Generosity has more to do with a person’s heart and values than how much is in their bank account. This month I want to share with you a Bible story that a lot of people aren’t familiar with, the story of Ananias and his wife Sapphira. The story is found in Acts 5:1-11.
“But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. “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? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.
After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.”
Anyone else envision that played out like a scene in an action movie? You insult Peter by being dishonest about your giving and wham, you’re dead! Scary. I read a stewardship article back in 2009 about Extravagant Generosity that says when we withhold what we are at liberty to give part of us dies. As Christians, every money decision we make should be a spiritual and Christ centered one. Did you ever think that paying your electric or heating bill was a Christ centered decision? By keeping your home warm and the lights on, you are caring for those with whom you live, and you are being a good steward of yourself.
Martin Luther once said that a person must go through three conversions: conversion of mind, conversion of heart, and conversion of purse. The conversion of the purse is often the difficult one. Our motto here is blessed to be a blessing. We can’t have money rule our lives, our spiritual life should rule our lives. Money is something we can possess without being possessed by it. Money is like a king or a god, it can quickly rule over and consume our lives. Money entices, gives power, gives freedom, gives a sense security (at least temporarily while we live on this earth). When we let go of money, we let go part of our security.
This is why we are encouraged to give to the church. This is why we are encouraged to tithe, that is give at least 10% of what God has blessed us with to do God’s work. The reality is most people give much less than 4%. Studies have shown that the Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials all give close to the same percentage to the church. Previous generations give/gave a higher percentage. Congregations in impoverished city neighborhoods give a higher percentage than the average suburban middle or upper class person. In the early church everyone contributed very generously, they shared what they had, gave what they had, shared the time they had, volunteered to help ministries, helped one another, shared their talents and did great work spreading God’s love and the gospel or Good News of Jesus. It is no wonder the early church grew and grew, they lived and loved generously, freed by the truth that is Jesus Christ. The world needs Jesus more than ever, so let’s give all we’ve got.