Summary: When Satan messes with the motives of members of the church, he makes my money more meaningful than my membership. But the cost is high! Hidden sin has an unhappy ending.
The Tale of Two Tithers
An older man was walking on the beach and found a magic lamp. He picked it up, rubbed it, and a genie appeared. "Because you have freed me," the genie said, "I will grant you a
wish." The man thought for a moment and then responded, "My brother and I had
a fight 30 years ago and he hasn’t spoken to me since. I wish that he would
finally forgive me and love me."
There was a thunderclap, and the genie declared, "Your wish has been granted.
You know," the genie continued, "most men would have asked for other things like wealth or fame. But you only wanted the love of your brother. Is that because you are old and dying?"
"No way!" the man cried. "But my brother is, and he’s worth about $60
Motives of the heart are sometimes hard to discern by what we see on the surface.
Among other things, Acts 4:32 – 5:11 tells us about two, actually, three tithers… one received a new name, the other two were struck dead. We will learn why.
As we search for the meaning of membership in the church that Jesus Christ built, we discover four more things from our text:
1. That there are great blessings for development and growth in Christ.
2. That there is discipline from God for those who would do things to damage the church.
3. That God knows what is in our hearts.
4. That God has established leaders in the church through whom the Lord protects, preserves and provides for the way of blessing.
5. That hidden sins will surface sooner or later, with or without your confession. Best confess and be blessed.
I am reminded of a couple of Paul’s statements to the Corinthians in 1 Cor. 3: 16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?
17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.
And also chapter 11: 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29 For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly.
30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.
God holds his beloved church in his own heart! Jesus Christ loves the church and gave himself up for her! She is his new creation by water and the word. When the membership maintains motives that match our Master’s holy heart, we find incredible unity and love. Look at Luke’s descriptive observations of these members in 4:32-35!
1. There was a unified heart and soul expressed in sharing all things in common.
2. There was powerful witness by the apostles to the resurrection of Jesus.
3. There were no needy members among them.
4. There were incredibly generous givers.
5. There were fair distributions of the gifts.
6. There was clear leadership authority and submission to it. (That is something God will put an exclamation point on in the next chapter).
First, notice exhibit “A” among the membership. Joseph the generous. No, Joseph the Son of Encouragement! There it is! What a great example of first love faith this man shows! Even the apostles are impressed. They give him the new name, Barnabas. We will meet this man again later in Luke’s report. But suffice it to say, Barnabas fits in well among the members of this great church. And he’s only one of the many Luke chooses to tell us about as a good example of generosity. Now… if the whole story had stopped right here we’d have a rosy record of righteous remembrances. But unlike the next two characters, Luke is too honest in his reporting to leave us thinking that the church had no internal problems. What happens next is both shocking and deadly serious.
The Enemy is on the move. His intent is to destroy or at least mar the membership of God’s people. His methods are the same as always. He starts by messing with the motives or our hearts. The Bible warns: Guard you hearts! Set your hearts on things above! Give God your whole heart! Store God’s word in your heart! Satan will always fill a heart that’s empty of God’s word and not focused on the Lord.