The earliest Christians followed a Jewish tradition of pausing to pray, preferably together, first thing in the morning, about mid morning, at noon, about mid afternoon, and in the evening. “Just a Note” posts are brief observations made from Scripture readings not related to a lectionary. If I have one to post, it normally appears about 9:00 in the morning, at “the hour of prayer.”
In Acts 5:7-11 Ananias’ wife, Sapphira arrives where the apostles are. It appears that she has been complicit with her husband in the deceit. Peter immediately asks her if they sold the property in question for the amount that they gave in order to care for the poor. She affirms that they gave the entire sale price. Peter asks her why she has tried to lie to the Holy Spirit. She dies, is carried out, and is buried with her husband.
This episode in the New Testament seems oddly like one of the events surrounding the Old Testament prophets. Many would ask about God’s attitude toward his people. After all, aren’t Ananias and Sapphira giving to the poor? The key to understanding this is that they have chosen not only to give to the poor but to lie about their level of generosity. It was within their rights to retain the property. It was within their rights to sell it and give part of the income from the sale. They were not under an obligation. However, when they said that they were giving the entire sale price they were attempting to seem more generous than they actually were. This was deceitful.
A Christian ethic will be straightforward about details like these. We know that everything belongs to God and that we are entrusted with stewardship of it. A steward of God’s property will be open about how that property is being used. This is not what Ananias and Sapphira were doing. It was to their condemnation.
We don’t deserve any better treatment from God. He is holy and just. Thanks be to God that he is very forgiving and gracious as well. We ask, therefore, not why God condemned these two individuals, but why he has chosen not to condemn us as well. In response, we return thanks.
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