Giving From the Heart

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “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? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? 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. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. – Acts 5:1-11

Flowers by God | Unknown Time and Place | Photo by David Bahn

When we were in seminary we experienced an amazing amount of generosity. We were given large amounts of money to help pay for school expenses, housing, and living expenses. I recall very clearly yearning fo the day that we could begin giving to the Lord through our offerings in the local church. Once we actually had income we began the practice of tithing. It’s been a practice we’ve never abandoned. On more than one occasion we have doubled our tithe in support of God’s special work. It is a practice that brings us great joy. If you are impressed by this, please do not be – except for being impressed with God’s goodness and grace at work in us. All glory belongs to him!

When St. Paul directed the Christians in Corinth to give he told them that a gift is acceptable to God “according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have” (2 Corinthians 8:12). Ananias and Sapphira’s gift was not acceptable because they lied to the Holy Spirit. They did not give based on what they had, they gave on the basis of what they did not have. For they did not have a pure heart. They sought to deceive and impress people, rather than expressing true thanks to God.

I’m sure each of us struggle in some aspect of our Christian walk. None of us ever outgrows the need for God’s ongoing work in our hearts: purifying, refining, and clarifying in our hearts what is truly good. But we need never seek to deceive God in that regard or anything else. We can give our gifts based on what we have in Christ: righteousness, forgiveness of sins, and a new heart.

For most Christians money is the chief rival god. We too easily look to money for the most good in life – rather than looking to God, trusting in him, and rejoicing in his goodness, grace, and salvation. With faith in God’s love, goodness, and mercy, and with joy in our hearts we can give acceptable gifts – never for the praise of others, but for the glory of God.

Let each one give as he has decided in his heart to give, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times you may have all that you need for every good deed. You will be enriched in every way, so that you may be generous in every situation, and…produce thanksgiving to God. – 2 Corinthians 9:8,9, 11

  1. Pastor,
    I wonder how this account of Ananias and Sapphira would be received in our parish if presented during our next charity campaign?

    • Interesting question. I would hope people would fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

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