If you’re reading this in the morning, you might be thinking what I am right now: this Ananias and Sapphira story is definitely not the “feel good” Bible verse I need as an encouraging boost before a busy and hectic day. Welcome to Lent. I see two problems in my heart from the get-go: I am not keen on leaning into the discomfort of this season of fasting, and I am not keen on slowing down. Well, friends, let’s lean in. Let’s slow down. Welcome the Holy Spirit into this moment and this season.
I’ve always thought that the Ananias and Sapphira story was about generosity; they were supposed to give 100% of the proceeds from the sale of their land to the community, and they did not. As a result, their lives were instantaneously demanded of them. As I’ve read it over and over a different issue seems more evident: they allowed a spirit of deceit to enter a unified community that was beginning to change the world. It wasn’t that they should have given it all, it was that they shouldn’t have threatened the oneness of the community by conspiring and lying together.
If you’ve read the preceding chapters in Acts, you know that crazy things are going down for Jesus’ followers. The Spirit has come upon them in remarkable power, many are repenting and being baptized, healings and miracles are commonplace, and there’s an undivided sense of community. Everything they owned was shared, and no one was in need. The intensity of the community was both very spiritual and very practical. The concern here is not the hidden income from the other half of the sale; what is at stake is the community itself.
Is the Christian community so essential to us that we would seek to protect it when its unity is at stake? Is it so central to our lives that we would let the oneness spill into our finances and possessions? This is a true fast: that we would invite the Spirit to move so deeply in our hearts that we could not help but profoundly feel the needs of the community around us and be willing to use all that we have, both spiritual and physical, to fill those needs (Isaiah 58:6-8).
Lean in, friends. Slow down. This is just the beginning.