The pooling of goods in the early church was not compulsory; that is, it was not a formal condition of membership. Yet, there certainly were several examples of voluntary generosity that inspired the whole community. One such example was Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37), who will play an important role later in the book.
However, there were also negative examples that threatened the unity of the church from within, right at a time when attacks from without had just begun.
Read Acts 5:1-11. What are the lessons of this story?
Though Luke has not given us all the details, there is no question that the fundamental problem of Ananias and Sapphira was not the attempt to keep the money but the practice of deceit within the community. Their sin was not the result of an impulsive act but of a carefully laid plan, a deliberate attempt “to test the Spirit of the Lord” (Acts 5:9, ESV). They were not under the obligation to sell their property and give the money to the church. Thus, when they committed themselves to doing so, perhaps they were acting in their own interest only, maybe even trying to gain influence among the brethren with what appeared to be a commendable act of charity.
This possibility may help to explain why God punished them so severely. Even if the church’s communal life resulted from the conviction that Jesus was just about to come, an act like that of Ananias and Sapphira at such an early stage could disparage the importance of loyalty to God and become a bad influence among the believers. The fact that there is no mention of Ananias’s being given the chance to repent, as in the case of Sapphira (Acts 5:8), may be due only to the shortness of the account.
The bottom line is that, from the beginning to the end, they had acted sinfully, and sin is a serious matter in God’s eyes (Ezek. 18:20, Rom. 6:23), even if He does not always punish it immediately. In fact, that punishment is often deferred should constantly remind us of how gracious God is (2 Pet. 3:9).
|Why must we be careful about pushing the limits of grace, as these two early members of the church did?|
Source: Daily Sabbath School Lessons