International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday September 13, 2015
Purpose: To examine the joy of sharing and the dangers of selfishness
Bible Lesson: Acts 4:32–5:11
Key Verse: There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought them the proceeds of what was sold. (Acts 4:34)
Acts 4:34–37 (CEB)
(34) There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, (35) and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need. (36) Joseph, whom the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (that is, “one who encourages”), was a Levite from Cyprus. (37) He owned a field, sold it, brought the money, and placed it in the care and under the authority of the apostles.
Acts 5:1- 10 (CEB)
(1) However, a man named Ananias, along with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property. (2) With his wife’s knowledge, he withheld some of the proceeds from the sale. He brought the rest and placed it in the care and under the authority of the apostles. (3) Peter asked, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has influenced you to lie to the Holy Spirit by withholding some of the proceeds from the sale of your land? (4) Wasn’t that property yours to keep? After you sold it, wasn’t the money yours to do with whatever you wanted? What made you think of such a thing? You haven’t lied to other people but to God!” (5)When Ananias heard these words, he dropped dead. Everyone who heard this conversation was terrified. (6) Some young men stood up, wrapped up his body, carried him out, and buried him. (7) About three hours later, his wife entered, but she didn’t know what had happened to her husband. (8) Peter asked her, “Tell me, did you and your husband receive this price for the field?” She responded, “Yes, that’s the amount.” (9) He replied, “How could you scheme with each other to challenge the Lord’s Spirit? Look! The feet of those who buried your husband are at the door. They will carry you out too.” (10) At that very moment, she dropped dead at his feet. When the young men entered and found her dead, they carried her out and buried her with her husband.
Some Thoughts by Burgess Walter
One of my early recollections as a child was this dramatization being presented as a “skit” in our church. Needless to say it created quite an impression on me, and also scared me to death. Looking back it may not have been age appropriate according to today’s standards, but the lesson was never lost on me.
The story of the early church is a phenomenal story. Still basking in the resurrection and Pentecost it was an exciting time. Many of these new followers of Jesus were convinced that Jesus would come back to them very quickly to finalize what they thought would happen. There was no need for earthly possessions, and this euphoria would continue until Jesus came back.
Unfortunately by the time of Stephen, some of the euphoria was waning. The church leaders had tried to keep this going by appointing deacons to minister to those outside of the Jewish community of believers.
Barnabas, who was from Cyprus was a wealthy landowner and a cousin to Mark, the gospel writer. Mark’s mother, was also a wealthy woman of that time. Obviously Barnabas’s generosity was honored and acknowledged. It may have inspired others to join in the benevolent attitude.
While Barnabas was authentic, some of the others were just publicity seekers. Such is the case for Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Their gift, which could of been blessed, was given out of deceit. Its only purpose was to inflate themselves in the eyes of the community. There is no way to paint what happened in positive way. They chose to deceive and it cost them their lives. Judgement by God is usually delayed, but not always. There are several incidents in the Bible where judgement is instant.
There is a hymn that explains the difference between Barnabas and Ananias and Sapphira. It is “All to Jesus I Surrender, All to Him I Freely Give. I Surrender All.”