February 10, 2011: Acts 4:36-5:11 Devotion Sharing

Submitted by Cathy Park, Gracepoint Davis

Acts 4:36-5:4

It seems clear that not everyone did as Barnabas did.  What would have been a healthy way to respond to his act of radical generosity on the part of someone in the church who was not as generous as Barnabas?

What Joseph of Cyprus did was different, and that is probably why the apostles would give him a special name to him like “Barnabas” – “Son of Encouragement.”  A healthy way to respond to his act of radical generosity by those who were not as generous would have been to simply, and humbly, strive to learn and imitate his example.

However, unfortunately, not only in Barnabas’ days, but even in current days, when people see radical acts of service to God among Christians – in areas of financial generosity, completely sold out devotion to His work and His church, love and care for each other – people (including sometimes other Christians) do not have a healthy response.  In fact, many people criticize saying that it is too much and that the devotion to God and declare that such acts of generosity and sacrifice is (ironically!) unhealthy.

In deciding to deceive the church, what was Ananias and Sapphira’s approach to church life, and their view of the church?

In deciding to deceive the church, Ananias and Sapphira approached the church as a “marketplace”, like in John 2, where people were buying and selling goods.  For Ananias and Sapphira, their currency of this “marketplace” was respect and esteem in the eyes of the believers which was gained illegitimately.

The tragedy of all this is that they didn’t have to lie about the money that they kept in the first place.  They were already generous in what they did give, and it wasn’t like God would not accept any money unless the whole thing from sales of the land came to him, as it states in 2 Cor. 8:12:  “For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.”  Even as Apostle Peter would say, “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold?  And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?”  (Acts 5:4)  For them to sell the land was of their own initiative, and for them to keep the money was also their own initiative.  The problem was, they didn’t want to look like they were less generous than Barnabas.  They could have simply and humbly said, “We are not like Barnabas, although we sold the land, we don’t think we can donate the whole proceeds from it.  But we would like to still give what we can according to our current measure of faith.”

But the problem was that they chose to deceive people, and in the process, it exposed some detrimental things regarding their view of the church:

The church is just a “marketplace” and in a marketplace, you do whatever you can to have people “buy your goods”, even if it’s through deceitful means by making them think that what they are buying is more than what it actually is. They were treating church not as the holy temple of the living God, but as a place to gain something for themselves, and by using illegitimate and deceitful means.  They made people in the church “buy into” where they were spiritually, which was a fabrication and a lie.

It’s all about people and appearances, what they buy into about you, and not the truth – in the process, they ignored the presence of the Holy and living God, who cannot be lied to.  “You have not lied to men but to God.”  (Acts 5:4)

The church is a means to an end. And that end, which should have been to glorify Christ, was not their end.  Their end was to gain respect and esteem of people and create a false image of themselves to others.  It was to probably gain a legitimate and active participation in such a dynamic community without really giving their all as others were freely doing in selling their goods and possessions and sharing with one another.  They found that kind of commitment beyond their ability and desires, but still wanted to “fit in” and be seen as a part of this kind of dynamic community’s inner circle, so they chose to use deceitful means.

What lesson is there in this text about the qualities needed to enjoy the blessing of a genuine Christian community?

The biggest qualities that stand out to me regarding what I personally need to have in myself to enjoy the blessing of a genuine Christian community is honesty and humility.  Honesty to say where I am exactly in my relationship with God and in my faith, and the humility to accept that this before others and myself that this is where I am, and being to acknowledge that others are more mature, more dedicated, and more able to serve than I am.

Ephesians 4:11-13 “ 11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

I think about my own life and how for the first several years, I was miserable in this body of Christ because I wasn’t humble and honest.  I was, like the Korean proverb says, “A mouse starving in a rice barn”.  Here I was, surrounded by the blessings of a genuine Christian community, but I couldn’t enjoy it because I was so filled with jealousy and envy towards others’ gifts and faith.  Meanwhile, my pride prevented me from humbly accepting where I was and just acknowledging this is where I was in relation to others.  Therefore, I couldn’t freely accept or enjoy people’s love or my place in this body of Christ.  It was only when I was finally humbled before God’s truth that I was able to finally say that I am just so thankful to be part of God’s family despite the wretched sinner that I am.  My confession became like that of the Psalmist in Psalm 84:10

Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Be Sociable, Share!

One Response to “February 10, 2011: Acts 4:36-5:11 Devotion Sharing”

  1. Laura Cowan says:

    Thank you. Loved it.

Leave a Response