One of my favourite stories in the Bible is the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. If you don’t know it, click the link and read it.
Did you read it? I know what you might be thinking. That’s twisted!
Do you think so? Let’s think about it for a minute.
One of the key characteristics of the early church is that it cared for people. Modelled after the Jewish community from which the church arose, the early church was committed to looking after the needy, and the overall work of making disciples. And that didn’t happen in a vacuum. It wasn’t “somebody else” who undertook this. There was no government safety net available from Rome. Followers of Jesus and they alone tended to the needs of the church.
Those who belonged to that early Christian community were committed to funding the mandate of the church. People were selling their goods, and pooling what they had in common. Ananias and Sapphira were among them.
This couple, though, conspired to hold back some of what they said they were giving to the Lord’s work. The problem was that they said it was the whole amount of the proceeds of the property they sold. But it wasn’t. They were lying.
Getting zapped – ‘falling to the floor and dying’ is the rather more dignified way that Luke, the writer of Acts, puts it – seems an extreme punishment for fibbing. But think of what was at stake there.
What was at stake was the whole ministry and mandate of the Kingdom of God. To think about it in an extreme way, because Ananias and Sapphira held back some of the proceeds from the sale of property but said it was the entire amount, they were depriving others of hearing the gospel. They were depriving others who were in need of being fed. They were depriving others of getting what God wanted them to have.
A tough question, but it needs to be asked: are you depriving others of their God-given needs because you are holding something back?
“Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!” (Malachi 3.10, NLT).