Dishonesty and Death
ACTS IN 90 DAYS
A reading for Thursday, May 21, 2020: Acts 5:1-11.
"How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!”
Okay, this is a bizarre story. Let's just admit that from the start. What do we make of it? How can the death of two disciples of the early church, apparently because of their dishonesty, be useful to us?
Remember today's lesson is not meant to be read on its own, but connected to the larger narrative of Luke-Acts. A profound movement of the Spirit of God has been happening in and around the early church in Jerusalem. Early followers of Jesus Christ are already being criticized by members of the High Council. The church continues to meet together, breaking bread and enjoying fellowship as well as retelling the story of Jesus' death and resurrection. At the end of chapter 4, we read that part of the witness of the early church was a new economic system in which everything was shared.
So when Ananias and Sapphira decide to hold back some of the proceeds of their land sale, they risk the trust of this early community. It's more than just an economic offense, but a betrayal of what it meant to be part of the community of early followers. Luke wants us to understand how critical this early trust and reliance on one another was for the first church. In the story, such a betrayal literally (and maybe figuratively) led to a death of two disciples and their separation permanently from the community.
Back to the question of what it means for us? Do we enjoy a trust of fellow believers? Do we carefully weigh our actions, religious and otherwise, and consider the best common good for all? We believe in the power of grace when it comes to living the Christian life, but it's also a serious matter to be part of a community in Christ and demands that we act with integrity and love. We might not die from our dishonesty in community, thanks be to God, but shouldn't we also consider the harmful consequences of our actions in the midst of our fellow believers?
The blessings that come from Christian community in exchange for our honest participation are absolutely worth it. We are grateful!