Substantive Faith
Living in the Gap

Giddy Giving or Toxic Tension

The_Death_of_Sapphira_by_Ambrosius_Francken_the_Elder _Phoenix_Museum_of_Art _Arizona _USA

The Death of Sapphira, by Ambrosius Francken the Elder

Don't over-think this one; it will lose its impact.

This is not about the death penalty for telling lies. It is not about a tug-of-war between God as loving or vindictive. That is not why Luke tells the story.

This is about the vitality and buoyancy of generosity and the toxicity of deception and stinginess.

The prevailing mood of the early church, in the matter of needy members, was generosity, but it was not mandated. Truthful transparency, however, was expected. Lying to God is an indication that you are already dead inside.

One of the characteristics of the new believers in the Jerusalem church was their generous hearts.

Generous hearts are giddy with joy.

They did not consider their time, possessions or personal gifts their own. Whatever they had, they submitted to God an it became available for the Kingdom.

The church was not an economic utopia, but a body of Jesus followers freely associating and freely giving themselves to God through Jesus Christ.

Our lives are more complicated today. We have financial advisors and career paths, personal assets and discretionary time. Our day planners are filled with events that we must juggle to “make time” for ourselves.

We are rather tense.

We have carefully detailed maps of our futures and we wonder where the wonder went.

There was a freshness and awe in the early church that came from the loose fist.

Those believers did not hold things tightly in their hands and God was able to use their flexibility and generosity. So He can and will use us today if we will rediscover the wonder.

Here is the scripture. There is more to say about the passage, about the dynamics of the church, and the behavior of these two people, but I will let the videos address it. We can argue with the commentators, but it is not my point to do so and they do lay out some of the issues. Frankly, nowhere here does it say that A&S are lost forever.

Acts 4:32-5:11 (NRSV):

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.

With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means "son of encouragement"). He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.

But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife's knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles' feet.

"Ananias," Peter asked, "why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!"

Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price."

And she said, "Yes, that was the price."

Then Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out."

Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.