I just love Acts. When I made a big change in my life and first started learning about Jesus Christ, it started with the book of Acts. I love the story about the apostles being arrested only to have the Lord send an angel to unlock the door in the middle of the night. Did you notice in Acts 5:17 that Luke actually tells us the reason that the high priest imprisoned the apostles was because they were “filled with jealousy?” I really got to thinking about that. The high priests were jealous because the apostles and Jesus’ followers had something they wanted. When I think about my Christian journey I don’t ever think of it in the context of jealousy. I don’t think about the folks around me comparing their spirituality to mine and feeling jealous. But you know, when I think about it, that’s exactly how I felt about Christians before. I felt like they had a closeness and kinship that I could just never attain. I wished I had their ability to stay cool and level headed in a crisis. Honestly, I felt a little left out. Now that I’m living on the other side of Christianity, I’m beginning to understand more deeply the responsibility that comes with being all in.
I spent a little time this week with Ananias and Sapphira. Luke tells their story in the very beginning of Acts 5. Ananias (Hebrew for the Lord is gracious) and Sapphira (Aramaic for beautiful) are a married couple that sell a little property and embezzle some of the profits. Ananias in collusion with his wife chooses to hold back some of the money from the sale of his property rather than giving all of it over to the apostles for the church. This sounds so bad, right? But who among us hasn’t done a little bit of this? I know I have. I have most definitely held back some dollar amount details from my husband when it comes to buying things for the girls or a little ditty for myself. I’ve sat in church and listened to our pastors appeal to us to put our faith in God and trust in him for security. But guess what…I still closed by grubby little hand around my money because I’m too tempted by that earthly security. Well, somehow Peter knows about Ananias’ little stunt and calls him out on it. He says:
“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?” Acts 5:3
Did that strike a little fear in your heart like it did mine? Do we have a casual approach to entering the kingdom of God as this husband and wife team? Are we too tempted by the short term gains in life to really be all in? Ananias and Sapphira ostensibly are justifying this sin as an offense against their church community but the truth is that all sin is not against human beings but against God. When we endeavor to lie or adjust the truth, Satan wants us to believe him that this is a covert act. Really this is the enemy attacking Christ’s mission from within. One of the commentaries I read for this reading today said it like this: “For Christian’s today that deliberately sin and remain unrepentant this is still a temptation: to so luxuriate in the love and grace of God that we do not take seriously the consequences of our deliberate sinning.” (Bible Gateway Commentary). So we know what happened to Ananias and Sapphira at the end of the story. Peter says to Ananias,
“Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God. When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last.” (Acts 5:4-5)
Three hours later Peter questions Sapphira and she too cannot resist the temptation to lie. Sounds so bad, I know but I know I’ve done it. After she does it, Peter says to her,
“How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord?” (Acts 5:9)
Oh my gosh it hurts to read, doesn’t it? Can you think of something worse than planning and scheming with your spouse to test the Holy Spirit. Well, if you are like me you may be wondering why you haven’t been struck dead yet! Both Ananias and Sapphira are given a dishonorable burial and their story serves as an example to the church of the importance of being all in. As I mature in my faith I see now that the integrity of the Christian church really depends on us all being all in. We are greatly blessed by the love and grace of our God. We live in the rich luxury of knowing that our God is for us. Knowing that he is in control of all things and that we get our eternity with Him. But he requires us to be all in! We can’t afford to be casual in our pursuit.
Lord, help us to remember that your word isn’t just a story for us, but the truth we must obey. Lord, help us to mature in our faith, keep our ears open to hear your voice and not the whispers of the enemy. We love you Lord and we desperately want to be ALL IN!