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Next Message in Series:
"Though None Go With Me..."
Do You Surrender ‘All’?
Acts 4:32–5:11 (focal: 5:3–5)
NEWS FLASH: In an effort to make the great hymns of the Christian faith more palatable to "today's Christian," an interdenominational committee has proposed that the titles and wordings of selected hymns be modified slightly.
Here is a sample of the 'new' hymns proposed by the committee...
•I Surrender Some •There Shall Be Sprinkles of Blessings •Fill My Spoon, Lord •Oh, How I like Jesus •I Love to Talk about Telling the Story •Take My Life and Let Me Be •There Is Scattered Cloudiness in My Soul Today •Where He Leads Me, I Will Consider Following •Just as I Pretend to Be •When the Saints Go Sneaking in •Sit Up, Sit up for Jesus •A Comfy Mattress Is Our God •When Peace, like a Trickle •I'm Fairly Certain That My Redeemer Lives •My Faith Looks Around for Thee •Spirit of the Living God, Fall Somwhere near Me •Spirit of God, Descend upon Their Hearts
The first of these facetious hymn retitlings—"I Surrender Some"—is a good way to describe many Christians’ attitude toward giving.
Their attitude is much like that of the young boys in this little anecdote:
A certain pastor thought taking his two visiting nephews to church would be a good experience.
Neither of the six and nine-year-old boys had any church experience, so Bob looked forward to the opportunity of spiritual exposure.
The stark reality, though, of kids growing up outside of the church came to fruition when the kids came down for the children's sermon.
In the middle of the discussion with the kids, the pastor's six-year-old nephew, Eric, raised his hand and blurted out, "How much longer do we have to stay up here?"
Pastor Bob endured and went on.
Eric was still not terribly impressed with what he had seen.
This became most evident when the offering plates were passed.
Little Eric watched with keen interest as the plate made its way toward him.
When the offering plate reached his hands he asked in a very audible voice, "You mean we gotta pay for this?" [source: Baptist Beacon, 2~/20~/92, p. 5. Qtd in In other Words, Raymond McHenry]
Many different factors can cause us to be reluctant to part with what we have, even if it means giving it to God for the benefit of his kingdom.
Whether it's money, time, energy, our abilities, what have you, we can come up with a multitude of reasons not to let go of it.
It may be that, like little Eric, you don't feel that you have any reason to want to bring your gift before God.
It may be that you feel your gift is too small to matter before God.
It may be that you're afraid that your gift will not be used for any good, and then you'll be left with nothing and nothing to show for it—this was the fear of the servant described by Jesus in Matthew 25, the servant who buried his single coin in the ground rather than risk losing it by using it.
But God does desire that we present him with our best, and that we honor him and worship him by making available to him all that we have.
And even beyond that, God desires for us to "Let Him Show Us What He Can Do" when we are truly faithful in making everything that we have available to him.
In Acts 4:32—5:11 Luke presents us with a study of contrasts.
First, he presents the ideal picture of a church and an individual who are committed to giving God their all.
Then, he describes another all-too-familiar scenario in which a supposedly "righteous" couple attempt to cheat God out of what rightfully is due Him.
Which picture describes you?
Acts 4:32–5:11: 4:32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.
33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.
35 They laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
36 There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name Barnabas (which means "son of encouragement").
37 He sold a field that belonged to him, then brought the money, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
5:1 But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; 2 with his wife's knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles' feet.
3 "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? 4 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!"
5 Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died.
And great fear seized all who heard of it.
6 The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8 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."
9 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." 10 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.
11 And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.
"I just can’t..." "You don’t know my situation..." Such are common responses many give to justify their unwillingness to present a full tithe to the Lord.
Perhaps there were such persons in the early church.
Perhaps some even suggested that, even though the ideal situation would allow for individuals to tithe, the realities of life make such a practice nearly impossible.
To such rationalizers, Luke presents (in 4:36–37) the real-life example of Barnabas, who demonstrated by his manner of living what it meant to be faithful to the Lord’s command regarding tithes and offerings.
Then, Luke gives a clearly negative example which illustrates the danger of not remaining faithful in this area!
Ananias and Sapphira’s story is a tragic example of the ways in which we attempt to swindle, shortchange, and hold out on our God.
And, it’s a severe warning that such behavior does not go unnoticed by the sovereign Lord of the universe.
Instead of keying in on the negative side of the story, though, I would like to focus on the positive truths which we can learn from the tale of Ananias and Sapphira...
Your Full Tithe is a Mark of God's Spirit at Work in Your Life.
"‘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?’"
(verse 3).
In Galatians 5 Paul says that one of the fruits of the Spirit—that is, one of those characteristics that's got to be present in the life of a committed Christian—is generosity, or a willingness to share.
And that's the essence of Malachi 3:8-12:
8 Will anyone rob God?
Yet you are robbing me!
But you say, "How are we robbing you?"
In your tithes and offerings!
9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me-- the whole nation of you! 10 Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
11 I will rebuke the locust for you, so that it will not destroy the produce of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not be barren, says the LORD of hosts.
12 Then all nations will count you happy, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts.
In this passage it's made clear that, if we as God's people are to claim that we are living in a right relationship with God, we must be able to back that up by pointing to the full tithe which we've brought into his storehouse (v.
Your monetary gift to God through his church; your gift of time as you work in his church and witness in his name in the world; your gift of abilities as you strive to find ways to take the talents he's given you and use them in his service—all of these offerings to God are marks that the Holy Spirit of God is at work in your life, that you know that you are saved and forgiven, and that you want God to have at His disposal whatever part of you he needs to give that same assurance to others and to bring others into his kingdom as well.
During the Master's Golf Tournament in 1997, many fans noticed early on in the first day of competition that eventual champion Tiger Woods was wearing an unusual little badge on his shirt lapel.
Now, professional athletes in general have a tendency to be very superstitious—some players will wear the same socks for days on end, or wear their cap in exactly the same precise position for an entire career, if they believe it will bring them good fortune on the playing field.
Lots of fans quickly surmised that the same must be true for Tiger Woods—that the little badge he was wearing must be some superstition of his, some "good luck pin" or some little piece of memorabilia that he felt would give him strength during the four days of the Tournament.
In good time, though, it was pointed out that the little badge he was wearing wasn't a superstition, nor was it something designed to bring good fortune—it was simply Tiger's Player's Badge, the identification piece that allowed him to walk past security and onto the golf course.
Every player had one; people just noticed it on Tiger because he was such a high-profile player and because he was wearing the badge in an unusual place.
Lots of Christians want to misinterpret tithes and offerings, and stewardship in general, in the same way.
But understand that your faithfulness in giving is not something you do out of "superstition," because you feel that you'll receive good fortune as a result.
It's not something you do to get a sense of security.
It's simply part of your "player's badge"—a "mark" of the Spirit's work in our lives, one of the things that identifies us as believers.
And if Christ has truly redeemed you and done a transforming work in your life, your greatest desire should be to want to be identified in that way, as a committed follower of Jesus.
Your Gift is Measured By God's Standards--not the world's.
"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!" (verse 4).
Peter reminds Ananias here that God measures things very differently from human beings.
God says in Isaiah 55:9,
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
You know as well as I that the world measures our contributions to society in terms of how sizable and how spectacular they are.
Buildings and stadiums get named after the donor who writes the biggest check.
The success or worth of an athlete, or a businessperson, is measured not by the sincerity of their efforts but the size of the end results.
God's Word, though, teaches us that God's Standards are different!
To understand that, we only need to look at the lesson Jesus taught while standing in the Temple one day.
Consider Mark 12:41–44:
"Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury.
Many rich people put in large sums.
A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.
Then he called his disciples and said to them, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.
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