The obvious thread of money connects two of the passages in my reading of the Daily Office passages today. The two stories reveal two stumbling blocks for our sisters and brothers in the church.
“Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? – Acts 5: 3
I led a Bible study in a church I pastored years ago. One man in the group surmised Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, didn’t merely die after lying to the Holy Spirit about how much their land sold for but gave less than that to the apostles. They may have been killed by the early church for the lie. I was shocked, but this reflected to me how much my brother thought money meant even to the early church.
While many were liquidating assets and giving these funds to the apostles without being told to, Ananias and Sapphira gave only a portion, but the implication was it was all the land was worth. What were they really purchasing? I believe it was favor and honor from the apostles and the rest of the church. Peter was too much in tune with Holy Spirit to miss what was really happening. They lied out of the love of money and honor. Sister and brother, keep your money!
He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” – John 2: 16
The purpose and atmosphere of the worship space had become mercantile, not prayer and worship. Plus, the money changers were taking their cut as a fee for exchanging the filthy Gentile coins into ‘sanctified’ temple money.
This is when adoring and worshiping God falls behind the exalted importance of money.
The sacrificial practices at the temple had become corrupted. Only officially sanctioned livestock could be sacrificed, and they could only be purchased at temple sanctioned vendors in the temple’s outer courts.
What was holy was what was lost in the fog of money and the exchanges of goods and services.
Our limited financial resources in these last few years have made us frugal and dependent on the Lord’s voice directing our giving and how much. We look forward to the day’s return when we can cheerfully give much more than what we give today. But when God tells us when to give financially and how much, don’t get me wrong, we truly give joyfully. Alleluia.
Unless you ask and God brings peace with an answer about how much to give, keep your money.
Giving as a measure of faithfulness in competition with others or to win favor is just plain immature. Keep your money.
Be still and ask the Lord.
Be still and seek favor in God’s grace alone to avoid dishonesty being a tool to win approval from God or believers.
Be still and give out of joy, not out of guilt or shame.
If there’s too much turmoil inside or you can’t afford to give like you want, keep your money.
Spoken like one who doesn’t have to pay salaries or a big mortgage on a family life center.