Premeditated Lies and Money Let’s pray… Rev. Stuart Buisch
If you thought Pentecost was strange before this text get ready for today. People were selling their property and giving the money to the church – such as the church was. Basically, they were giving it to the community of faith present with the apostles. Judas was gone so there were new money keepers and later in the book of Acts we realize that the widows weren’t treated equally.
This story speaks to us because great moments in any organization are followed by different moments. Great leadership by different leadership. Great generosity by scams. It is strange, but we can wonder were Ananias and Sapphira unique? We don’t have other stories like theirs. Or is every chapter of Acts a pattern of things that were happening more often than Luke recorded them.
We live in a normally fast -moving real estate section of Amherst – essentially first time home owners. Houses go on and off the market with the setting of the sun often. As I prepared for today, I began to realize that Peter could have realized, by all the generosity that was happening for the church, what the going rate for property was and saw that the money didn’t match fair market value. However, it was that Peter knew, direct from the Spirit of God or from his own experience, he called the lie what it was.
But death? A little greed and BAM you’re dead. Seems rather intense. The longer I ponder it I realize that the appropriate sins, aka the ‘white’ sins: little lies, extra pieces of pie, missing devotions, thinking unkind thoughts – not ugly ones etc have been getting no attention. But they are deadly. Ananias and Sapphira would have remained alive and less admired if they admitted that they tithed the sale of their house – only gave a portion. But it would have been the truth.
Their story discloses a common “driving” idea about God – God is too busy to see, know, care about everything. That belief is influenced by our generation and a few before it. It is not in line with traditional understandings of God. But then traditional understandings of God are becoming passe, no longer fashionable, out of date. For some the whole idea of God is out of date. Faith in something – not specific, or worth spending the time to get clear about, is enough. If that’s how my mother’s church treats people, I want no part of it, Sunday morning is my only time off I can’t gather with a bunch of hypocrites. You know the idea.
But greed still kills. It destroys the capacity to think of someone other than ourselves. Gluttony not only increases our waistline, all those calories make us age faster – i.e. die.
In fact, while we don’t often think like this; but all sin, whatever size, color or impact kills in the long run. Only forgiveness gives life. I don’t understand forgiveness but there does seem to be a God-side and a human-side. Are they mutually dependent – I am not sure. I am confident that forgiveness is a God thing that God works in us.
It is tempting at this point to start pointing fingers. It was Ananias’ fault etc. But we must note that the two agreed on the lie. What they didn’t realize is that lying to people is really lying to God. Had they not agreed would Sapphira still be alive at the end of the story? Not sure. But clearly this is premeditated. If the church worked as hard together to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God, our world would be most different. This plan to cheat the church, thus cheat God didn’t help them because they weren’t around to spend the money they held back. This is strangely similar to the farmer who had a great harvest and tore down his small barns to build bigger ones so he could ‘eat, drink and be merry’. He died the night it all got under the roof and the merry never happened.
Money is always a tool. Money always discloses aspects of who we are that we might not see without it. Frugal people save money for rainy day that may or may not ever come. Ananias and Sapphira never got the rain. If a frugal soul saves because God can’t provide, they are dying in that thought – no matter how long it takes for the hospice chapter to happen. Failing to trust God is not life giving, joyous or liberating. Ananias and Sapphira were bound to a bit of money that gripped their clutching purse and killed them. Reckless spenders may blame God for not providing for all their expenses. Were they consciously checking with God on their list of expenses? Was every thing a need or simply something that was wanted. Money tooled loosely like that doesn’t bring glory to God either. Whether we can own it or not, this story makes us realize that everything we have comes to us from God whether we will believe it or not. Frugality, saving or reckless spending both are tools of distrust in God. Spending and generosity can display a confidence in a God who will supply our every need like Psalm 23 so aptly proclaims.
So, what do you discuss with your spouse, your friends or God? What draws your attention enough to merit conversation? What things stir your passions enough to donate to them? What needs are you able to see outside the door of your home?
Money is a tool. Who is holding your hand with you as you work that tool? Amen
Creator God, the robins watch your hand guiding them to the next worm, guide us…
Suffering Jesus, strengthen us to stand in solidarity with those oppressed by anything…
Wind of God, blow through our closets setting us free to worship, serve and glorify you..