Acts 5:1-4. But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!”
The story of Ananias and Sapphira is an intimidating one, as it underlines the strong bias in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles against private possession and toward holding “all things in common” as in the idealized picture of the Jerusalem church during the period immediately after the Resurrection (Acts 2:43-47; also Acts 4:32-37). Judas, who betrayed Jesus, is characterized as one who “turned aside to go to his own place”—one who like Ananias preferred his own portion to the common life of the community gathered around Christ.
Faithfulness in a global economy calls for wisdom and discernment, because globalism poses unique questions for Christians. In the face of the disruptions generated by a global economy, the response cannot be a retreat into some sort of segmented private possession, behind national or regional boundaries. Yet at the same time there are other opportunities for organized selfishness within a global economy just as surely as in the Acts of the Apostles. How ought Christians respond to these instances of private possession in a world of limited resources and disparities of access to education and information?
Almighty God, whose loving hand has given us all that we possess: Grant us grace that we may honor you with our substance, and, remembering the account which we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of your bounty, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(The Book of Common Prayer, p. 827)
John Bauerschmidt serves as the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Tennessee.