It is more blessed to give than to receive.
This statement from Acts 20:35 is true. I have experienced it. You have, too. Giving is an integral thread in the fabric of our Christian faith. God Himself is a giver. He has given us the greatest gift in all the world: His Son. In response to that gift, we give ourselves to God. Part of giving back to Him is returning our money to God. It is important for us to give. It’s more important how we give.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira is one of the most sobering narratives in the Bible. In contrast to the positive example of giving Barnabas set and the overall generosity of the Christian community, we witness the great deception of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11.
The story goes as follows: married couple Ananias and Sapphira were part of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. Inspired by the generosity of other believers in the community, Ananias and Sapphira decided to sell their property but chose to retain some of the money for themselves, presenting only a portion of it to the Apostles. They pretended it was the full amount. They deceitfully claimed to give the entire proceeds of the sale.
Peter confronted Ananias and Sapphira about their deceit. Both fell dead because of God’s punishment. The event struck fear deep in the hearts of all who witnessed it. But what does this story teach us about giving? Let me share two principles we learn from this terrifying tale:
1. God sees and knows everything. I have never understood why Christians sometimes care more about what others see and know about them than what God knows. I have been guilty of this. Maybe you have, too. We can’t trick or outsmart God. He sees and knows everything, all our thoughts, words, and deeds.
This is also true about money. He knows what we give, what we keep, and even how we think about the money He has given us. This knowledge should humble us and motivate us to honesty and generosity with ourselves, others, and ultimately, God. Giving is good. Giving from a loving and honest heart is better.
2. It’s not about the size of the gift. Ananias and Sapphira did not sin when they did not give the full amount made in their sale. They sinned with deception and hypocrisy when pretending to be more generous than they were. They did not have to sell their property. They were under no obligation to give all the proceeds from the sale to the church. It was okay to keep part of the money for themselves. The problem was not with the size of the gift but with the heart behind it.
Giving is both an act of worship and a declaration of trust in God. God doesn’t care about the size of the gift, but He cares deeply about the heart of the giver. He cares more about us than our money. He desires our hearts and trust in Him. He is worthy of both.
God doesn’t need our money. He owns everything already. No, God wants our hearts, desires, and worship. Giving is simply an opportunity to demonstrate our trust to God and to join Him in what He is doing in the world.
This article was previously posted in the December 2023/January 2024 edition of ONE Magazine.