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Acts 5:1-11 - Questions for reflection & prayer

This past Sunday we looked at one of the more unsettling stories in the Book of Acts:  the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira.  As shared by Luke, this couple sold a piece of land and then proceeded to bring only a portion of the profit to the apostles - laying it at their feet for the good of the community.  However, what appeared to be their grave mistake (pun intended) was their collusion in claiming to have brought all the proceeds to the apostles when - in fact - they were keeping some back for themselves.  Peter announces first to Ananias the Lord's judgment, followed by a similar verdict being handed down to Sapphira a short time later.

Seen by itself, this is a strange story, but it begins to make more sense when we see it as "part of the whole."  The story of Ananias and Sapphira comes right after we hear once again of the community's unity and generosity, including their willingness to share their own goods and resources to take care of one another (ch. 4).  Then, to top it off, Luke introduces one of the hero's of Acts, a man nicknamed Barnabas.  Barnabas, whose name can be translated "son of encouragement", is a model of faith and godly living.  He is "all in" as they say, pouring out his heart and energy and personal resources to support and encourage the life of this young community.

Luke is - in other words - giving us two examples of how we can choose to live.

We can live like Barnabas or we can live like Ananias and Sapphira.

Live like Barnabas, and we are living into God's designs for us.  Since God is a generous and self-giving God, Barnabas is merely following in his Maker's footsteps.  Even more, he is following the model of Jesus, who gave everything he had for our sake and for our redemption. 

And because Barnabas is living into God's designs and desires for us as human beings, he becomes a force of good and generates life.   This is what godly living truly means:  living that blesses others and generates life/community/encouragement.

That is one way we can choose to live.

Ananias and Sapphira represent when we refuse to live into God's designs, and - instead - choose to protect or look out for our own interests.  Interestingly, by doing so, they are not only hurting the community.  They are betraying their God-given identities.  We can see this a bit more clearly when we look at the meaning of their names. 

Ananias means "The Lord is gracious."  This is the tragedy in this story about Ananias.  His very name is supposed to remind him that the Lord will not be shy in giving him all that he needs for life.  And, yet, Ananias is unable or unwilling to keep this in mind. 

In other words, we are created by God to be open-hearted, giving, and generous in our attitudes and actions towards others.  When we fail to live like this, we are cutting ourselves off from God ... but also our true selves!  And no one can live very long being estranged in this way.  It chokes out life.

A similar thing can be said about Sapphira.  Her name means "beautiful," and we would expect her actions to create beauty in the community.  Again, hers is a tragic tale meant to warn us that we have an important choice to make.  Will our hearts be open towards loving or will they be closed?

Where in your life do you feel a tension between leaning forward with love and giving more from your heart OR to hold back a little bit in order to protect or preserve yourself?

How willing are you to truly give of yourself for our church?  What is holding you back?  

What factors in your past experience make it hard for you to trust a church family or maybe even other types of community?

Where in your life do you see individuals leaning in together with love?  Often times, these types of communities are very attractive and very life-giving.

One of the big things individuals are searching for these days is authenticity.  What does this story about Ananias and Sapphira have to say about being authentic?  Where is one place you want to be more authentic this coming week?  Ask the Holy Spirit to give you courage to be open and transparent in that place/situation and seek out a Christian brother or sister to help you stay accountable.


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