1 Timothy 6:10 (NIV)
For the love of money
is a root of all kinds of evil.
What does the book of Acts teach about money?
- Share it
- Use it wisely
- You don’t need it
- All of the above
The Apostles weren’t men of means. They owned little. It didn’t take big bucks to build God’s Church.
The book of Acts shows us what to do and not to do with our money. Let’s start with the “nots.”
First up: the scary saga of Ananias and Sapphira:
Acts 5:1-2 (NIV)
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With 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.
They sell some land and make a generous contribution to the church. Sounds good, right? If we back up a couple verses, we learn that Barnabas had done the same thing. Sounds good all around. But it wasn’t.
Then 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? Didn’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.”
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.
Sapphira appears, tells the same story, with the same outcome.
Here’s what we know: they give the Apostles the impression that they are donating the whole sum. What we don’t know is why. Do they covet the attention given to Barnabas? Are they hoping to inflate their influence? Are they plotting a double life? Do they think God won’t know?
God knows. And Peter knows. Divine revelation? Possibly. Or maybe Peter knows somebody who knows somebody who knows the buyers. And not long after, the whole city knows.
The real lesson here is less about money and more about truth. Don’t lie to God. It’s not the money.
Paul might have had Ananias in mind when he offered this guidance:
2 Corinthians 9:7
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
And a lying, conniving giver? Fatal error.
Bad example #2: Simon from Samaria:
When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”
Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.
If you think you can buy off God, you don’t know God.
Let’s wrap up our bad examples with Demetrius:
About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all.
Know this: if you profit from evil, a flood of the Spirit may wash away your income. Don’t try to quench the Spirit for the sake of your bank account.
Remember what Jesus said:
No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Demetrius makes clear which master he serves.
Now, on to the positive examples, starting with Peter.
Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”
Money isn’t always the answer. God may have a bigger and better plan.
God calls us to help the poor, and Dorcas and Cornelius show us how.
In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor.
He [Cornelius] and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.
Dorcas uses her sewing skills. Acts doesn’t tell us the source of her fabric. Did she buy it new? Possibly. Work with donations? Maybe. But she’s remembered for her kindness, not her money.
Cornelius gave generously. Sometimes money is the answer.
And speaking of generosity:
All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
It is easy to picture a fellowship of poor people pooling their resources. But these are believers with property and possessions. They were willing to lower their standard of living to help those in need.
During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) The disciples, as each one was able, decided to provide help for the brothers and sisters living in Judea. This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
In times of disaster, believers help their brothers and sisters in Christ–
as each one was able, bringing to mind Christ’s words.
. . . from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.
Paul is entrusted with much. He does more to build the Church than anyone. And much of his effort is self-funded. As long as he is able, he works.
Acts 20:33-35 (said to the Ephesian elders)
I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
This is the money message of Acts: It is more blessed to give than to receive.
“Take my silver and my gold;
Not a mite would I withhold . . .
Take my will, and make it Thine;
It shall be no longer mine . . .
Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure-store.”
Frances R. Havergal
Take My Life and Let It Be, 1874
Lord, you know that I would never try to buy your power like Simon or lie about money like Sapphira. But sometimes I am guilty of a what’s-in-it-for-me Demetrius attitude. Grow in me Paul’s willingness to work and the early believers’ willingness to share. Lord, I want to be a cheerful giver!
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the LORD your God.
Here and now, most of us don’t have an actual field. Substitute “income” for “field.” Don’t live to the very edges of your income. Deliberately leave some money to share.
Love the people, not the money. Be extravagantly generous. Build the Church.
When we met together–real time and real people–for this study, Christmas had just passed. There’s no better time than Christmas to ponder the blessings of generosity.