A spirit to guard against

But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.

Acts 5:1-11

We read in the gospels how Jesus preached to a multitude in a desert place, and when the day was over, the disciples would have sent them back to their villages to buy what they needed for a meal. But Jesus told them to feed the crowd themselves. Between them they had five loaves and two fishes, which they knew did not even begin to be enough for the crowd. But when Christ blessed and broke the bread, the food was enough for everyone. Not only that, but when they gathered up the leftovers, there were twelve baskets full.

Christ shows us, by this miracle, that he feeds all those who gather in his Name; and not only that, but there is spiritual food in abundance for others too – the twelve baskets representing the twelve tribes of his people.

The food was provided by the disciples (the account by John says that a lad had the provisions). What if the spirit that, in later days, entered Ananias and Sapphira had entered some of the disciples? Maybe that spirit seems to be a rational one – “Oh I need to keep a little back for such-and-such a purpose, but the common purse will still be well provided for!” What if the Lord had only two loaves and one fish, would he still have been able to feed the five thousand? Of course. “With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26, and other verses). Likewise, the Church continued when the two liars had passed away.

But the spirit that entered them is still abroad in the world when, for reasons that may seem all too sensible at the time, people have their eye on some agenda, some arrangement, some way of doing things that may even seem right and holy to them; and when there is a multitude to feed, and as few as two disciples come forward with a loaf or a fish, the others are obstinate and refuse to share. But the Lord takes their meagre provisions, feeds the hungry, and gathers up the twelve baskets of leftovers. He feeds those who will come to him, those who will share.

The spirit that entered Ananias and Sapphira, however, is a murderous, wrecking spirit, which seeks to pull down the Church. Whoever does not gather with Christ, scatters abroad (Matthew 12:30, Luke 11:23).

This seems a hard lesson for us, but it is a necessary one. No matter what the reason may be that tempts someone to hold back and let others bring loaves and fishes for the Lord to bless and break, it is a false reason. It scatters abroad, while Christ gathers. This temptation must be resisted.

No matter what you strive to build, you labour in vain if the Lord does not build (Psalm 127:1). No matter how good and holy your own agenda seems to you, if you let others be the ones who come forward with the loaves and fishes, then the spirit that was in Ananias and Sapphira is surely within you.

Friends – guard against this.

(from The Call, 2008 issue 1)

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