So many conflicting values .. the flesh versus the spirit.. the world versus the spirit… the powers and principalities versus the spirit. Every so often, the other things take over the spirit. In fact, we give priority to those things over the spirit and hence give in to those things.
There was an older couple who were trying to get back their land that was taken away from their ancestors. They decided that they would sell the land and help the poor as well as give to their daughter. Prayerfully they set out on this daunting task. God began to miraculously pave their way breaking down mountains and filling the valleys. As that land had been squatted, it was decided that they could choose another land… At this point the couple asked their son in law to step in and make the decision of the land as the couple decided that it would be good to give it to them for them to set up a business and get a revenue from it. It wasn’t surprising at that point when they should have got the land into their ownership, a big obstacle landed in their way putting a stop to months and months of efforts. All the green lights suddenly became RED. God’s favour was put to an end.
God calls us to seek FIRST His Kingdom and His righteousness. God’s Kingdom is about God’s rule and reign. Since the ascension of Christ into Heaven, He left behind the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us, His believers. The temple of God is now each and every one who believes. The one who truly believes in Spirit and in Truth, will then be led by the Holy Spirit.. It is in these people that God dwells, and that is His Kingdom.
Many people feel burdened to seek God’s Kingdom.. Those whom God has called to support His work financially often do feel that burden. The burden could be to give to a church, to a Christian organisation or a missionary or to do good to others especially another believer – whatever it is that He is leading us to do. However, many would then at the time of giving look through their natural eyes. They would then assess their finances in regards to their own lives, careers or businesses, vacations and those that are close to them including pets. Then they would go back on their word to God in regarding to their burden for giving as it’s not possible anymore. These other demands are more important. Charity begins at home is a proverb they often live by. Many Christians don’t think about it deeper let alone test it against God’s Word.
Recently I saw someone having reflected on the consequences of Ananias and Sapphira’s decision.. thinking it was a bit harsh and then felt that it was the value God gives to the poor. However, I’m not quite sure it boils down to that. So these last few days I meditated on this incident (Acts 5:1-11).
God struck them dead – first Ananias. He kept back some of the money that he got for his own land mind you, and gave the rest. Sapphiras was given a ‘chance’ unlike Ananias – she was asked whether this was the amount that they got for the land. She blatantly lied not knowing what had already happened to Ananias.
Peter responded to Ananias saying, “You haven’t just lied to human beings but also to God” and to Sapphira he said, “How can you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord?”.
These people willingly sold their land to help others. It was THEIR own land, not even someone else’s that they were playing out someone else or cheating someone else. It was theirs. So why this severe punishment and such harsh words from Peter? Obviously great fear seized the church when they heard of these events.
To understand the context, we need to meditate on what happened prior to this (Acts 4:32-37). It was a time when believers were IN ONE HEART AND MIND. No one claimed their possessions as their own… but they SHARED EVERYTHING THEY HAD. Obviously then all were equal and none of them were ‘prosperous’ while some were poor as they were in one heart and mind. They were indeed a BODY OF CHRIST.
Those who owned land or houses would sell them to give to those in need. “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them (vs 33, 34). It takes God’s grace to be able to do what the early church did.. They were indeed God’s family.
Christ defines family – His mother and sisters and brothers – as those who hear God’s Word and puts them into practise.. those who do God’s Will. God calls us to seek FIRST His Kingdom and then He promises that all our needs will be met.
Obviously the believers of the early church were so SURRENDERED to God, that God’s grace was able to powerfully work in them. Yet Ananias and Sapphiras decided to let Satan fill their hearts and become selfish even though they started off well with good intentions. God’s grace was taken for granted.
It’s quite likely that God would have given a blessing in the price that the land was sold for – as it was to bless His people… then this couple held back and paid the consequences of exploiting God’s grace and for disobeying God’s burden on their lives.
This scripture portion reminded me of the parable of the Kingdom of Heaven. The rich man invited people to his banquet and the invitation was declined with excuses such as they had just bought a field or oxen or just got married. Marriage, income, looking after their own family.. The people gave what they thought were valid reasons but in God’s eyes they were excuses… They missed out by declining the invitation to be a part of God’s Kingdom. The doors to the banquet were shut.
The lame, the poor, the disabled were then invited and they all came willingly with their vulnerabilities and they were richly blessed. Their hearts weren’t filled with the desires of materialism of storing perishable treasures on earth let alone selfishness so they made it to heaven.
Even in the giving, it takes His grace to give.. and when we don’t respond to His burden, He gives us free will but the consequences are ours to face. Ananias & Sapphiras faced death. If our hearts are hardened and become flesh oriented it’s pretty likely that we could die a spiritual death…
Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? – James 2:5
The things that come in the way of God and in the way of our response to Him are our idols – even if they are good things and perceived necessary.