January 23, 2020
Scripture: Acts 5:1-2
However, a man named Ananias, along with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. With his wife’s knowledge, he withheld some of the proceeds from the sale. He brought the rest and placed it in the care and under the authority of the apostles.
Thought for the Day: A few weeks back, I preached on bears killing young people who laughed at a bald guy (2 Kings 2:23). In today’s passage, a beautiful young couple in the life of the early church was struck dead because the two of them withheld some money from the church. As you can imagine, these are passages of scripture that can be used in very manipulative ways in the hands of certain people. When trying to raise money for a big project at the church, do we pull out Ananias and Sapphira to impose a little Biblical guilt or fear? Many have! I am not going to use the text that way, for such a use is an abuse. Explaining this text is hard, maybe even impossible to some degree. Yes, it emphasizes the importance of one’s commitment to God’s vision embodied in the church, but if everyone who withheld a little of their income, stock sells or property investment money were to drop dead there would only be a handful of folks still standing. There are many who will argue, and I think it makes sense, that the story of Ananias and Sapphira communicate how some were giving as was common in the Roman culture – to look good and to move up in prestige – when in fact it the gift wasn’t much of a sacrifice. The story appears to emphasize how the motivation of giving must always be love. Well if we are talking about love, specifically the unconditional and relentless love of God made real in Jesus, then how do you make sense of these two people’s death? Does love strike dead people who are two-faced or a little greedy? What does it mean to speak of God’s relentless love that is always offering a second chance? Could this be a story that is more hyperbole, and like any hyperbole, it is never intended to answer every question? Does it emphasize commitment and motivation with an over the top example that should never be used as a: Look what happens to those who do not give everything? Oh sure, it does encourage some to give more, but isn’t such money tainted by the very nature of the unhealthy motivation?
Prayer: Love is your gift to me, Lord God, and I receive it as a gift. May my life, including all that I have, be used in such a way that I am expressing my gratitude to you. Amen.
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Rev. Bruce Frogge