Note from Jesus
Key transitions in the life and faith of My people need to be protected. In the early days of My church, this need for safety was especially true. My new disciples in Jerusalem endured repeated attacks from the Jewish religious leaders and those in power. The disciples persevered through threats, even death threats, beatings, and imprisonments from the same people who had Me crucified. Nothing outside their church family could derail this new movement of the Spirit. My message of good news triumphed throughout Jerusalem.
However, My disciples soon faced critical junctures that you see described in the verses below and in the verses tomorrow. They faced several difficult challenges from inside My family of disciples. Pressure from the outside would continue to erupt. But, the more dangerous threats came from inside My household of faith. Some folks needed the basic necessities of life — food, water, and a place to stay. With people becoming disciples so quickly and many being from outside of Jerusalem, the challenge of caring for needy people became a valid concern.
Because “the entire community of believers was deeply united in heart and soul,” My disciples effectively and lovingly addressed these needs. Notice what Luke says:
Not a single person in the community was in need because those who had been affluent sold their houses or lands and brought the proceeds to the emissaries of the Lord.
Notably, Barnabas — who would become a great leader among My disciples — was exceedingly generous. The compassion that Barnabas and other disciples displayed was glorious! The principles of My kingdom were clearly in evidence as needs were soon addressed with grace and generosity.
However, the devil was not content to let any great movement of My grace go unchallenged. So My disciples had to face two tough tests back-to-back. I will speak about the first challenge today and the second one tomorrow.
Seeing Barnabas held in such high esteem, a couple named Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of property. That was great. Unfortunately, these two schemed and said that they had given all their proceeds from this sale to the apostles — My emissaries — when they hadn’t. Their gift was given so that the poor among My people would receive care. Although they said that they had given all the proceeds from the sale, they secretly kept back part for themselves. On one hand, their generosity was incredibly good. They gave a great amount to the needs of others. On the other hand, they lied. They lied to My people. They lied to My apostles. Most of all, they lied to Us — Father, Son, and Spirit.
At this crucial moment in the early church, We protected the integrity of the disciples’ generosity and the apostles’ leadership. Our actions were quick, decisive, and firm. We wanted everyone to know that generosity is important, but duplicity is not tolerated.
Why did we react so strongly, as you see revealed in the verses below? Why did we take such drastic measures?
What is one of the most frequent criticisms hurled at My followers today? It’s that you are hypocrites. How many people have been turned away from faith in Me because of hypocritical people claiming to be My disciples? How many have ruled out learning about Me and becoming part of My people because of hypocrisy, especially hypocrisy and greed among leaders? My answer is simple: way too many!
So in the early days of the church, We acted to protect this fresh movement of grace. We wanted the disciples to practice undiluted goodness and honesty. Such blatant hypocrisy, lying, and duplicity would not be tolerated. (The Father acted in a very similar fashion in the early days of the conquest of Canaan concerning the sin of Achan at Jericho (Joshua 7:1-26).)
There are several truths in the Scripture below that I want you to realize from this episode in the life of the early church.
First, generosity is necessary if My movement is going to grow and reach the hearts of all people. When people are generous above their tithes, people are saved, lives are rebuilt, and My movement grows.
Second, during any great Spirit-empowered movement, the evil one will do all he can to divert, distract, and derail My people. While the outside attacks of the enemy are obvious, the inside attacks are often more subtle and potentially more damaging. Examine your own heart. Look carefully at your own attitudes, motivations, and desires. Especially watch out for the lure of greed and the desire to be seen as important. There are plenty of warnings in the Scriptures against both of these sins!
Third, don’t let the false motives and bad behaviors of others keep you from continuing your walk of faith. Unfortunately, the evil one will lead some astray — sometimes even well-known or beloved leaders. Don’t let that disillusion you. For every Ananias and Sapphira, there are others who are like Barnabas. For every hypocrite, there are unnamed others who do loving and sacrificial things for Christian brothers and sisters without recognition.
Fourth, when My people are led by the Holy Spirit, nothing can stop My work through them. What Satan intends for harm can be turned around and used by the Father for good!
Verses to Live
You are about to read two parts to the same story. The first is about the goodness of My people. The second is about how easy it is to lose goodness to greed. It is a reminder of how a desire to be considered important can corrupt what otherwise would be generous giving. Greed and self-importance are false desires that hold so many hostage in your world. Don’t let the evil one deceive you. First, these desires lead to spiritual death since they do not come from the Father (1 John 2:15-17). Second, remember Barnabas and the unnamed people like him. These people were generous because they cared and were led by My Spirit. So, after you have read both stories, come back and read the part about Barnabas again. Let this be the part that is an example for you!
During those days, the entire community of believers was deeply united in heart and soul to such an extent that they stopped claiming private ownership of their possessions. Instead, they held everything in common. The apostles with great power gave their eyewitness reports of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. Everyone was surrounded by an extraordinary grace. Not a single person in the community was in need because those who had been affluent sold their houses or lands and brought the proceeds to the emissaries of the Lord. They then distributed the funds to individuals according to their needs. One fellow, a Cyprian Levite named Joseph, earned a nickname because of his generosity in selling a field and bringing the money to the apostles in this way. From that time on, they called him Barnabas, which means “son of encouragement.”
Once a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira fully cooperating, committed fraud. He sold some property and kept some of the proceeds, but he pretended to make a full donation to the Lord’s emissaries.
Ananias, have you allowed Satan to influence your lies to the Holy Spirit and hold back some of the money? Look, it was your property before you sold it, and the money was all yours after you sold it. Why have you concocted this scheme in your heart? You weren’t just lying to us; you were lying to God.
Ananias heard these words and immediately dropped to the ground, dead; fear overcame all those who heard of the incident. Some young men came, wrapped the body, and buried it immediately. About three hours had passed when Sapphira arrived. She had no idea what had happened.
Did you sell the land for such-and-such a price?
Yes, that was the price.
Why did the two of you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Do you hear those footsteps outside? Those are the young men who just buried your husband, and now they will carry you out as well.
She — like her husband — immediately fell dead at Peter’s feet. The young men came in and carried her corpse outside and buried it beside her husband. The whole church was terrified by this story, as were others who heard it.
(Acts 4:32-37; Acts 5:1-11)
Response in Prayer
Holy Father, I know that I am vulnerable to the sins of greed and the lust to feel important. Help me resist these temptations. I don’t want these sins to steal my integrity or compromise my generosity. Neither do I want to grow skeptical when I see these sins in others. I want to honor You in every area of my life and bring Your grace to those in need. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
‘A Year with Jesus’ is written by Phil Ware.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Voice™. © 2008 by Ecclesia Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved.