But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.' Acts 1:8Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. Acts 5:5-6
Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things. Acts 5:10-11
Acts 5:1-11 is not in the Revised Common Lectionary, so please indulge me a bit in reflecting on this text. What would happen if a given church congregation had a stewardship ministry where they ask Christians in the church to prayerfully consider all that God has given them, and then place a fair share of God's blessings church offering? Now suppose a certain couple did sell some land and received a huge windfall of profit. When it came time to offering the first fruits of their bounty to God, they told a little "fib" to the Pastor/Church Stewardship person and held back some of their offering-then suddenly dropped dead in front of the whole congregation for being less than generous. Would this make a "believer" out of the rest of the congregation to know if they lied about their income to God? They could be a corpse before the ushers even brought the offering plate up front?
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzche would argue that most humans today act as if "God is dead." People do not really live as if there is a divinity watching our every move, and calling us out when we break say one of the Ten Commandments. Ditto for when one is sick, many of us do not pray to God, but go to the doctor or hospital. When a person places their hand on a Bible to swear to tell the truth in court, they are not so much afraid of being struck down by lightening or having a heart attack if they lie, but rather any legal fines or jail time for perjury. So Nietzche might argue that Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 dropped dead because their own bodily functions failed for some reason that only an autopsy can determine.
The theology of the Book of Acts says that God provides the Holy Spirit. The word Spirit Greek is "Pneuma." This is where we get the term pneumatics, or "The study of the mechanical processes of air and other gases." In other words air is one source of life that sustains our bodies. The Apostles' Creed affirms this in the phrase, "I believe (trust) in the Holy Spirit." Luke-Acts is a two volume book in the New Testament Canon that shows how Jesus lived his life and various examples of early believers living out their personal faith. It is done within the context of community. There is no "private religion" per se here-the community spirit info faith in the crucified and risen Jesus is what what sustains life. This might beg the question of what sort of spirits move us in our small town to sustain or continue life? There are numerous examples of positive role models in Acts such as: Peter, James, Stephen, Paul and others. But Acts 5 provides one not so positive model. This is a model to avoid-that being Ananias and Sapphira being stingy with their offerings to the community of faith.
I learned stewardship or giving back to God from my parents since age 5 when they always gave me to some change to drop into the Sunday school offering plate. Later my dad dropped a check or an envelope into the church offering plate. We use to do the "little boxes" offering for the mission cause of the year as well. If none of us suddenly drop dead like Ananias and Sapphira, we all will one day have to meet the end of lives when we die. God's grace is free. Salvation is a gift for sure. However, how do we sustain the life of the community of Christ with our own giving? This is a stewardship question I can imagine is asked in many churches. Amen.
(Source: Grenz, Stanley, and Roger Olson. "20th Century Theology: God & the World in a Transitional Age." Downers Grove, IL. Inter-Varsity Press., 1992.)