This past Sunday we covered a difficult passage of Scripture… It was a story that came from Acts 5:1-11, which tells the tale of Ananias and Sapphira. In case you’re not familiar with this Bible story here is a summary: Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property… And instead of giving all of the proceeds to the apostle, they kept of portion of what they made. When Peter confronts them they both eventually die… This isn’t a story you hear in Sunday school… But it raises questions… It certainly raised questions for those of us reading the passage on Sunday morning, but it speaks truth to the faith that this thing called faith is a lot harder than it looks.
Let’s be clear… We can talk about whether or not Ananias and Sapphira were killed by God or if they just simply died by the gravity of the words that were spoken to them. That’s a conversation for a different day, but what is at the heart of what I wanted to talk about, was that the words that we use have great power… They carry a certain weight, a certain gravitas, which is hard to pick up on when we live in such an age of instant communication. Nevertheless the words that we use have power… And they shape our relationship to God and visa versa.
Ananias and Sapphira didn’t die because they withheld a portion of the money that they made from selling their piece of property… I don’t think their intention was to “lie to God,” or deceive the disciples… As Dr. Craig Barnes, President of Princeton Theological Seminary, notes… Ananias and Sapphira probably wrestled with the questions that we wrestle with today, “You know we could give all this money to the church, but there so many bills we have to pay, etc.”
The problem isn’t that Ananias and Sapphira withheld money… The problem is that they kept some of it after they said they were gonna give the proceeds to the apostles, to God… As I said words have power… And God understands that there are difficulties that we will run into. There will be times when we aren’t able to give the way we want to… Whether its of our time, our talents, our prayers, or money… All that God wants is us to be sincere, to be upfront, to have faith that is bold, but also realistic of our own needs as well.
As the theologian John Calvin writes, “For God meant to give all ages a lesson at that time, that they may learn to deal sincerely and uprightly with God.” We can offer what we have to God, but we shouldn’t let the pressures of others determine our spirit of giving, because that is between us and God. So spend some time today, this week, or this month, thinking about the offerings we have told God we would make, and the ones we failed to follow through with… We might not be struck down by a bolt of lighting or shame, but we be aware that in an age where words have lost their meaning that the words we use with God still carry power.
We all make mistakes, we all fall short from time to time, but we can help each other get back up and make our way through this chaotic world together.