Acts 5:4b-5 – "You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. (NIV)
Do you ever get those e-mails from Nigeria where someone claims to have twenty million dollars ready to deposit in your bank account? Quite often, the sender writes that he or she is a Christian, and that the Lord has told them to contact us. Of course, it's a load of baloney, and the sender is just trying to scam greedy people into sending them bank account details, social security numbers, and computer passwords in order to steal their money or their personal identities.
When I receive them, I send back a message that contains Acts 5:1-11, letting the sender know of the seriousness of the sin that he or she is involved with. I don't know if it does them any good, but one thing that it does do is this: if they continue with the scam, then they are now lying against the Holy Spirit and putting themselves under a terrible judgment. It's a crime to con people out of their money. It's altogether a worse thing to do it in the name of the Lord.
When the early church gathered as a community, they tried to share all of their resources to help one another. They were persecuted as a community of faith, and because of that, they had to depend upon one another to survive. Mostly everyone contributed to the common pool of money, but some, like Ananias and Sapphira, made a big show of what they gave. At the same time, they deceived the church by retaining a large proportion of what they pledged to give. In other words, they were not being generous. They were being deceitful, and it brought about their sudden deaths.
The lesson for all of us is to be careful about what we promise to God and what we actually give. Other people may not know what we choose to do, but ultimately God does, and whether we like it or not, He is offended by false promises and scams, especially when they are made by Christians.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to understand the gravity of our promises when we make them to You or Your church. Teach us to give cheerfully and to seek different ways of contributing our time, talents, and treasures to You, Your Church, and Your work on earth. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.