Today’s Reading: Acts 4:32 – 5:11
All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. – Acts 4:32-35
Scripture is not telling us that we should sell everything we own and give it away. What this group of believers in the early Church did was respond to the Holy Spirit. They were overwhelmed by the moving of the Spirit to take such a grand and generous action and they responded in obedience. They responded to the leading of the Holy Spirit and the result was God’s blessings. It does not define the blessings as additional wealth, but we know that they were blessed and everyone’s needs were taken care of as a result. Their response came from the heart, not a legalistic action or desire for public acclaim.
For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles. – Acts 4:36-37
The apostles did not require Barnabas to be this generous, he simply gave from his heart in response to the Spirit. It does not say if this was the only field he owned, but the action was significant enough for the writer to mention before telling of a contrasting gift.
But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”
As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died… – Acts 5:1-5a
The same thing happened to his wife, Sapphira, when she came in the door and was questioned. Take note, this was not punishment doled out by man. The apostles did not sentence Ananias and Sapphira to death – God did. Lying to the Holy Spirit was that great of an offense. This couple went through the motions of giving a generous gift to the Church, but God judges the heart and knows the truth.
Please stick with me for a couple more minutes and consider this difficult question. In what ways do we lie to the Holy Spirit? If it is such a great offense, we need to consider if we have or if we ever offend God in this way. I am not a theologian nor do I have any kind of Biblical study degree but I do have a concern. More and more often I am seeing or hearing an attitude that I fear grieves the Holy Spirit.
I have had several conversations with believers in which they say they know what they are doing is wrong but they are going to do it anyhow with the intention of asking God for forgiveness later, relying on God’s grace to cleanse them from their sins. Now I strongly believe we serve a loving God and that it is by grace through faith that we are saved from our sins, but the attitude seems to be more of a manipulation of God than a true repentance. Remember, God cannot be mocked.
Confessing our sins and asking God to forgive them is not a magic wand or secret spell we can use to get ourselves out of trouble. It is not a “get out of jail free” card. God sees the heart, just like he saw the heart of Ananias and Sapphira. I strongly believe that He knows when a person is simply speaking the confession of their sins and when there is true repentance and regret. Sinning with the intention of later confessing is quite possibly “conspiring to test the Spirit of the Lord” (Acts 5:9).
Oh Jesus, forgive us for not taking your death on the cross seriously. Forgive us for the times in which we have knowingly sinned, choosing our own desires over yours. Lord, break us of our tendencies to put ourselves first. Fill us with your Spirit and open our hearts to the desire to be obedient to you in every moment. May we respond to each prompting of the Spirit in our hearts today and give you 100% of what you ask for, whatever that may be. May we be honest with ourselves and with you when we say we are giving you our all. Give us a greater understanding of what grieves you so that we may better serve you. Thank you for your incredible grace and for the many times you have given us another chance. You are a wonderful God and worthy of our praise! To YOU be the glory! We love you. Amen.