I’ve been a part of the Church for the majority of my life, & I have experienced many incredible, wonderful things; interactions with brothers & sisters in Christ, & time spent in the presence of God in the context of our whole church family.
Some of the most powerful memories I have, however, are when something bad happened.
One Sunday that will live in infamy, I was a 19 year old kid working the sound board. At the beginning of the pastor’s message, a woman walked up to the front of the church & tried to grab a microphone. The pastor told her, “I’m not going to let you share.” She insisted that she had no choice, & that she was being compelled by the spirit to do so. The pastor was resolute, (thankfully) & told her that under no circumstance would she be allowed to bring her message.
The room was deadly quiet. The pastor explained that the woman had come to his office earlier in the week, & had told him that she had a message from God. After hearing what her message was, the pastor told her (& relayed to us) that he didn’t believe it was from the LORD because of the severe tone of condemnation, accusation, and belittling. He told her at that time, (& relayed to us,) that our Father God doesn’t speak to us that way; His heart is for repentance & restoration; further, spiritual gifts (including prophetic words,) were to be encouraging, edifying, and exhorting to the Church. This woman’s message was none of those.
So what happened? She laid down. In the front row of the church. And the pastor went back into his message. And no one in that room EVER forgot what had happened, nor the lesson that we learned about how God speaks to His people.
I’ve wondered how he finished the message… especially when I’m distracted by something as benign as a louder-than-it-needs-to-be conversation that happens during the speech. Hmm.
Acts 5 –
What was happening in the early church was a beautiful thing. The believers were putting into action Christ’s command to “love one another” in a most tangible way; they were using their finances and other resources to care for each others real, felt needs. No one was left out; all were provided for. This spirit of benevolence was so pervasive that people were even selling properties in order to make sure that there would be money available to help others, just in case.
It was truly incredible.
At the very same time, a sobering event shook the church to its core. A married couple, Ananias & Sapphira, sold their own piece of land with the intent of giving the proceeds to the church. At some point however, they decided that they would keep some of the money for themselves; they’d still give some to the church, but not all of it.
The fact that they kept some of the money wasn’t the problem. In no way was there any requirement for them to give it all. However, together they plotted to tell the apostles (& the rest of the church) that the amount they were giving was the entire purchase price, thinking that no one would be the wiser.
They chose willfully & intentionally to lie. To God. It was a big deal to Him. It cost them their lives.
I’ve read this passage (Acts 5:1-11) many times, & I’ve wondered about & guessed at the motivation for Ananias & Sapphira’s lie.
-Was it people-pleasing mixed with greed? Others in the church were getting attention for their selfless acts; did they just wanted in on that attention?
-Was the love of money? Did they start out with a good intention & get sidetracked, tripped up by temptation?
-Were they trying to buy favor, influence, &/or position in the church?
I don’t know. And I also don’t know the WHY behind their deaths. I do know that ultimately, God chose to address their choices and behaviors in a strong way, & that as a result, a great fear came upon the church & all who heard about it. That church didn’t see sin the same way ever again; & they most definitely didn’t think that God was Someone to try to pull one over on.
Both Ananias & Sapphira had the choice to repent, to acknowledge their lie, & given that choice, they stuck to their story. Ouch.
I look at my own life & see many times where, if God wanted to step in & say, “Not in my house!” I would have been dead to rights, & worthy of whatever punishment He chose to give.
It makes me thankful for repentance – the opportunity God gives us to turn FROM sin, & to turn TO God, & to know that if I confess my sin, & turn from it, that Christ is faithful & just to forgive & to purify from all unrighteousness (1John 1:7-10)