Scripture

Acts 4:36-5:11

36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.

Ananias and Sapphira

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 apostles’ feet.

Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.

About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”

“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”

Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”

10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.

Reflection

Why does the term “accountability,” give us such angst? I think the thought of making oneself totally open, honest, and vulnerable with another person creates a deep fear in most of us. “What if they see the real me?” “What if they don’t like the real me?” It’s easier for people to put on their daily “mask” and avoid their true self. But the reality is - we all wear masks. We all have parts of our selves that we don’t like or wish we could change. I find that when people are authentic, and begin to share some of their true selves, it breaks down barriers, allowing others to do the same. And everyone benefits. 

In the scripture above, a man sold his property and donated all the money to the Jerusalem church. The apostles were so humbled and encouraged by his generosity that they changed his name to Barnabas, meaning "son of encouragement." Barnabas goes on to become a leader in the church.

Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, saw the praise that Barnabas received for his generosity and decided to sell a piece of their real estate. They brought part of the money from the sale and gave it to the apostles, pretending that it was the entire amount. But it was not. They kept some of the proceeds for themselves, which was fine, but they pretended to be more generous than they really were. Peter called them out on it, and within three hours both were dead. There are many messages in this passage, but one of them definitely tells us not to pretend to be something or someone we are not. 

In our culture, this is hard. We are bombarded with messages that tell us we are not enough. We must have this thing or that thing to make us better. We live in a culture of comparison and falsehood. So of course it’s hard to be authentic and let our guard down with others. This is why the church should be the one place we can be ourselves. We are all broken, we all have issues, and we are all desperately in need of grace! So let us act like that. Let us be a community of real people. Authentic and true to ourselves. Because just as we are broken, we are also made in the image of God. We each have the Divine in us. Let us look for that divinity in our neighbor. Let us offer grace like we would offer water on a hot summer day. Let us be a place where visitors come to find respite, not judgment, and relief not stress. And yes, be accountable to someone who loves you and loves God. Let your true self be known and loved, and offer that to others. Sounds like relief from the world to me. Maybe accountability is not such a bad word after all.

Prayer

Creator God, Thank you for creating me in your image. Remind me of that when I doubt myself, hide myself from others, and put on my “mask.” Help me find a few people who will let me be authentic and real. Let me be the same for others. Help me create a church that provides respite from the world and loves others as they are. Thank you for a community of faith and a place to worship you and be my true self. Guide me to see your image in others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.