Excerpt from Acts 5:1-10
"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 apostle's feet. Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? ...You have not lied to men but to God. When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died."
Reflection by Kenneth L. Samuel
We don't often admit it, but how we spend our money says a lot about what we value in life. Cash transactions and credit card accounts do say something about character. Jesus puts it even more directly when he says that wherever our treasures are, our hearts are there also.
The first century Christian church valued human life and human equality so much that they established a community of faith where no one was discounted and no one suffered from material lack. They established a commune of equals, where value was placed not upon the accumulation of individual wealth, but upon individual sacrifices and contributions to the common good. They established a collective of compassionate contributors and from their collective resources they distributed to everyone according to need, not greed.
Human equality. Shared resources. Public compassion. No one left behind. I am my brother's keeper. All for the common good. We are one in the spirit of Christ. The Beloved Community. The realm of God. These were the community values of the first century Christians. These were the community values that stood as a powerful corrective to the institutionalized inequities and injustices of the Roman Empire. And these were the values that were violated by Ananias and Sapphira. They valued material and money over human community, and they paid a price.
Dear God, as we look again to the 1st century mothers and fathers of our faith, help us in the 21st century to reclaim and renew the work and witness for human community. In Jesus' Name, Amen.