It’s that time of year. The older I get, the quicker it seems to get here. This coming week will be filled with a lot of traveling, visiting families, eating, singing Christmas carols, exchanging gifts, and watching football. Some of us may even volunteer our time to help others who may not be blessed to have what we have. We will each probably give of ourselves more over the next couple of weeks than we do any other time of the year. Because of that, I can’t help but think of one question: why do we do what we do? Don’t apply that question to just the Christmas season. Think much broader. We can come up with all kinds of answers to that question, but it all really boils down to two reasons: glory or sacrifice.
Acts 5:1-11 lays out a very familiar story from which we’ve all heard many sermons and Bible classes. Ananias schemed with his wife Sapphira to sell a piece of property and give that money to the apostles. They took the proceeds from the sale and gave a portion of it to the apostles and kept a portion for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that. We do that all the time today. Rarely do we place in the collection plate the entire amount of our paycheck. The problem is that Ananias and Sapphira lied about what they did. So, why were they really giving the money to the apostles? Were they trying to sacrifice and give of themselves, or were they trying to bring glory to themselves? It was the latter, and for that reason they lost their lives.
When we read or hear stories like this from Scripture, it’s very easy for us to sit in the pew and think “How could they do that? They are such horrible people. They got what they deserved. I would never do anything like that.” I’ve been guilty of that mindset many times. But let’s slow down just a minute. What was their sin? Did they kill anyone? Did they cause any type of harm to another person? No. They simply told a lie so they would receive glory for their actions. Have we ever done that? Unfortunately, I would have to say I have, especially during my years as a teenager. When put in those terms, does it make us look at their situation a little differently? Better yet, does it make us look at our own actions a little differently?
Let’s try to bring this even a little closer to home. Instead of looking in our pasts for times when we’ve misrepresented ourselves, are we doing that same thing today as members of Christ’s Body? Men…have you ever been asked to lead a prayer during services? Do you say you don’t feel well and ask for someone else to be chosen, even though you feel just fine? Ladies…have you ever been asked to help with a Bible School class? Have you said you are really busy and just don’t have the time to commit, when in reality you still have time to catch your favorite TV show each week?
Do we claim we don’t have the abilities to do something, but the true problem is that we are too scared to try? It can go the other direction as well. Do we claim to have knowledge and abilities that we simply don’t have? When we misrepresent ourselves to the church, we are misrepresenting ourselves to God. We have become Ananias and Sapphira. When Peter said the “devil walks about like a roaring lion” (I Peter 5:8), I doubt Peter meant that those outside the Church were the devil’s target. He has no reason to go after them because they are already his. He is coming after us, the elect, the Body of Christ, the obedient. Truly representing ourselves is not always easy, but it is something we must be vigilant to do.
So, back to the original question. When we give of ourselves, whether it be during this Christmas season or another time, why do we do what we do? Are we truly trying to sacrifice, or are we doing it to bring glory to ourselves? Are we being honest about our actions and intentions, or are we going to follow the path of Ananias and Sapphira?
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Glory vs Sacrifice
4 years ago