Some of the best cooks in the world sit in church pews—as attested to by the line of 8 ft. rectangular tables, sagging under the weight of crock-pots and casserole dishes brimming with home-cooked goodness. I love potlucks for many reasons, two of which I’ll discuss here. First, because it’s all-you-can-eat. Gotta love a buffet. Second, because there’s something almost holy about the simplicity of the process, the speed with which so many people get so incredibly overstuffed. Some of the best cooks in the world sit in church pews—as attested to by the line of 8 ft. rectangular tables, sagging under the weight of crock-pots and casserole dishes brimming with home-cooked goodness. I love potlucks for many reasons, two of which I’ll discuss here. First, because it’s all-you-can-eat. Gotta love a buffet. Second, because there’s something almost holy about the simplicity of the process, the speed with which so many people get so incredibly overstuffed. Think about the ease of each selected portion transferring from serving dish to plate to fork to mouth. And when our plates are licked clean, we start over: ladling a portion from the serving dish to plate to fork to mouth. Mmmhmm. Now imagine the turmoil if some well-intentioned saint decided to bless the congregation by adding crab legs to the potluck table. Mounds of prickly-shelled projects would have children holding up the line, asking, “Ewww, what’s that?” Hostesses would be scurrying to the kitchen, searching unmarked drawers for shell-cracking utensils. Crab legs require WORK—completely inappropriate for a potluck! Folks might even cut their hands on the shells! They’re not SAFE! Think about it. Crab legs would take potlucks to a whole new level. They’d separate the serious eaters from the casual potluckers. We might even say crab legs would measure commitment…
Acts 4:32-35 – “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” (emphasis added)
Remember that at this point, the early church numbers over five thousand, including men and women (Acts 4:4). Imagine 5,000 people with a single focus and purpose, pointing all their collective energy and resources toward one goal and submitting themselves wholly to each other as they pursued that goal. Amazing…this is God’s church as it should be. Short lived, but recorded as our example.
Acts 4:36-5:2 – “Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. 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.” (emphasis added)
As a man descended from the Tribe of Levi, Joseph (Barnabas) would not have traditionally owned property in Israel. The fact that he owned land in another country was significant and must have been gained through his wife’s family or another set of circumstances. Regardless, for a Levite to sell hard-won property was a great sacrifice, which emphasizes the despicable nature of Ananias and Sapphira’s greed. Note the selfish couple sold only a piece of their property and then kept even a portion of that piece for themselves. No doubt, Ananias and Sapphira felt pressured to give because they compared themselves to others. Comparing ourselves is destructive—even when it causes us to do good things. Their good deed fed a deceitful spirit because it originated from a flawed motive. Better to do nothing than to do a good thing that further darkens the heart.
Acts 5:3-10 – “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 to men but to God.’
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
Peter asked her, ‘Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?’
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘that is the price.’
Peter said to her, ‘How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’ At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.” (emphasis added)
At this point, Peter represented the Church, not just the man, Peter. He represented the whole Body of Christ, the vehicle by which God would spread the Good News of salvation to the world. God’s plan for spreading the Gospel hasn’t changed. Though the Church, both its leaders and laity, overflows with imperfect people, God continues to use us to reach the lost and hurting souls of this world. When we criticize, withhold funds, or in some other way damage our churches…we are acting out against the representation of God on this earth. I understand that there are many factors to qualify that statement, but within the context of this story in Scripture, please see the heart of God’s message. When the motivation of the heart causes a member of the church to deceive the body/leadership, that member has sinned against God Himself. We would do well to seek unity rather than division in our churches.
Acts 5:11-16 – “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.” (emphasis added)
The fear aroused by Ananias’ and Sapphira’s deaths worked for God’s glory and the early church’s good in several ways: 1) No one dared join the church unless they were serious about their faith; 2) People recognized the great power of God and brought the sick and tormented for healing; and 3) Word spread to towns around Jerusalem. What if the early church had remained a worry-free potluck dinner—all-you-can-stand blessing, grace, and provision. Or what if the apostles had levied punishment rather than God’s all-knowing hand of power? How much better was God’s intervention, His lesson, His guidance? He showed them and us that anything worth having is worth effort—so grab a holy crab leg and dig in.
- Lord, I confess that I want my Christian walk to be easy, effortless. But I realize it’s the struggles and questions that create strong spiritual muscles of faith and trust. I don’t understand why You do some of the things You do, but I’m learning to trust Your goodness regardless of my understanding. May Your power be reassuring to me, not cause for suspicion or accusation; and may Your perfect knowledge reveal my motives before darkness roots in my heart.