The church is the greatest place on earth!
The church is full of hypocrites and worse!
Which of the above statements is true? Both. The reality is that although Jesus is doing bigger things than ever in his church, there is still much wrong with us.
We see this in Acts 4:32-5:11, when Luke records the good works of God’s people like Barnabas and the selfish deed of Ananias, Saphira, and Satan. Will the rest of Acts bear out a community like Barnabas, one that is shaped by Jesus’ radical commitment to people over possessions? Or will this community be more defined by valuing possessions over people?
God gives a strong answer at the beginning of this fresh movement of his Spirit recorded in the book of Acts. The church will be defined by Jesus’ work, which is a work that exemplifies a commitment to people over possessions. Barnabas is a positive example of selling a field for the sake of the community. This is the exact opposite of Judas, who sold Jesus for money to buy a field.
Ananias and Saphira on the other hand value possessions over people. Possibly in the pursuit of gaining a cool nickname like Joseph did (“Barnabas”), Ananias and Saphira choose possessions over people. They want a good name for their virtue, but they also want some good money in their pocket. The solution: lie. However, they cannot lie to God, and he takes this opportunity to remind this community what he is about: honoring his Son who honored people over possessions. Jesus put himself at our disposal for the glory of God, and his holy community will do the same thing. Ananias and Saphira are a warning shot to all those who will seek to use the church for their own purposes. Whereas the lame man in Acts 3 was a picture of the ultimate complete restoration of our created humanity, Ananias and Saphira are a picture of God’s judgment upon false members of the community. Does that mean they went to hell? It is possible that God used these foolish Christians to warn the rest of us, nevertheless mercifully accepting them into his presence. We will not know until Christ returns. Until then, may the Spirit so strengthen us to understand the love of Jesus so that we become a people marked by service to others, not service to money.
Questions for Conversation: