1. DIVINELY-INSPIRED CHARITY
a. Describe the sincere charity of the early Christian church. Acts 4:32–35.
“As the disciples proclaimed the truths of the gospel in Jerusalem, God bore witness to their word, and a multitude believed. Many of these early believers were immediately cut off from family and friends by the zealous bigotry of the Jews, and it was necessary to provide them with food and shelter.
“The record declares, ‘Neither was there any among them that lacked,’ and it tells how the need was filled. Those among the believers who had money and possessions cheerfully sacrificed them to meet the emergency. . . .
“This liberality on the part of the believers was the result of the outpouring of the Spirit. The converts to the gospel were ‘of one heart and of one soul.’ One common interest controlled them—the success of the mission entrusted to them; and covetousness had no place in their lives. Their love for their brethren and the cause they had espoused, was greater than their love of money and possessions. Their works testified that they accounted the souls of men of higher value than earthly wealth. Thus it will ever be when the Spirit of God takes possession of the life.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 70, 71.
2. PARTING WITH MATERIAL GOODS
a. Why can we be inspired by the cheerful willingness of the early disciples to share with their fellow believers? 1 John 3:11, 16; Philippians 2:3, 4.
“Those whose hearts are filled with the love of Christ, will follow the example of Him who for our sake became poor, that through His poverty we might be made rich. Money, time, influence—all the gifts they have received from God’s hand, they will value only as a means of advancing the work of the gospel. Thus it was in the early church; and when in the church of today it is seen that by the power of the Spirit the members have taken their affections from the things of the world, and that they are willing to make sacrifices in order that their fellow men may hear the gospel, the truths proclaimed will have a powerful influence upon the hearers.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 71.
“Search heaven and earth, and there is no truth revealed more powerful than that which is made manifest in works of mercy to those who need our sympathy and aid. This is the truth as it is in Jesus.”—Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, p. 137.
b. Name one genuine example of this type of charity in action—in contrast to another example that at first, only God knew was ultimately to be false. Acts 4:36, 37; 5:1.
“In sharp contrast to the example of benevolence shown by the believers, was the conduct of Ananias and Sapphira, whose experience, traced by the pen of Inspiration, has left a dark stain upon the history of the early church. With others, these professed disciples had shared the privilege of hearing the gospel preached by the apostles. They had been present with other believers when, after the apostles had prayed, ‘the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost’ (Acts 4:31). Deep conviction had rested upon all present, and under the direct influence of the Spirit of God, Ananias and Sapphira had made a pledge to give to the Lord the proceeds from the sale of certain property.”—The Acts of the Apostles, pp. 71, 72.
3. FROM THE HEART OR NOT?
a. What did Ananias and Sapphira do with the proceeds of the property they had pledged to donate to the church—and why? Acts 5:2.
“Ananias and Sapphira grieved the Holy Spirit by yielding to feelings of covetousness. They began to regret their promise and soon lost the sweet influence of the blessing that had warmed their hearts with a desire to do large things in behalf of the cause of Christ. They thought they had been too hasty, that they ought to reconsider their decision. They talked the matter over, and decided not to fulfill their pledge. They saw, however, that those who parted with their possessions to supply the needs of their poorer brethren, were held in high esteem among the believers; and ashamed to have their brethren know that their selfish souls grudged that which they had solemnly dedicated to God, they deliberately decided to sell their property and pretend to give all the proceeds into the general fund, but really to keep a large share for themselves. Thus they would secure their living from the common store and at the same time gain the high esteem of their brethren.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 72.
b. Of what shallow motivation must we all beware? John 12:43.
“God does not intend that your light shall so shine that your good words or works shall bring the praise of men to yourself; but that the Author of all good shall be glorified and exalted. Jesus, in His life, gave to men a model of character. How little power did the world have over Him to mold Him according to its standard! All its influence was thrown off. He declared, ‘My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work!’ If we had this devotion to the work of God, doing it with an eye single to His glory, we should be able to say with Christ, ‘I seek not mine own glory.’ His life was full of good works, and it is our duty to live as our great Example lived. Our life must be hid with Christ in God, and then the light will be reflected from Jesus to us, and we shall reflect it upon those around us, not in mere talk and profession, but in good works, and by manifesting the character of Christ.”—Reflecting Christ, p. 41.
4. DRASTIC MEASURES
a. What do we need to realize and understand about the problem of Ananias and Sapphira? 2 Corinthians 9:7; Acts 5:3, 4.
“No undue influence had been brought to bear upon Ananias to compel him to sacrifice his possessions to the general good. He had acted from choice. But in attempting to deceive the disciples, he had lied to the Almighty.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 73.
“Satan led Ananias and Sapphira to lie to the Holy Ghost. Those who are not wholly consecrated to God may be led to do the work of Satan, while yet they flatter themselves that they are in the service of Christ.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 103.
“The hearts of men become hardened through selfishness, and, like Ananias and Sapphira, they are tempted to withhold part of the price, while pretending to fulfill God’s requirements. Many spend money lavishly in self-gratification. Men and women consult their pleasure and gratify their taste, while they bring to God, almost unwillingly, a stinted offering. They forget that God will one day demand a strict account of how His goods have been used, and that He will no more accept the pittance they hand into the treasury than He accepted the offering of Ananias and Sapphira.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 75.
b. Explain the drastic way the Lord had to protect His early church from the ways of this hypocritical pair—and why. Acts 5:5–10; Matthew 6:24.
“Infinite Wisdom saw that this signal manifestation of the wrath of God was necessary to guard the young church from becoming demoralized. Their numbers were rapidly increasing. The church would have been endangered if, in the rapid increase of converts, men and women had been added who, while professing to serve God, were worshiping mammon. This judgment testified that men cannot deceive God, that He detects the hidden sin of the heart, and that He will not be mocked. It was designed as a warning to the church, to lead them to avoid pretense and hypocrisy, and to beware of robbing God.”—Ibid., pp.73, 74.
5. A WARNING FOR US TODAY
a. What minimum does God require of us today concerning our finances and pledges? Ecclesiastes 5:4–6; Malachi 3:8–12.
“The people need to be impressed with the sacredness of their vows and pledges to the cause of God. Such pledges are not generally held to be as obligatory as a promissory note from man to man. But is a promise less sacred and binding because it is made to God? Because it lacks some technical terms, and cannot be enforced by law, will the Christian disregard the obligation to which he has given His word? No legal note or bond is more obligatory than a pledge made to the cause of God.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 6, p. 1056.
“The New Testament does not reenact the law of the tithe, as it does not that of the Sabbath; for the validity of both is assumed, and their deep spiritual import explained.”—Counsels on Stewardship, p. 66.
“The hearts of men become hardened through selfishness, and, like Ananias and Sapphira, they are tempted to withhold part of the price while pretending to come up to the rules of tithing.”—Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 150.
“In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, the sin of fraud against God was speedily punished. The same sin was often repeated in the after history of the church and is committed by many in our time. But though it may not be attended by the visible manifestation of God’s displeasure, it is no less heinous in His sight now than in the apostles’ time. The warning has been given; God has clearly manifested His abhorrence of this sin; and all who give themselves up to hypocrisy and covetousness may be sure that they are destroying their own souls.”—The Acts of the Apostles, p. 76.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How can I develop and cultivate the attitude manifested in Acts 4:32–35?
2. Explain the difference between the gift of Joses Barnabas and of Ananias.
3. What motives caused Ananias and his wife to lie to the Holy Spirit?
4. Why did the Lifegiver slay the guilty pair—and why does He not today?
5. What do I need to realize about my vows/pledges, tithes, and offerings?