Summary: How do you determine whether something or someone is "good"? Ananias & Saphira appear to be "good" yet they weren't.
Intro: I’ve done a little ancestry work with my siblings and in some previous travels to Cuba. We found out some interesting things; my ancestors on my Mom’s side go back to Spain in two generations, but on my Dad’s side they go back in Cuba 4 generations. Those great-great grandparents were an interesting combination. She was a Campbell who emigrated to Cuba from Scotland during the clan wars. He was a Turkish man who was probably from the holy city Medina in Saudi Arabia.
If certain parties get elected, I’m in double-trouble being Hispanic and descendent of an Arab.
There’s an old phrase that I heard often as a child. “trae tu mejor agua”
Never knew the origins of that, but it may be from this legend I found last week.
There was an old village in Spain who heard the King had decided to visit for the first time in generations.
They worried about how to honor him. It was a wine growing region so someone suggested each family could bring a cup of their finest wine and they would pour it into a keg and then he could try this combination of the best wines.
At the event, each family brought a cup and poured it through a funnel into the keg. When the King finally opened it up to take a taste it was all water.
Each person did the same, they held back their best wine and brought water thinking it wouldn’t be noticed with everybody’s else’s wine.
There’s a lot of ways to look like you’re doing the right thing, all the while doing the wrong thing.
That’s why this passage in Acts is so fascinating.
This passage seems so out of place to the rest of the story. Up to now Dr. Luke has been narrating a story around the power of the Holy Spirit and the unity of the early church.
Thousands coming to the faith; miracles of healing; having all things in common; it looks as if the early church was perfect.
Acts 4:33 “with great power…”
The story of the deaths of Ananias & Saphira seem an odd place to include at this moment.
It wasn’t perfect. There isn’t a perfect church anywhere. There never has been. Because churches are made of people and people are always going to be people.
People are never going to be perfect. I always kind of smile to myself when I hear people who aren’t of the faith characterize us as “pious hypocrites”. I smile for two reasons, one because we are; and 2 because it strikes me that anyone who says that hasn’t read the Bible.
Nothing in the Bible makes it appear that people of the faith are anything but broken, messed up and sinful people.
The story of this couple is a perfect example.
To get the full context you have to step back to the last part of the previous chapter.
So now we have this odd story that is so jarring in the midst of the great things God is doing in the early church, but the contrast with the earlier story gives us a great lesson.
There’s a great many people today who are “Relativists”. It doesn’t really matter what you believe or which God you pray to as long as you are a “good” person.
I believe that this passage teaches us the opposite. It’s not important what you do but how and why you do it.
In other words, there are two different views on what it means to do good, and it may seem like they are very similar, but they are actually diametrically opposed to each other.
Barnabas is our example of one view and Ananias & Saphira are an example of the other view.
You may remember Barnabas. His parents called him Joses which is the Greek form of Joseph. But his actions and his character are so compelling that his name becomes Barnabas.
Son of Encouragement. In modern lingo, maybe “Hope-inator”. Have you ever know somebody who gets a nickname and that nickname identifies them forever?
There was this guy who was in our bridal party called “Sabonete”. I never asked if it was because he never used soap or if he used too much.
What if your nickname was the “Uplifter”? or “Hope Guru”?
But more important that what you’re known for is who you actually are. Who are you when you’re alone?
I saw a recent story where Robert Redford was followed through a hotel lobby. The woman finally caught him in the elevator and asked “Are you the real Robert Redford?”. He answered, “Only when I’m alone.”
Let’s look closely at these two examples.
There are three ways we can compare them:
Differences between the two types of good-doers