We often look at Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) as the “anti-Christians.” While everyone else in the church in Jerusalem was committed to giving their possessions “as anyone might have need” (Acts 2:45), there was apparently one couple that did it for more than the simple act of benevolence. These people had the idea that they would take a piece of land that was lawfully theirs, sell it for a certain amount, hold some of it back, and then tell the apostles that it was all they made off of it. Their goal? Simply to get “spiritual credit” for giving all that they had, instead of just part (Mark 12:41-44). A similar situation would be us selling our car, keeping a few thousand, but claiming in front of EVERYONE that we had given EVERYTHING to the church. We would be trying to get more glory for something that isn’t true. It’s a foolish and selfish gesture, and because of it, they lost their lives.
While we would be quick (and right) to say that these people paid a heavy price for a ridiculous attempt to squeeze more glory for themselves over something so minuscule, I would argue that many of us make the same mistake today. How many times have we led singing, done an invitation, maybe even taught a Bible class, and believed that we had done some great spiritual work? Maybe we even dropped a few bucks in the plate while it went around and greeted a visitor or two on the way out. And while these actions are good and commendable, if our attitude after such events is one of, “Look at how much I’ve done for God!” then it might be time that we recheck our attitude.
We certainly need to be encouraging more men (of all ages) to be active in public worship, and every one of us should be making an attempt to be friendly to those outside the body of Christ (1 Peter 3:1; 1 Corinthians 9:19-23), but those things are but a snapshot of what it means to be a Christian. Our service is not done simply in front of a packed auditorium, but is done in the trenches, talking to our friends about Christ, warning a brother about a sin in his life, taking initiative to start a Bible study, etc. Evangelism of any kind, exhibiting love for our fellow man, keeping ourselves unspotted from the world – these are the things that God commends the highest, and they are often times the things that are noticed the least.
Jesus condemned the Pharisees for majoring in minors, and emphasizing aspects of the Law that were less important than others (Matthew 23:23-24). Although He told them that “these you should have done, without leaving the others undone,” the brunt of Jesus’ criticism was their ungodly dependence on the minutia of the Law to save their souls. Jesus warned them that they weren’t doing enough, and were sacrificing the greater good of the Law for the sake of their traditions (Matthew 15:1-3). In other words, public worship is great, and needs to be encouraged, but serving God outside of the four walls of a church building is not to be forgotten either.
I highly doubt that Ananias and Sapphira knew what the penalty for their sin would be, but nevertheless it shows God’s stance on certain things that we might deem as “minor infractions” (ref. also Acts 8:9-24 and Galatians 2:11-21). And while our emphasis on the more glamorous aspects of being a Christian may not be with necessarily evil intentions, it still creates within an unsuspecting Christian a certain amount of pride that may be unfounded. Our goal at the end of every day, after we have done our work, is not to look at God with eyes seeking fame, but with a humble glance towards the heavens, saying “We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10).Last modified: January 22, 2019