let’s not forget that communion is for repentant sinners.
If we come to the table with a pornography habit that we have no intention to end, that’s pretending..
If we come to the table having been unkind to someone and haven’t put it right, that’s pretending.
If we’ve come here to church not the least bit interested in encountering God, in growing, in offering our gifts for his service, then that’s pretending...
As I look out at your lovely faces you all look great to me!
You look like decent upstanding people!
Those who have harmonious marriages, a good prayer life, clean mouths and hearts, you are morally upright. You look great!
And so do I with my Sunday clothes on!
How we have to be careful these days.
These days in which image is everything.
TV is full of programmes which help us pretend.
Pretend we’re younger, with face lifts and botox, and make up and hair does and better clothes!
Pretending even happens in the church as we’re afraid to talk about our morality problems, our marriage problems, our money problems.
I don’t think we set out to deceive each other or God.
But it happens as we strive to be successful.
I think that’s what Ananias and Sapphira were after...
They saw how much respect people like Joseph from Cyprus got when he sold his property and gave the money to the church.
They even gave him a new name! Barnabas!
Maybe if we’re successful we’ll get a new name!
When will we learn that success with God is to be real with each other and with God?