THE SIN OF ANANIAS AND SAPPHIRA

(Acts 5:1-11) 

THERE were two classes of miracles in the divine 
economy: those that evinced God's approval of the 
right, and those that evinced His disapproval of the 
wrong. 

An example of the former class is that miracle 
which occurred at the death of Stephen (Acts 7 : 55, 
56). He was allowed to look into heaven and see Jesus 
seated at the right hand of God. This miracle showed 
God's approval of the man who withstands all enemies 
of the gospel (Matt. 28: 20), and is placed on the divine 
record as an example for all subsequent ages of the ulti- 
mate blessing that will come to those who preach the 
truth as revealed in the New Testament. 

An example of the latter class is the death of Ana- 
nias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). The judgment that 
came upon them evinced God's disapprobation of their 
conduct, and is placed on the divine record as an ex- 
ample of the ultimate punishment that will come upon 
all who withhold from God a portion of that which 
rightfully belongs to Him. 

This sermon will deal with Christian liberality. In 
stressing the restoration of primitive Christianity, this 
one essential item has been neglected. We have over- 
looked the preaching of liberality as one of the essen- 
tial fruits of the Christian spirit. This neglect on the 
part of the eldership has resulted in disaster to many 
congregations. Lack of business administration has 
been the cause of the failure of hundreds of churches, 
especially those that are termed " rural.' ' A successful 
administration of the business side of Christianity will 
pave the way for missionary and evangelistic accom- 
plishments. The problem of finance is the first problem 
that must be met and solved. It can be solved by the 
faithful teaching and practice of the New Testament 
plan of Christian giving. We are essentially a Bible 
people. Then, let us carry out the Bible instructions 
regarding the financial department of the Lord's work. 

1. The parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16 : 1- 
13). The explanation of the parable is found in verse 
12. The application is very clear. All the material 
possessions that we are using in this world belong to 
God. We can take nothing with us into the world to 
come. We are merely stewards of God for an ap- 
pointed time upon earth, and will ultimately be called 
upon to render an account of our stewardship. What 
He gives here is His; what He gives us hereafter will 
be ours forever. Hence if we are not faithful here in 
taking care of what belongs to Him, how can we ex- 
pect to be judged worthy of anything hereafter? If 
you were to leave a son to take care of your property 
while you were away on a visit, and were to return and 
find the property devastated, you would certainly not 
be very liable to give that son any property for himself 
until he has proved himself capable of taking care of it. 
All that we have in this world belongs to God. Even 
we who are in Christ have been bought with the price 
of His blood; therefore we are not our own, but we 
belong to Him (1 Cor. 6:19, 20; 7:22, 23; 1 Pet. 1: 
18-20). Therefore we should feel our responsibility as 
servants and stewards of God (Rom. 12: 1, 2). 

2. The example of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 
2 : 44, 45 ; 4 : 32-37) . This community of goods was the 
result of the application of the above-named parable. 
The church at Jerusalem, under the guidance of the 
Spirit-filled apostles, thus became the example for all 
future ages. No man in that congregation regarded 
what he had as his own, but they had all things in 
common. This came about as a result of the spontane- 
ous outburst of Christian love. Conversion 'means 
absolute surrender to God. It is a passing from the 
selfishness of this world, in which the law of existence 
is the " survival of the fittest'' into the glorious un- 
selfishness of the kingdom of God (John 3:3). Either 
Christ or mammon predominates in the individual 
heart (Luke 16:13). The question as to which pre- 
dominates decides whether or not those who have been 
baptized are really Christian. When modern congre- 
gations are brought to realize that they themselves, as 
well as all they have, belong to God, they will emulate 
the financial liberality of the Jerusalem church. Hence 
the duty of the ministry! 

3. The New Testament plan of Christian giving (1 
Cor. 16:1, 2). This is outlined just as plainly as the 
gospel plan of salvation. While this was written to the 
church at Corinth, it becomes just as authoritative to 
all churches of Christ. Let us analyze this plan. 

a. Who should give? To whom was the letter ad- 
dressed? (1 Cor. 1:2). Unto the whole church of God 
at Corinth, those sanctified in Jesus Christ. This in- 
cluded all the members of the church — men, women 
and children. The command was to each and every 
member. It makes the offering a part of the regular 
service, and something in which every Christian should 
participate. A man can not be baptized for his family, 
neither can he give for his family. The divine plan 
teaches the children, as well as the adults, to give. 
"When the children of to-day are educated in this man- 
ner, giving will become a necessary factor in their 
worship as they grow up into men and women. 

b. How often? Upon the first day of the week, or 
the Lord's Day (Rev, 1:10). Thus the offering be- 
comes a part of the Lord's Day worship, along with 
the praise service, communion and sermon (Acts 20: 7). 
"We can see the wisdom of such a plan. The offering 
becomes a factor in bringing the Christian to the 
Lord's Day worship (Matt. 6:21). The man who in- 
vests in the extension of the kingdom of God naturally 
enjoys seeing the results of his investment. Every 
Christian giving upon each first day of the week 
establishes a systematic plan of giving. This money is 
paid into the Lord's treasury for the extension of 
the kingdom, and should continue to be paid year 
after year regularly, whether the congregation has 
a minister or not. By following the divine plan, there 
will always be plenty of money to meet all current 
expenses 

c. How much? Every one should give as God has 
prospered him. In estimating this, man should take 
into account his spiritual, as well as his material, bless- 
ings. Men, as a rule, do not appreciate the goodness 
of God, and are liable to underestimate their responsi- 
bility. Hence the value of the assessment plan by 
which the weekly assessments are made by the board 
of deacons acting in consultation with each individual 
member. "As God hath prospered us" establishes the 
measure of giving. It merely increases the responsi- 
bility of the wealthy member in proportion to his 
riches. It establishes an equality between all members. 
If I am a steward of what God has given me, it fol- 
lows that I should give back to Him in proportion to 
what He has given to me. 

Let us emphasize the tithe. God expected one-tenth 
from the Jews. The Christian is blessed infinitely more 
than the Jew. If God expected a tenth from the Jew, 
He undoubtedly expects even more from the Christian. 
Let us never be guilty of giving less than one-tenth of 
our income to the Lord. 

4. The manner of Christian giving. What we give 
must be given freely, cheerfully and humbly (2 Cor. 
9:6, 7). If not cheerfully given, better not be given 
at all. Giving for the sake of respectability, or to be 
seen of men, is an abomination in the sight of God 
(Luke 16:15; Matt. 23:5). Every Christian, giving 
to the Lord's work cheerfully, regularly, as God hath 
prospered him, would soon solve the financial problem 
of many congregations. 

5. The Bible condemnation of covetousness (Luke 
12 : 15 ; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10 ; Eph. 5 : 3-5) . There is no evil 
in material wealth, if honestly gained, and dedicated 
to the glory of God. Wealth, however, has a tendency 
to develop covetousness, and covetousness will damn 
the soul (Luke 18:18-25). The person who is funda- 
mentally selfish at heart has never been "born again." 
A covetous man is more unlike Christ than any other 
person in the world (1 Cor. 5:9-11). The church has 
greatly sinned in dealing with covetous members. 

Ananias and Sapphira tried to keep back a portion 
of their possessions. They suffered the consequences of 
their folly, Many Christians to-day are withholding 
from God a portion of that which rightfully belongs to 
Him. The fate of Ananias and Sapphira should be a 
most solemn warning to all that it is impossible to 
steal from God without just retribution. People must 
be warned to flee covetousness as a pestilence. Because 
ministers have failed to live up to their duty along 
this line, hundreds of professed Christians are going 
straight to the perdition of ungodly men (2 Pet, 2: 
9-14). 

Christianity is pre-eminently a religion of sacri- 
fice. The story is told that Phillips Brooks once called 
upon Cornelius Vanderbilt, the multimillionaire, to ask 
for money to carry out a certain benevolent project. 
Mr. Vanderbilt wrote a check for two thousand dollars, 
then reached in his pocket, secured a two-dollar bill, 
and laid it upon the check, offering the amount to the 
preacher. The latter was somewhat puzzled. Said he: 
"I do not understand why you have given me this bill 
along with such a generous check. " To which Mr. Van- 
derbilt replied: "That check amounts to nothing. It 
does not even represent a small fraction of my income. 
But I sat up all the way from Buffalo to New York the 
other night, instead of buying a Pullman berth, to save 
this two dollars. It represents a sacrifice, and I want 
you to accept it as such'' 

A congregation that represents thousands of dollars 
in bank accounts, real estate, farm land, live stock, etc., 
but lingers along with half or quarter time preaching, 
without any sense of missionary obligation whatever, 
is not a congregation of Christians, but a congregation 
of heathen. 

Men must learn and apply the Bible principles of 
Christian giving. Because they have depended upon 
human wisdom instead of the wisdom of God, the 
church has often been brought into disrepute in many 
communities. In such manner, church fairs, bazaars, 
oyster suppers, public dinners, and so on, have origi- 
nated, which have done more to destroy the power of 
the church over the world than any other cause. The 
Lord's business should be financed by the Lord's peo- 
ple. The church lowers her prestige by making indis- 
criminate appeals to men of the world for financial 
assistance. When we begin to teach the Bible prin- 
ciples of liberality, and warn people to flee covetous- 
ness, the business side of Christianity will soon adjust 
itself.