Is image really everything? A lot of people seem to think so because we’ll go to great length to keep up appearances. It was the same in biblical times as well.
Let’s take a look at what happened as the new church was forming. We talked last week about the growing number of those who were baptized during Pentecost and how the they took care of each other. Those who had much gave money to the apostles to use as needed for the good of all.
36”Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.”Acts 4:36-37
So Barnabas gets a pretty cool name because of his giving character. Who wouldn’t want to be like Barnabas, contributing from his excess to fulfill the needs of other believers? If we think about it, we all know a Barnabas. Someone who wants to be like whoever’s popular at the time. Wannabes. Pretenders. Trying to be someone they’re not.
Here’s where things get real.
1 ”Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
3 Then Peter said, ’Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.’
5 WhenAnanias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.”Acts 5:1-5
You can read on and see that the same thing happened to his wife. What’s the problem here? It was their field to sell and the entire amount belonged to them, right? So, why was it bad for them to keep some of it?
The problem was that they wanted to be like Barnabas. They claimed they were giving the full amount of the sale to the apostles, but they lied about it. Not a good move! He knows the truth anyway, why would you want to deceive God? People get all puffed up and think they need to keep up appearances. They want the glory to be theirs. Barnabas and Ananias motivations were way different; even though on the outside it looked similar.
The act of deceit is the first roadblock in the church in Acts.
What’s the price of deceiving God? When Ananias died, did he go to heaven? As a believer, I have to believe that God showed grace. It’s interesting to find out the the name Ananias means God is merciful. We all make mistakes, but perhaps the cost of this mistake was serious enough that God took them out of play here on earth to send a message to the rest of us. Perhaps Ananias’ heart was broken when he realized that he had lied to God, not just humans.
God deserves to be revered.
Don’t take Holy things lightly. As believers our eyes have been opened to the truth and our responsibility is greater than those who don’t believe. But all eyes will be opened at the end of time.
Fear is an essential part of worship. God deserves respect and awe from those of us who’ve grown to know who God is and what he offers us. As fear increases, so does love.
So, how do we avoid similar circumstances in our lives?
- Have honest conversations with ourselves. Ask what it is that we’re holding back.
- What do I choose for the influence in my life?
- Whose admiration am I trying to gain?
- Keep our reverence for God. We can’t fool him.
The thing we need to fear is not sin (God’s dealt with that), it’s not wickedness or scandal (the church has survived that). We need to fear the lie of Ananias (appearing to have an external righteousness that we don’t possess internally, hypocrisy) That’s what will kill us.
I often leave church with a new perspective on the scripture that we look at each Sunday. This is so important in my walk as a Christian. I can read the Bible on my own, but I find real value in diving deeper. Sermons, Bible study and just talking with other believers can open our eyes to what we don’t see on our own. Find a place where you can learn more about the character of God and how you can be more like Jesus.