There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
Giving is an essential part of being a Christian. We’re supposed to be generous with what we have because the Lord has first been generous with us. The early church was very much about generosity, as you can see in today’s scripture. On the one hand, you have the story of how early Christians sold some of their possessions to help people with needs. On the other side, you have the story of a husband and wife who sold a piece of property but kept part of it for themselves. When they presented the gift, they ended up being struck dead by the Lord.
Governments have loved using Acts 4:32-35 to justify their use of taxes so they can spend that money on the poor. The key in this passage is that only the Christians were doing this. It wasn’t the Jewish government, and it wasn’t the Roman government. It was Christians, on their own, deciding to share the proceeds of their sales to benefit the poor. And was it all of the poor? No, it was to be distributed among themselves as they had need. And the giving wasn’t forced. Each gave what they felt led to give.
That’s a big point of the second part of the scripture. Ananias and Saphira made the decision to sell a piece of property, but also made the choice to keep part of it for themselves. That was their right, but they made the fateful choice to tell the apostles that the money presented was everything they got from the sale. That’s why they were struck down – not for keeping some money for themselves, but for lying about it to God.
The bottom line is that Christians should be generous in giving, but that giving should be voluntary. Don’t confuse paying your taxes to the government with giving to churches or to charities. Also realize that when you give, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of the gift. It’s between you and God, and as long as you’re doing what you believe He’s leading you to do, you’ll be OK.
This Sunday, pray about what God might be leading you to give to your church. Whatever the amount is, no matter what it is, make that gift cheerfully, and thank the Lord for the opportunity to give back to Him a portion of what He’s given to you.
Reflection copyright © 2017 Doug DeBolt
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.