Today’s reading is Acts 5.
The growing church we’ve been tracking since Acts 1 felt the weight of persecution here in Acts 5, but that was nothing new for them. What is new as that the church encountered internal problems for the first time. This happened when Ananias and Sapphira wanted both to make money and get credit for generosity (vv. 1-11).
Sometimes people misunderstand the issue in this passage. The problem was not that Ananias and Sapphira wanted to keep some of the money. In verse 4 Peter said, “And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?” This question affirmed that this couple had every right to do what they wanted to do with their property and with the money they gained from selling it. The problem was not that they kept some of the money or wanted to keep any of the money.
No, the issue in Acts 5 was that they “lied to the Holy Spirit” in verse 3. By lying to the Holy Spirit they had “not lied just to human beings but to God” (v. 4d). The lie they told was regarding the price of the land. Verse 2 told us that Ananias “kept back part of the money for himself” but “with his wife’s full knowledge” (v. 2) they told the church it was sold at a lower price (v. 8) and that they were giving all the money to the church, just as Joseph had in 4:36-37. By doing this, they were taking credit for more generosity than they were truly giving. That’s why they were judged for “lying” not for being stingy.
Think about the generous givers in our society. Bill Gates amassed the largest fortune in U.S. history and is now giving it away through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. There is some talk that his foundation may eradicate malaria and other diseases. This is a great thing for humanity and no one required them to do it. Other wealthy people have funded schools, educational buildings and libraries, parks and concert halls, and other civic institutions. Usually, though, the giver puts his name on the gift so that everyone will know who funded that project. And by getting credit for it, Jesus would say “they have their reward in full” (Matt 6:2).
Whenever we give money or do any kind of ministry to get the praise and admiration of others, we are trading financial income for praise income. Although it is not always possible to do ministry without being noticed for it, the heart of a believer is to give to God so that He is glorified and we are not. May God purify our hearts and motives so that we give to his work and his people for His glory not to enhance our own reputations. But, in God’s amazing grace, he promises to reward us eternally anyway when we give with a servant’s heart.