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There’s a crazy story in the New Testament book of Acts that goes something like this (this is the Glenn Siepert Version, by the way – GSV, if you want to be exact).
The early church was off to a pretty solid start – people’s lives were being changed, community was being built, families were being baptized, AND (perhaps most importantly, and definitely most interesting for the sake of today’s post) everyone was taking care of everyone so that no one in their midst went without.
Was taking care of everyone.
So that NO ONE.
In his story, the author (Luke) puts it like this …
From time to time those who owned land or houses SOLD THEM, brought the money from the sales and put it at the disciple’s feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to have been part of this community? Can you imagine groups of people in your church randomly selling their homes, bringing ALL of the money, AND giving it to the pastors and leaders to hand out to people who were going through unexpected financial train wrecks?
Oh, you just lost your job? No worries, the Smith’s just sold their house for 1.2 million, so here’s 100k to help get you through this season and into whatever season God has next for you.
No food? We got you.
Fridge broke? Here’s a new one.
Car broke down? Let’s get it fixed.
The storm wrecked your house? Let’s get to work.
… Crazy, right? I love it. People were selling their stuff and bringing the money from the sale so that other people could benefit and not go without.
So one day, Luke tells us, a guy named Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property and (with his wife’s knowledge) Ananias kept a portion of it for themselves.
Don’t miss this.
Luke tells us that everyone else was selling houses and land and all sorts of stuff and bringing the money from the sale to the feet of the disciples while Ananias and Sapphira opted to keep some of it for themselves.
That wasn’t really so bad, though. The problem wasn’t that they kept some of the money instead of throwing all of it into the basket. It wasn’t nice – you could make an argument for that. But, that wasn’t really the problem. The property was theirs, after all, and they were giving a portion of it away.
What really raked Peter’s coals (Peter was one of the disciples and as we’ll see in a minute he wasn’t too happy with how the sale of Ananias and Sapphira’s property played out) was that they brought the money to the feet of the disciples like everyone else was doing all the while making it sound like they were bringing ALL of the money from the sale.
In other words, they were leading everyone to believe that they were bringing all of the money from the sale of the property for the benefit of everyone in the community when (in reality) they were keeping a fair chunk to themselves.
I guess you could say that they were pretending, they were being FAKE.
As the story goes, Peter became aware of what they did and that’s when things got weird. Peter confronted Ananias and asked him how he could do something so stupid and pointed out that he lied to God and then the story tells us that Ananias fell over and died.
Like, right there.
On the spot.
A few hours later Sapphira showed up and Peter asked her point blank if the money they gave was ALL of the money from the sale of the property to which she said, “Yes, it is.”
Peter got hot again and informed her that the people who had just carried away her husbands body were just outside and ready to carry away her body too. And then just as her husband did, Sapphira dropped dead.
… And that’s the story.
People were giving.
2 people lied.
Peter got up in their grill.
And then they died.
So, here’s a question that everybody always asks: did God kill them?
I love this story because sometimes I hear people say things like the God of the Old Testament is so much different than the God of the New Testament because the God of the Old Testament is like an old angry man slapping people His cane while the God of the New Testament is a mellow hippy-type fellow who everyone loves to be around.
Then we read a story like this and those same people who say that God is so mellow and chill will read this story and talk about how God killed Ananias and Sapphira because He was mad that they kept some of the money from their property to themselves … just like He killed people in the Old Testament who didn’t follow His laws and do what He said to do. And then those people will assume and argue that God gets really ticked at our sin and really ticked when we lie and that if He really wanted to … He could make us pay.
(And pay really, really bad.)
Let me suggest something to you.
The Bible doesn’t tell us that God killed Ananias and Sapphira and so, therefore, how or why they dropped dead isn’t all that important.
Go back and read the story. It never says or even suggests that because God was mad or disappointed or whatever that He struck them dead and made an example out of them to remind all of humanity for all of time what He’s capable of if you cross Him the wrong way.
It doesn’t say that.
(Nothing like that, actually.)
And so asking whether or not God killed them is really the wrong question to be asking. The right question to be asking, rather, is what do their deaths and the surrounding circumstances in their world at the time teach us about how to live a life that honors God and brings life to the world around us TODAY?
To answer that, I’ll point out that I love that Peter is the one who confronted them because Peter, remember, is the one who …
Said he would never ditch Jesus.
Said he would never deny Jesus (even after Jesus predicted that he would).
Said he would never turn his back on Jesus.
Said ONE thing.
… But, as we know, did quite ANOTHER, becoming known as the one who denied Jesus not just once, but THREE times on the night of His arrest.
And so it’s incredibly interesting to me that Peter confronted Ananias and Sapphira for being FAKE and for PRETENDING to be like the others who were giving everything they had because Peter had once been pretty inauthentic himself.
Just as Ananias and Sapphira said they were doing one thing (giving all they had) all the while doing another (keeping some of it for themselves) so Peter (on the night that Jesus was arrested) said one thing (I’ll never deny you) only to do another (denied Jesus THREE times).
Authenticity was important to Peter AND it should be important to you and me as well.
So the question isn’t did God kill Ananias and Sapphira. That’s not what we should be asking the text, that completely misses the point. The real question (or one of them, I should say … I have many more, maybe a part 2 to this post?) is to let the text ask us …
Am I authentic?
Do I follow through and do what I say I’m going to do?
Am I fake?
Do I pretend?
Do I say I’ll do one thing only to do another?
This is important question, mind you, because authenticity, the story shows us, BUILDS community and BUILDS relationships, right?
When everyone was sharing, the church was growing.
When everyone was helping, the church was moving forward.
When Ananias and Sapphira became inauthentic and pretended and were fake, that’s when death entered the story and so it teaches us how inauthenticity can cause turmoil and pain and death and destruction in our lives, in our families, and in our churches.
Authenticity brings LIFE while inauthenticity brings DEATH. @GlennSiepert #MorningEncouragementClick To Tweet
So, I’ll ask you:
Are you authentic? Are you REAL? Are you who you say you are? Do you say you’ll do something and then do it? Do you follow through?
That’s the kind of person who will draw others in, the kind of person who will be a catalyst for community growth. You’ll be a person who betters the vibe in your family, at your workplace, in your school, in your circle of friends. You’ll be magnetic. You’ll draw people in. And the more you and your actions and your way of life draw them IN, the more Jesus (who lives in you) can reach OUT to them and draw them IN to Himself.
The lesson from Ananias and Sapphira isn’t that God will kill you if you tick Him off, but that a life of authenticity will bring life and build community and better the world while a life of inauthenticity will do the exact opposite, introducing death into your world.
Be authentic, be real.
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