Acts 4:36-5:11 ESV
36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means t son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and u laid it at the apostles’ feet. Ananias and Sapphira 5 1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge v he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and w laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has x Satan filled your heart to lie y to the Holy Spirit and z to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 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 a to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he b fell down and breathed his last. And c great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and d wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. 7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you 1 sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together e to test f 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 g great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
[ When my son was five years old, a man who sat behind us in the church gave him a dollar bill to put in the offering plate. When the offering plate came to him he refused to let go of the dollar. Even at five years old my son experienced the lure money has on the human heart. Paul makes it clear that the love of money shipwrecks the faith of many and pierces their heart with much trouble (1 Timothy 6:10). We live in the wealthiest nation in the world. Our culture thrives on the pursuit of the American dream. The Western church promotes health, wealth, and prosperity; some of them operating off a fiscal budget that is more than the GDP of some third world countries. This seems at odds with the mission of God's kingdom. How can the church say that it is about God's kingdom on the one hand and at the same time pursuing the pride of life by preaching worldly prosperity and hoarding wealth? Jesus made it clear in His ministry that His kingdom and its priorities are far different than the kingdom of the world. The kingdom of God is about Jesus ruling in the hearts of His image Bearers. When Jesus was done in the wilderness, he crossed the Lordan and proclaimed "The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the gospel (Make 1:14-15)." The kingdom of God is about Jesus being the center, the king of the hearts of His people; and those who live under His rule live for what he values most, namely, glorifying his Father by joyfully advancing his kingdom. One of the biggest issues Jesus had with the religious elite was their hypocrisy, especially when it came to money. Jesus confronts the religious elite by exposing their religious hypocrisy Luke 12:1-3. In the thread of hypocrisy, he warns how foolish it is to store up treasures in this earth, treasures that cannot do anything for you when God demands your soul (Luke 12; 13-21). A few verses he exhorts those listening, "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:34)." The Pharisees and success were very powerful people with a great deal of wealth, and they lorded their power and wealth over the people. Jesus exposed the love of their heart in Luke 12 by showing them that their pursuit of worldly possessions and power came from a heart that prioritized the kingdom of the world over the kingdom of God. This is hypocrisy. In Luke 14:25-35, Jesus explains that there is a cost to following him. That cost will most often be your comfort in this world, your possessions. Jesus, so boldly says, "everyone who does not say goodbye to all their possessions cannot be my disciple (Luke 14:33)." Jesus must be our first and foremost love in this world. Well then, how does a Christian prove his love for Jesus is genuine with their worldly possessions? Barnabas is an example of someone who proves his love for Jesus is genuine with His possessions. Barnabas sold a field that belonged to him. He took the money and laid it at the apostle's feet. Barnabas was part of the early church. The early church was known for its generosity and care for the saints. In Acts 2:45, they sold their possessions and made sure everyone's needs were met. In Acts 4:32, no one said any of their possessions were their own but held everything in common. In both cases, those freed the Apostles up to teach and preach in order to advance the kingdom of God. One of the trademarks of the early church was a release of worldly possessions for the work of God's kingdom. Christians did not cling to their possessions but gave them up with joy for the sake of the church and God's work. Barnabas does the same thing with his field. He does not hold back any of the profits. He gives to God what he set out to give. He does this throughout his entire ministry. In contrast, Ananias and Sapphira act just like the religious elite Jesus confront in Luke 12. They devised a plan to tell the church they would sell their land and give all the money to the apostles, just like Barnabas. Instead, they kept back a portion of the proceeds for themselves. This is hypocrisy. Their heart was not true for the kingdom of God, but for the kingdom of this wold. Peter made it clear, "Satan filled their heart." Their treasure was not Jesus, but the money from their land. Peter confronted them and exposed their hypocrisy saying they "lied to the Holy Spirit." God made it clear that he would not tolerate their blatant sin of hypocrisy by killing both of them. The difference between Spirit-empowered giving and Satan-filled hoarding is who rules the heart. When Satan fills the heart, our treasure consists of the lust of the flesh, the pride of the eyes and of this life, which John says is passing away (1 John 2:16-17). However, Barnabus shows us that when Jesus rules our heart He frees us to let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, and to say with joy, "my body they may kill, but God's truth abideth still. His kingdom is forever." Jesus frees us from the love of money that shipwrecks our faith and pierces our souls. He instead gives us a heart like His own heart, one that seeks to joyfully advance the Kingdom of God by giving their possession generously.