Big Idea: The Church of Jesus can only operate with integrity.
The continuing saga of the church at Jerusalem is interesting: God’s people grew stronger when faced with external opposition. As they were rejected by the outside world, they were forced to depend on each other ever more intensely. They sold their property and lived with all things in common, probably because finding work when their Jewish neighbors considered them heretics was more and more difficult. But the greatest test to their fellowship yet was not beatings or mockery, but plain old human greed. A church can stand up to many external threats without flinching, but internal division is a cancer which threatens to be fatal.
Ananias and Sapphira were members of the church at Jerusalem, who sold their property, but held part of it back for themselves. They apparently wanted to live out of the community’s resources, while still keeping something for their own luxury. It is obvious that if many people did this, the whole community would collapse. Maybe it is less obvious that the risk was much more than financial: a church can only function when she has integrity. Hypocrisy and self-serving attitudes undermine everything Jesus taught. Attitudes like that forget that God knows the depths of our hearts and wants the entirety of who we are for Himself. Ananias, and then Sapphira, were struck dead for trying to lie to God, and the whole community was awestruck. God removed a bad witness, where their sin was undermining the gospel, and created a good one: God is holy, and cannot be deceived. The church at Jerusalem was protected and Jesus’ ministry continued to spread.
Ministers and members who try to fool God by living in sin may see some temporary results. They might build up a personal brand or even church attendance for a while, but they will never have the blessing of God to do what really matters. Gimmicks, whether the pursuit of the ultra-contemporary or the worship of tradition, are no substitute for the power of the living God that comes when we walk with Him.
Discussion Idea: Why did God act so decisively in response to this sin? What are some similar actions today regarding the church which we might take lightly, but which God does not?
Prayer Focus: Ask God to help you identify the subtle areas where you are most vulnerable and protect you from those temptations.