It should not surprise us that the first internal problem in the church was related to money (Acts 5:1-11). Our orientation toward money reveals a great deal about our priorities and our relationship with God. When you touch on the issue of money, you generally touch a nerve.
The early church was committed to caring for one another. Any needs were brought to the church and the believers would sacrifice to meet the need. Ananias and Sapphira were part of the early church and they were people of means. They had a piece of property (presumably in addition to their primary residence). They sold the property and gave a generous gift to meet the needs of the church. The problem was that they misrepresented their gift. They claimed that they were giving all the proceeds from the sale when in reality they were only giving a portion of the proceeds. This was a serious sin and God sent a clear message to the early church by putting Ananias and Sapphira to death.
At first glance, we might say that the problem was greed. They just couldn’t let go of the money. But upon closer examination, Ananias and Sapphira didn’t have to sell their property. And even after they sold it, they were not obligated to give the whole amount to the church. If they wanted or needed to keep a portion of the proceeds, that would have been fine.
I believe the text points to a deeper root issue – pride. The context tells us that a man named Joseph had already sold his property and had given the proceeds to meet the needs of the church (Acts 4:34-37). Joseph had developed a reputation for generosity – so much so that he was given the nickname Barnabas (meaning “Son of Encouragement”). I believe Ananias and Sapphira desired that kind of notoriety.
We ought to be committed to this kind of radical generosity and love for one another. But we must give for the purpose of pleasing God – not for the purpose of pleasing people.
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tristan_roddis/3566634858