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Weekly Lift

#104. Generous or not?

Bruce Stanley

May 30, 2022

Generous, or not?

I've known some generous people in my time. People who are generous with their money. People who are generous with their time. People who are generous with grace and forgiveness. But in reality, only God knows someone's heart. Only God knows someone's true level of generosity. A wealthy person giving $1000 may seem more generous than a poorer person giving $50. Only God knows how much they are giving and how much they are keeping. One person may give many hours of their time a week to help those in need. Another may give very little time. But perhaps they have different amounts of time available due to other important commitments or health restrictions or due to their stage of life. Only God knows our true generosity because only God knows our true heart. This is why it is difficult to define generosity. What is generous for one person may not be very generous for another.

One of the greatest stories of generosity is the story of Ananias and Sapphira...

Acts 5:1-11

1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.3Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”9Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”10At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

it is a shocking story. These two people had been so generous. They had sold their land and brought the money to the apostles for the work of God's kingdom. What people saw was a great act of generosity. I don't know if many of us would be so generous as to sell a property and give away the money.

Of course, the surprise is that they are struck down dead by the Lord. Why? Because they were so generous? No. But because they tried to look more generous than they were. They had held back some of the money from the sale of their property. And there is nothing wrong with that! But they pretended that they were giving it all. Imagine the conversation (to paraphrase)...

Ananias and Sapphira bring a load of money and say: "Look, we sold our property and here is ALL the money from the sale!"

And Peter replies "Is that really all of it?"

Ananias lies: "Yes! That's ALL of it."

Ananias dies.

Peter says to Sapphira, his wife: "Is this really all of the money from the sale"

"Yes!" she says. And she is truck down dead too.

Why? Because they kept some back?

Not at all!

It was because they lied. As Peter said in verse 4 (to paraphrase) - "You could have done anything you wanted with the money. There would be nothing wrong with holding some of it back. So why did you choose to lie? Why not say 'Look, we sold our property and here is SOME of the money from the sale.' There would be nothing wrong with this! Why did you choose to lie about it?"

So why did they lie?

Simply so they would look MORE generous than they were. They made an amazingly generous gesture. But they wanted to look even better, and they thought "No one will know!"

But God knew.

So why did God strike them down dead? Why such a big response to this?

Well, here is the real point of the whole passage - God will not put up with posers. Here is God establishing his church from the very beginning - and there is no room for people who want to look impressive.

Let me tell you what I love about our church when it comes to generosity... we hardly ever know where it comes from. People with large or with little wealth continue to give for the purposes of God's kingdom. And no one receives applause. Why is this? Because all of our applause belongs to God who gives us EVERYTHING to begin with! I am always so thankful to see how so many of our financial and pastoral and other needs as a church are met, week by week, year by year. This generosity is received with great thanks, but it is usually received anonymously.

Why?

Because we cannot boast.

We cannot boast about being generous because ALL we have comes from our heavenly Father. To take any credit for our generosity is to take credit for God's generosity towards us. Ananias and Sapphira made one huge mistake - they took God's glory for themselves. God dealt with them swiftly because this is a characteristic that can sweep through a church like wildfire. One person takes credit, then another, then another. And each time, God is robbed of the glory that belongs to him.

This is a cautionary tale. May God prevent this from ever happening in our church. May we always be thankful and give glory to God for the generosity of his people. Let us never give the glory to ourselves, or others. And we should take time to stop and do that now because God has enabled us to be generous in many ways over these past few years, and that generosity has enabled the gospel to reach more of Eastwood, Ermington, and a little bit more!

Prayer

God, our Lord and Father, you are so generous to us in all that you provide us with, but most of all we thank you for your generous salvation, offering forgiveness to us while we were once still your enemies. Please continue to teach us generosity in all things, and help us in our generosity to always give the glory to you, not thinking more highly of ourselves than we should, but being thankful that you have provided us with all we have, and with all that we are able to give.

Amen.

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