Summary: As our merciful God is working His goodness into our hearts and lives, He requires sincerity and integrity from us.
Living a Life of Integrity
Intro: This is almost an unbelievable story to most people today. Can you imagine something like this happening today? I think it is safe to conclude that God does not always choose to work in this way. We do have some examples from the OT where God actually killed people because they took Him lightly and did what was evil in His eyes. We read about Nadab and Abihu, who disobeyed God by using their own fire to burn incense to the Lord. God destroyed them with fire. Then there were the first two sons of Judah (Jacob’s grandsons) who were so wicked that God just killed them. So, we know that God did personally put some people to death, but if He still does so, we don’t really know what we are seeing. Paul says that some people in Corinth have died because they did not discern the Lord’s body when they took communion. We understand the Lord’s body to be the body of believers that made up the church in Corinth. It seems that the wealthy members were having a feast with fellow wealthy members, while the poor were shuffled off to the side because they could not afford an elegant feast. However, my point today is not that God is out to kill anybody. The Bible says that He did not come to condemn, but to save. The enemy is the one who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. The real lesson today is about how we treat God and one another. Here it is in a nutshell:
Prop: As our merciful God is working His goodness into our hearts and lives, He requires sincerity and integrity from us.
Interrogative: How do we know this to be true?
TS: Acts 5 shows us at least 4 principles that tell us what God wants from us.
I. God Cares about Proper Motives (Generosity or Greed?)
-As we can see in Luke’s account of Ananias and Sapphira, one of the first problems that surfaces in their lives has to do with motives. Have you ever had something nice done for you, but you knew that the person was not doing it for the right reasons? Or, we could put the shoe on the other foot. Have you ever done something nice for somebody, but as you look back, you weren’t doing it so much to help them as to help yourself in some way?
-Well, at the end of ch.4, Luke mentions that Barnabas sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. He wasn’t the only one to do so, however. Acts 4:34-35 says, “There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.”
-So, we have the positive examples of people who gave because they wanted to help meet a need in the family of God. As far as we can tell, they were giving for the right reasons: to honor God and to help those in need.
-The fact that we should be givers is very clear in Scripture. The Bible says a lot about giving. Jesus told His disciples, “You have received freely, now give to others freely.” Later in Acts, Paul tells the Ephesian believers to remember the words of the Lord Jesus who said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” James writes that if we see someone in need and we don’t do anything to help them, then our faith is dead and useless. So, giving is part of being a Christian. I would almost go so far as to say that if a person refuses to be generous and give when there is a need, then God’s love is either not in them, or it has grown cold. We are not saved by works such as giving, but it is (or should be) a reflection of the work that God has done in us.
-Giving is important, then. I think we would all agree with that, and I trust that you are obeying God as He leads you to give to various needs. But let’s talk about the motivation for giving. This is where Ananias and Sapphira dropped the ball.
-By the way, the name Ananias was a common Jewish name which means “The Lord is gracious.” It is almost ironic that someone with such a name would be self-centered and ungracious in their giving. The name Sapphira means “beautiful,” although she and her husband had chosen a way that was anything but beautiful.
-On one hand you might say that giving money to help feed the poor was a good thing. I would agree that it is. However, the gift alone is not what pleases God. He is more interested in the heart of the giver. There were at least 2 wrong motives that we can see in the lives of Ananias and Sapphira. First, we see greed. They loved their money so much that they were not willing to part with it. In one sense that was okay, because nobody was forcing them to sell their property and give all the proceeds. So the 2nd wrong motive now comes to the surface: they wanted recognition, just like Barnabas got. They wanted people to praise them for their generosity and to think well of them. That may not seem so bad. In fact, I dare say we’ve all wanted recognition and people’s good opinion – even if we did not deserve it. Nevertheless, greed and pride are sins that can easily sidetrack us from doing what honors God. These were forgivable sins, but these failures were accompanied by the choice to lie to the church and to God.