This week I’ve been studying through Acts chapter 5 (talking about Ananias and Saphira), to teach to the group of believers here. It’s been interesting studying through this story and thinking back on the many times in the past I’ve heard this taught in churches. So many times I’ve heard pastors twist the text in a way to challenge people to not hold back, and to give it all to God. I’m sure in the past I have even raised my hand during an invitation and said, “I don’t want to be like Ananias, I want to give God everything.” This is not at all the point that God was trying to communicate here. In fact, when Ananias lied to Peter and the apostles saying that that was all the money he made, Peter clearly told him he could’ve kept the land for himself. He could’ve even sold it, and kept all the money for himself. Instead, he wanted to stand out like the last guy, Barnabas, and have everyone look at him and say, “Wow, what a dedicated Christian”.
As the New Testament Church was beginning, it was quite a transition from what these people knew previously. They were very “religious” people, going to the temple to pray and offer sacrifices. It was all public, and religion became mere hypocrisy. How many times do we dress ourselves up fancy to go to church in order to “give God our best,” or make it look like we are giving Him everything, when we know deep down inside we just want people to think we are like Barnabas- the guy that just sold his land and gave it to the church. We don’t want someone to look at us and see who we really are: someone who doesn’t have it all together, that still has areas that God is chipping away at. So we find it easy to slip into this life of hypocrisy/ religion. The most religious people of that time, the people that everyone would’ve looked at like “Wow, now they are giving God everything” were actually the people that just hung Jesus on a cross. The ones that had Peter and John arrested, and upon their release, ordered them to never speak of Jesus again. They wore their best to the temple, they sacrificed the biggest, cleanest lambs, and they prayed the loudest when people were around to hear it.
God didn’t want any more of that crap! He wanted people to have a relationship with Him. I mean, he sent his own son to this earth to die. He ripped the curtain in the temple from top to bottom to make a statement. Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death in a way that no other man had ever done. God went to great lengths to get rid of this religion so that people could take this gift of salvation, along with his Holy Spirit, and live their lives learning about Him, and allowing Him, little by little, to chip away at those areas that hinder their relationship with him, bringing them day by day into a closer relationship with Him. Someone tried to bring this hypocritical style of religion into this new thing called the body of Christ, (the New Testament Church), and, to make a statement and to continue to solidify His hatred of this outward religion, God killed the guy; dead in his tracks, no chance to backtrack, no chance to change, no invitation to raise his hand and “give it all”. Over, done, dead. Then God killed his wife because she was aware and a part of what was going on as well. So I say to myself, “how dare we twist the story around, to try to bring people back into the same thing God was trying to expel: a life of religion, based on outward actions!” A life where people will look and say, “Wow, he is spiritual”. It amazes me that this story actually preaches in the face of what we often try to twist the story to accomplish.
The next time you hear the story of Ananias and Saphira, remember, it is not about “giving God everything” it is about realizing how that when hypocrisy and religion creep into the church, they will slowly eat away at you and the other Christians, challenging them to “live better” and “give it all”, forcing them into a life of legalism, religion, and pretending, taking it full circle back to what God wanted to bring people out of and avoid.