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Sold Out For God - Rightly And Wrongly

Acts 4:34-5:2
... there was no needy person among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means 'son of encouragement'), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet. Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. (NIVUK)

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).

Gracious God. Thank You for Your gift of eternal life and the many blessings which provide for my needs. Forgive me when I have failed to give back to You as I should, or even used my giving to benefit myself in some way. Please teach me the grace of giving without self-interest; and give me such a love for my spiritual family that I will be willing to share what You have given to me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams