32 Now the large group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. 33 And the apostles were giving testimony with great power to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. 34 For there was not a needy person among them, because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed for each person’s basic needs. 36 Joseph, a Levite and a Cypriot by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas, which is translated Son of Encouragement, 37 sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. 2 However, he kept back part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge, and brought a portion of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds from the field? 4 Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God!” 5 When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard. 6 The young men got up, wrapped his body, carried him out, and buried him.
7 There was an interval of about three hours; then his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 “Tell me,” Peter asked her, “did you sell the field for this price?” “Yes,” she said, “for that price.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out!” 10 Instantly she dropped dead at his feet. When the young men came in, they found her dead, carried her out, and buried her beside her husband. 11 Then great fear came on the whole church and on all who heard these things.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
…You have not lied to men but to God!
The apostles performed miraculous signs and wonders as testimony to the truth of Jesus' mission (Acts 4:33; 5:12). Nevertheless, just as we saw in many of the Gospel stories, hordes of people chose not to believe in the face of such amazing events.
In this passage, we have a clear contrast between those who have a heart for Jesus and those who don’t. I pray you’ll clearly see one of the primary themes of the Bible—all is God's.
Two of my favorite verses of Scripture form a basis for my ethical thinking: 1) Deuteronomy 8:18: “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth,” and 2) 1 John 4:19: “We love, because He first loved us.”
These verses teach an ethic of reciprocation. We must learn that everything in our lives is in some way dependent upon God and all of our actions are mere responses to God's goodness. He gives us power to do the work and the opportunity to employ the power. We know what love is and how to serve others because He first did so for us. Keep those principles in mind as we see the heart differences in the following two characters.
On one hand, we have Barnabas who had a heart that sought the will of God. After he sold his land, he brought the profits to the apostles and offered it to the community in the service of Christ. He didn’t hold back any of his profits. (Please note this action comports with the name given him by the apostles: Son of Encouragement.)
On the other hand, Ananias and his wife Sapphira had hearts that didn’t fully trust God. After selling their land, they held back profits for some undisclosed reason. Luke simply says he held it back for himself. He could’ve done so out of pure greed or because he was worried about some expenses. In any case, by succumbing to the influence of Satan, Ananias lied to God.
What then is the moral of the story? The moral is that we must not hold back what is rightfully God's.
What is God's and what is ours? Everything is God's and nothing is ours. Whatever we have (existence, wealth, family, some athletic gift, beauty) we received directly from God and it does not belong to us. We must freely offer those gifts for the service of God to glorify His name as a witness to unbelievers.
Imagine if the Father held back in offering His Son as a sacrifice for all of creation. Imagine if Jesus held back in offering Himself as a sacrifice for all of creation. In the same way that they poured themselves out for the justification of their own name and our souls, so we ought to pour ourselves out in service to their name and for the sanctification of our souls.
The giving of our gifts is a sign of our trust in God. Notice that although all was being given to the Christian community, “there was not a needy person among them” (4:34). I assume that even those who were selling the land to grant welfare to the needy were also cared for. Such is the nature of God.
How many times has this story repeated itself throughout Scripture?
- Adam and Eve wanted more for themselves than what God gave them (Genesis 3).
- Cain presumably held back the best of his harvest (Genesis 4).
- Abraham's wife, not trusting God for a child, gave her servant to her husband (Genesis 16:3).
- The Israelites took with them the idols of Egypt (Ezekiel 20:5-8).
- The Israelites tried to gather too much manna for themselves in violation of the Sabbath (Exodus 16).
- Solomon took foreign wives against God's commands (1 Kings 11).
The list could go on, but it should be clear that part of the fallen human condition is to not fully trust God for all things. God sets boundaries for our sakes, yet we perpetually cross them to our own detriment.
May we ever remain faithful in our response to the graciousness of God by never holding anything back. May we emulate the actions of Barnabas and the nature of our Lord Jesus.
- What gifts has God given you and how might you use them to serve Him?
- In what ways and with what gifts are you holding back what is rightfully God's?
- Which other Bible stories warn about not fully trusting in and not completely giving to God?