Holy Stewardship Sermon! I’m not sure this would preach in our pulpit today! The story of Ananias and Sapphira comes to us today in our Acts passage. It has much to teach us about the place that God holds in our community of faith.
This husband and wife team conspire to deceive Peter and the community with their partial tithe. They owned a piece of land, sold it, but instead of giving all their proceeds to the church (as was the new Christian “tithe”) they decided to hold some back for themselves. The husband lies to Peter. Peter sees through the lie and declares, “You did not lie to us but to God!” He falls dead.
Three hours pass, and his wife, Sapphira, not knowing her husband is dead yet, arrives. Peter asks her why she is putting the Spirit to the test. She also falls dead.
Could you imagine the new Stewardship Campaign? Give all to God, or he will strike you dead!
This is not a story of Peter’s power, or God’s judgment, or even a story about tithing. I’m not even sure it is a story about Ananias and Sapphira. It is a framing of the new Christian order. Who was leading this group of misfits? Not Peter – but God. God is calling together this community of believers, and God is in charge. Peter makes it clear that their violation was not against the people, but against God.
This is also the first time we hear a new word: “church”. Not a common word in the gospels, this is the first time it is used in Luke-Acts. Already though, we are getting a flavor of what this new “church” is all about, how it functions, and who is in charge.
The Holy Spirit directs and guides us. And from among us we chose leaders who guide us and represent us, but it is God who we call Lord.
This is of great comfort to me, especially when I think of the brokenness of people – our sin and folly. There is no church that is perfect, because there are no people that are without sin. And when we look to God for leadership, we are on safer ground – in fact, the safest ground we can be on.