Shortly after the church was established, needs arose among the Christians in Jerusalem. Many people came from far and near on the Day of Pentecost to worship God, and after being converted to Christ, they stayed in the city. This created what could have become a very large problem. These people had no homes or jobs, so they were dependent on the kindness of those Christians who were natives of Jerusalem. The attitude of many in the church at that time was amazing! They gave no thought to selling whatever extra things they had so that these foreigners could live there in Jerusalem and continue to be taught by the apostles (Acts 2:42; 4:32-35). This was not anything that was forced upon them. It was what they wanted to do from their heart!
Unfortunately, as many times the case is, egos begin to get involved. There were some that wanted the praise of men (like the Pharisees – Matthew 23:5). Ananias, a Christian man from Jerusalem, along with his wife Sapphira, got caught up in this desire. They saw many other Christians selling their lands and other possessions and giving the money to the apostles. They may have even seen praise given to these people (like Barnabas – Acts 4:36-37). In addition to the praise, they wanted to reap the financial benefits that came with selling their land (Acts 5:1).
When Ananias brought the money to Peter, he surely expected to be praised for his generosity. He received nothing of the sort. Peter chastised him because he attempted not only to lie, but to lie to the Holy Spirit and to God! Peter clearly points out that there was no reason to lie about how much money they received for the land. Ananias never had to sell the land in the first place, and when he did, he did not have to give the money to the apostles (Acts 5:4). For his wrong attitude in giving, he was struck dead, as was his wife later when she repeated the same lie. Their sin was not keeping back part of the money. Their sin was lying about it. This shows that they were not doing it to help others, but to help themselves. This is exactly what is condemned by Christ during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:1).
The lesson for Christians today is that attitude matters in giving (2 Cor. 9:7). The Christians in Jerusalem who sold their land and brought the money to the apostles were doing it out of love and kindness towards their Christian family. They did not think twice about giving to help these fellow-Christians, and in fact they shared everything (Acts 4:32). Ananias and Sapphira, had they given the money with the right motives, would not have been killed. Instead, they tried to lie and deceive in order to receive praise. What was the difference between the two? The attitude.
Christians should always look for ways to help people, not because they “have to” but because they “want to.” Paul explains that unless helping is done out of love, it profits one nothing (1 Cor. 13:3). This does not mean that Christians should not give if they do not “feel like it.” It means that the Christian who is not doing such out of love needs an attitude adjustment. The Holy Spirit, through the apostle Paul, exhorted, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all, especially those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). May all follow the example of Barnabas and other Christians in Jerusalem by doing all they can to help out their Christian brethren from a spirit of love and not one that seeks for praise of men.