Summary: Ananias & Sapphira died because of the way in which they gave their offering... what did they do wrong?
OPEN: (I opened with an old Camp Song which I sang at the beginning of the sermon)
Ananias and Sapphira got together and conspired
a plot to cheat the church and get ahead
They knew God’s will but didn’t do it tried to cheat the Holy Spirit
Peter prophesied and then they both dropped dead
APPLY: That was a cute little camp song that we used to sing when I was younger… But when I went looking for those words on the Internet, I came across a Christian site that was absolutely appalled by that song.
I. And I can understand that - As cute as that song is, the story behind it is very unsettling.
ILLUS: Years ago, I was studying thru Acts with a group of men. When we got to this story, I commented that it was a dangerous thing to lie to God… and that Ananias and Sapphira had paid for their lie with their lives. God had struck them dead.
One of the men got very agitated at that. He passionately argued that Ananias and Sapphira must have died of natural causes… because the God he believed in - the God of New Testament was a God of love… not judgment.
ILLUS: In his book, Home Town Tales, Philip Gulley recalled many long Sundays as a child when he would sit through a boring church service and envied his unchurched neighbors.
One Sunday, he slipped out of the church and went to the local candy story, where he spent his offering money on Tootsie Rolls. He returned to church just in time to hear the sermon, which was about Ananias and Sapphira.
After the service, he remembered praying passionately for forgiveness for his misdeed. He even stayed up all night chanting, "I love Jesus I love Jesus," in the hopes that this would convince God to spare him.
It is not a comfortable idea to realize that God might just bring judgment on us for the way in which we give our gifts to Him. But… that’s precisely the message we’re getting from today’s text.
Just a few days (or maybe a few weeks) before this, Peter stood before a large crowd of Jews gathered for the feast of Pentecost. Peter preached such a powerful sermon that day, that over 3000 people were convicted of the need to change their lives, and were baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins.
Now, the Jews in that crowd had come to Jerusalem from over 14 different countries, and once they became Christians, nobody wanted to leave.
Everybody wanted to stay in Jerusalem and enjoy the fellowship.
Now, that was great… except for one thing - many of these new Christians didn’t have jobs now. And so, many in the church responded by selling personal property and bringing it to the Apostles to be distributed to the poor and needy among them.
One man, named Barnabas, went and sold a field he owned to supply for the needy. Barnabas becomes a very important person in the early church, even becoming a co-worker with Paul on his missionary journeys. But, this is the first time in Scripture that we read of him. And it may be that he was the one who began this pattern of selling land and property to help the poor in their midst. His self-sacrifice was so obvious that his is the only name mentioned in the text and I get the impression that a lot of people were really impressed by his sacrifice and that he may have become recognized as an important leader in the church from this day forward.
This did not escape the notice of Ananias and Sapphira. They had a piece of land they could sell too. And they figured, if they copied Barnabas, they could become important people too.
Only thing was… they didn’t want to give the full amount from the sale to the needy. However, they realized that - if they didn’t - they might not receive the praise they so dearly wanted.
Sooo.. they came up with a simple scheme. Sell the property… but just don’t tell anybody how much they got for it. Then give a portion of the sale to the church and pretend they were giving the full amount. Nobody would be the wiser… and they could be elevated in the eyes of all those in the church.
But it didn’t work out that way.
Instead of praise and power… they received condemnation and death.
II. Now, there are a couple of other things this story teaches us
1st - This was a "free-will" offering
Peter told Ananias: Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? (Acts 5:4)