Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7
Exciting times! On Pentecost the Holy Spirit had come down from heaven as a rushing mighty wind and sat on the heads of Jesus’ followers like flames. They spoke in other languages—languages they did not know, but real ones as proven by foreigners who heard about God in their own languages (Acts 2:1-12). Many thousands spent time together every day: praying, listening to teachings, and eating together. Miracles and signs happened. With singleness of heart they praised God. Some sold their possessions and gave to others that had a need (Acts 2:40-47).
But Satan tempted one couple, Ananias and Sapphira, to sell their land, keep part of the money, and lie about the price (Acts 5:1-2). Because they were surrounded by generous people, they felt compelled to give, but didn’t really want to. Money had become an idol to them, more important to them than honoring God. Therefore Satan, the Father of Lies (John 8:44), tempted them to lie (Acts 5:3) in contrast to the community filled by the Spirit of truth (Acts 4:31, John 15:26, John 16:13).
Their dishonesty, greed, and idolatry were like a cancer that could not be allowed to spread. Before Ananias and Sapphira could influence others, God struck them dead as each stood before Peter (Acts 5:3-10).
When I first read the account, I thought Ananias and Sapphira’s punishment was far too great. They didn’t have to give any money to the disciples. Why was it wrong to keep some of it? But the text says they lied to God (Acts 5:3-4). The Greek word used, nosphizo, means “to purloin, embezzle, withdraw covertly and appropriate to one’s own use.”
How do you feel about giving? Do you tithe or give regularly to the Lord’s work? How can you give more generously of the gifts the Lord has given you? Probably the hardest thing to give is ourselves: our time, our energy, or our things.
God wants us to give, not because we’ve received and have extra but because there is need. We give, trusting God to supply our needs and desires as He has promised, as He has already demonstrated over and over again to us (Luke 6:38; Philippians 4:19).
We usually think of the Old Testament as the place where judgments like the one in Acts 5 take place. Read Joshua 7. The same word, nosphizo, was also used in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament) to describe Achan’s actions. What happened to Achan and his family when they kept back some of the spoils that were supposed to be dedicated to the Lord?
Read Mark 12:41-44. Contrast Sapphira and her husband and the widow. Why do you think each gave the amount they did?
Read Job 1. What place does money have in your life? If you lost most of your family, possessions, and your livelihood in a single day as Job did, how would you respond? Could you worship God and say what Job said in verse 21?
Nancy J. Baker