The contrast between authentic and counterfeit Christianity can–at times–be remarkably clear. I am thinking–in particular–of the genuine believers described in Acts 4 (vv.32-37), personified in the person of Barnabas–the “son of encouragement” (4:37) and goats-in-sheep’s-clothing–Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11). Those who had wholeheartedly grasped that abundant and eternal life is found only in Jesus Christ (5:20) joyfully ensured that they kept a loose hold on their possessions (5:32). They were so committed to Christ and the community of Christ that they even sold property and homes to meet the needs of others (5:34). Today we find such communal fellowship odd. We prefer, instead, a pleasant level of superficiality. You’re fine. I’m fine (even though you are struggling with porn and I am $100 shy for my mortgage payment). We’d rather be “fine.” We’d rather remain at a safe distance. That “safe distance” seems to have disappeared in the early church. They were aware of one another’s’ needs, and they did their part to practically help one another “make ends meet.” Barnabas sold one of his fields and gave the money to the apostles to do just that.
Ananias and Sapphira had another agenda.
Rather than being moved by a deep concern for others, this couple was dying to impress the apostles. After selling their piece of property, they quietly decided to announce that they were giving the church the entire amount when–in fact–they had kept some of the money for themselves. God was not impressed. In fact, He killed them for their “satanic”deception (5:3). The Apostles did not require wealthy believers to sell their possessions. Neither did they dictate that individuals were to give the entire amount of their sales (see 5:4). The issue was not the amount but the motivation. Barnabas was seeking to bless. Ananias and Sapphira were dying to impress.
Barnabas succeeded. Ananias and Sapphira perished in the judgment of God.
There is a lesson for each us here. Why are we doing what we do, especially as it relates to our service in the church? Are we truly seeking to bless? Or are we dying to impress?
On Monday, I challenged the students at the academy (grades seven through ten) to examine themselves. I wanted them to evaluate whether or not their faith was indeed their faith rather than the faith of their parents. I exhorted them to be real–not fakers.
Isn’t that a good word for us all today?