Thursday, September 24, 2009

Acts 4:32

This week I am teaching from Acts 5 which begins with the story of Ananias and Sapphira. This is an interesting story at the beginning of the early church. It is the story of a couple who sold a piece of property and then gave the proceeds from the sale to the church, laying it at the apostles' feet. Except they held back a portion without telling anyone, allowing everyone to believe that they were giving the whole profit. When Peter discerns the lie, he confronts Ananias, who then fell down and died. The same happens to Sapphira when she is confronted with her lie. This is an interesting example of God's judgment at a time when the church is focused on the gift of grace from Jesus' resurrection.

While this story provides plenty of interesting topics for teaching, I keep going back to Acts 4:32 which sets up the story of Ananias and Sapphira.
All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had.
I have spent the last few days trying to wrap my mind around what that means for the church today, for me today. Should my husband and I sell our house and give the money to the church? Probably not practical since when people did that in the early church they still had places to live. But what about communal living, communal ownership? Should the church be pooling our individual resources and then dispersing the funds to meet everyone's needs? What is our responsibility to those around us? What is our responsibility to provide a safety net for our own family now that we have kids?

But tonight as I was looking at the commentaries and reading the passages again, I was reminded that the point of Acts 4:32 was not that the early church sold their property and shared all that they had. Instead what we need to hold onto from this verse is that "all the believers were one in heart and mind." They were in one accord. They were focused on their shared mission to spread the Gospel to all the world. Their property, their 401ks, their college savings plans did not matter to them, except in how the money could be used to serve their mission. The point is not that we should be setting up a joint checking account that all members of our church can use. The point is that when we are of one accord, when we are one in heart and mind, filled with the Holy Spirit, our possessions no longer matter. We no longer see our earthly belongings as ours but something to be used to further God's kingdom and to care for those around us.

And that is why what Ananias and Sapphira did was so offensive. It was not about the money they kept back or the money they gave. It was about their hearts not being in union with the other believers. It was about their lying and bringing sin into the group. It was about the discord they would create. God judged swiftly and clearly to protect the church from their sin.

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