Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | April 28, 2015

April 27, 2015 “Charity or Chicanery?”

“A man named Ananias—his wife, Sapphira, conniving in this with him—sold a piece of land, secretly kept part of the price for himself, and then brought the rest to the apostles and made an offering of it. Peter said, “Ananias, how did Satan get you to lie to the Holy Spirit and secretly keep back part of the price of the field? Before you sold it, it was all yours, and after you sold it, the money was yours to do with as you wished. So what got into you to pull a trick like this? You didn’t lie to men but to God.” Ananias, when he heard those words, fell down dead.” (Acts 5: 1-5)

Good Morning Everyone. God has blessed us with a glorious new day, so let’s rejoice and be glad in it!

Some years ago, I heard an illustration regarding stewardship that I have never forgotten because of its ironic poignancy. As the story was told, (it could be a true story, but I cannot verify that…but no matter to the point of the story), there was a man who had only eleven dollars to his name…a ten and a one. As he passed by a small church in his home town, he heard the sound of beautiful music coming from within the church. He made his way into the church to rest and enjoy the music, and decided to stay for the rest of the service. The message had to do with trusting in the Lord to meet every need. After the message, an offering was received. As the plate came his way, he decided to trust God and give him the dollar he had. As the plate came ever closer, he decided that real trust would mean giving God the ten and keeping only the one. Finally, the plate arrived, and he put all eleven dollars in the plate. Some years later, this same man was telling his story and how God had indeed blessed him to the point that he was now the president of a multi-million dollar corporation, testifying to God’s provision. One woman, upon hearing his testimony, rose to her feet shouting, “Hallelujah! Do it again!”

I do not know if he “did it again” or not, but it is a powerful and thought-provoking illustration of true trust in God. In the scriptural account referenced, a couple named Ananias and Sapphira sold a parcel of land, giving a portion of their profit to the work of the apostles, while secretly holding back some for themselves. The problem was not in the amount given, but in the fact that they were duplicitous regarding the gift, stating that they had given all their profits from the sale to God, when they had not. They had lied to the Holy Spirit, not trusting Him completely to meet their every need. So heavy was the conviction of this lie upon their hearts, that they both died when the truth of the matter was revealed by the Holy Spirit through Peter…Ananias first, then later his wife. Lack of trust in God coupled with their dishonesty led to their demise. Was God unreasonably harsh in his response to this act? Keeping a portion of the sale was not wrong. As Peter noted, “the money was yours to do with as you wished.” The larger issue was not their charity, but their chicanery.  English Christian evangelist Charles Mueller shared these thoughts on trust and possessions, stating,

“The Christian should never worry about tomorrow or give sparingly because of a possible future need. Only the present moment is ours to serve the Lord, and tomorrow may never come.”

For Ananias and Sapphira, this became tragically evident. They had a great opportunity to trust and to generously give. Instead, they chose to hold back and then to lie about it to God, who knows the heart better than anyone. What was the motivation for their deception? Pride, perhaps. Maybe a desire to be highly regarded for their generosity. Whatever the motivation, its consequences were irreversible and fatal. Remember Charles Mueller’s advice: “Never worry about tomorrow or give sparingly because of a possible future need. Only the present moment is ours to serve the Lord, and tomorrow may never come.” Let’s pray!

O Lord, Giver of every good and perfect gift; Increase my trust in your provision, that I would hold nothing back for lack of trust, or be dishonest regarding that which I have given. May others see the good works I do and give glory to You because of them, for you alone are worthy of praise. This I pray in Jesus’ Holy Name. Amen!

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