Faithlife Sermons

Generosity & Greed in Giving (Acts 4:32-5:11)

Notes & Transcripts

Introduction

This section begins with a summary that focuses on the early church’s practice of sharing material goods. We have already seen within this book how generous our brethren were. In , we were told of how devoted they were to their new faith in Christ and to one another as they met every day at the temple and from house to house. They shared with one another to meet any need there was. We see the same idea in this passage also.
Let’s go ahead and read
Now the entire group of those who believed were of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but instead they held everything in common. With great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was on all of them. For there was not a needy person among them because all those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the proceeds of what was sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet. This was then distributed to each person as any had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus by birth, the one the apostles called Barnabas (which is translated Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned, brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. However, he kept back part of the proceeds with his wife’s knowledge, and brought a portion of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land? Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God.” When he heard these words, Ananias dropped dead, and a great fear came on all who heard. The young men got up, wrapped his body, carried him out, and buried him. About three hours later, his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. “Tell me,” Peter asked her, “did you sell the land for this price?” “Yes,” she said, “for that price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why did you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Instantly she dropped dead at his feet. When the young men came in, they found her dead, carried her out, and buried her beside her husband. Then great fear came on the whole church and on all who heard these things. ()

1. Observation: What is Going On?

1. Observation

As we see earlier, we are told here that the believers “shared everything they had.” They did not claim “owner’s rights;” their attitude was “what’s mine is yours.” They are showing an example of what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. And Luke is very clear that this was all of the Christians who were acting this way. “All of those who believed were of one heart and one mind and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own.”
We also see in verse 34 that some of those with the means voluntarily sold some of their own property and brought the proceeds to the apostles for distribution to the needy, and the result of this was that there was not a need among them because of this generosity.
This third of the summaries focuses on the early church’s practice of sharing material goods. There were two dimensions to this. First, they “shared everything they had.” They did not claim owner’s rights; their attitude was “what’s mine is yours.” Second, those with the means voluntarily sold some of their own property and brought the proceeds to the apostles for distribution to the needy. The church did not practice common ownership but charity on a voluntary basis.
There are two specific examples of individuals who gave at this time. First, inverses 36-37, we have Barnabas live up to His name (Son of Encouragment) by selling a field he owned so that he could generously encourage his needy brothers and sisters. He brought the money and placed it at the Apostles feet.

2. Interpretation: What Does it Mean to the Original Audience?

Second, we have a couple, Ananias and Sapphira. They also sold some property and brought some money and placed it at the apostles’ feet. But there is a big difference in motivation in their case. It seems like they “wanted the glory” for being generous, saying that they were giving the whole price of the land when in reality they were not. They lied to the Apostles and to the Holy Spirit, and they lost their lives because of it. They dropped dead where they placed the money… at the feet of the Apostles.

2. Interpretation: What Does it Mean to the Original Audience?

2. Interpretation

There are some great lessons to learn from this passage.
First, giving was fueled by unity. They cared about one another and wanted to be helpful to each other. They were “one” in Spirit and it showed in how they viewed their worldly things.
Second, giving was voluntary. Those who had land did not have to sell their property. They voluntarily gave with great generosity.
Third, our motivation for doing “good deeds” is important. Ananias and Sapphira did not sin in giving less than what they sold the land for. They sinned in lying about it. They were following the devil here in arrogantly thinking they could fool the Lord and by being deceptive. They could not.
Fourth, the Holy Spirit is a personal, divine being. He is called God in this passage and He can be lied to. He is not some impersonal force.

3. Application: What Does It Mean to Me?

There are many things in this passage that should challenge us. Do we have the kind of view of our possessions that they early church did? If there was a need, would we be willing to do anything we can to meet the need, even if that meant we needed to sell some of our stuff? May we be too tied to our stuff?
Do we have the same kind of concern and love for our brethren that they did?
Who are we being led by? God’s Spirit or Satan?

Conclusion & Invitation

To bring this lesson to a close, my encouragement to you today would be to honestly examine your heart and ask whether or not your possessions are something that you love too much. DO you love your stuff more than you love God and His people? Are you and I holding onto our things so tightly that we have made idols out of them, showing that we have had Satan fill our hearts as Ananias and Sapphira did?
If there is anything we can help you with today to help you to grow in your love for the Lord or to become a Christian today, why don’t you make your need knows while together we stand and sing?
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