Sold Out For God - Rightly And Wrongly
The Early Church understood that true fellowship meant sharing. Some people owned property and were willing to sell it so that other believers could have food or whatever was needed. The apostles then distributed the sale proceeds (although this became such a complex and sensitive task that other godly men were subsequently appointed to oversee this social aid – Acts 6:1-7). Nobody was under compulsion to give, and they could present to the Lord whatever amount they chose. Two examples are given: one of a wholehearted giver, and another couple who were not.
Barnabas (that was Joseph's nickname) came from Cyprus. He was a Levite who we assume had family land in Israel (Numbers 35:1-3). He sold it to provide for his brothers and sisters in Christ. From other passages we know that he was a very encouraging brother who supported Paul and wanted to mentor John Mark (Acts 15:36-39). Barnabas wanted the money from the field to be a practical encouragement to believers he probably did not know. He was certainly not trying to buy any favours with his generosity.
On the other hand, Ananias and his wife were Jewish believers who had mixed motives. They wanted to benefit from the sale of their property and agreed together to give some of the money to the apostles' social welfare fund, but to keep back some of the money for their own use. The problem was that they presented the money as being all of what they gained from the sale. Was this to give others an impression that they were more generous or holy than they really were? The next part of the narrative will demonstrate God's judgement on these greedy and deceitful people (Acts 5:3-11).
The Lord reads our hearts. He knows our motives and weighs them more than the gifts we make. A wholehearted gift will be used to multiply blessings, but a reluctant or mean gift will not bless the giver. God wants us to consider our giving in the light of His great gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ to us (2 Corinthians 8:9). It needs to be from a generous heart, as a carefully considered decision (2 Corinthians 9:6-8). But giving in order to impress other people has no spiritual value (Matthew 6:1) and will bring trouble to the greedy person (Proverbs 15:27).
© Dr Paul Adams