Being 48 (and that not for much longer) I like the detail in 4:22 – the healing of the crippled man is all the more amazing because he’s over 40. It’s good to know that God hasn’t given up on me yet…
The whole story shows the overflowing of God’s power in those earliest days of the church, as people are healed even as Peter’s shadow falls on them. In contrast, the authorities find themselves powerless. They depend so much on public opinion that they don’t dare to try to impose controls on the apostles while they’re at the height of their popularity. Instead they order them to stop speaking about Jesus, with a predictable lack of effect.
Then comes a wonderful picture of the life of the church, as members sell their property to provide for the needs of the poor. Among them, Barnabas is mentioned in passing for the first time. His name speaks of the character that we will see from him – ‘Son of Encouragement’.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a dark note in this light, though. It jars against the background of healing and generous sharing of possessions, as they try to deceive the church (or God?) and gain prestige for their generosity while holding back some of what they say they are giving. Peter is clear that they were under no obligation to give anything, so it can only be the deceit that is in play here.
Whatever we make of this story, perhaps we should focus on what is clear about it. There’s no point in trying to impress God, or anyone else, with fake discipleship. If we’re trying to make ourselves look more holy, more generous, more spiritual than we are, it won’t end well. Perhaps there’s a more general point – whenever we’re thinking about how our discipleship looks to other people, we’re heading off track. Dishonesty and its consequences are all too likely to follow, but even if that never happens, we’re already thinking about other people more than about God. That’s not a recipe for healthy spiritual life.
So let’s fix our sights on God and on how we can serve him – perhaps especially in how generous we are in the use of our money and possessions to care for those in more need. It’s not about scoring spirituality points. It is about being more fully human and more like Jesus.