Worship at Your Own Risk - Part 3: Ananias and Sapphira
Worship can be risky. Just ask Ananias and Sapphira.
In Acts 5:1-11 we have a history relayed to us that caused fear amongst the first-century church. This husband and wife duo conspired together to “test” the Lord (v.9). How did they do this? They were property owners that sold their land to present the proceeds as an offering (sacrifice) to the Lord. They told the Apostles they were giving the full amount sold to the Lord; however, they actually were keeping some back for themselves. They were lying (v. 2&3). Their worship (adoration / sacrifice / offering) was not pure, it was not true, it was not holy - because their heart was not pure, true, and holy. They both paid for this with their lives.
Parts one and two of this series have focused on the dangers we may face from the government or our fellow man when it comes to worship; however, those are not the only risks we take. In fact, the even greater risk is offending God! “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear Him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28)
This story of Ananias and Sapphira may well bring to mind an Old Testament story as well. “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’”…(Leviticus 10:1-3) When we go to God in worship, we are doing so at our own risk. Not just at the risk of offending our fellow mankind, but possibly much worse… offending God Almighty!
The pandemic of 2020 has caused worshippers to greatly examine and consider “risk”; mainly, the risk of assembling for worship to our physical health. But if that is all we are focusing on, then we are missing the greater examination that should be taking place, “Is my worship in spirit and in truth? Is my worship holy? Is my worship pure? Does my worship truly honor God? Is my heart, mind, soul, and strength as it should be in worshipping Jehovah God?”. To examine the physical dangers/risks in worship without examining the spiritual dangers/risks is pointless.
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:6 - Jesus quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16) Ananias and Sapphira did just that. So did Nadab and Abihu. Rather than testing the Lord in our worship, we should be testing ourselves. Consider the Lord’s Supper: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.” (1Corinthians 11:27-29) May we examine ourselves, test ourselves, that our worship might be found well-pleasing and acceptable before the Lord. (Jeremiah 6:20 & Philippians 4:18 ASV)
When we worship, we are approaching the throne of God almighty. We best be doing so with the right frame of mind, the right intentions, the right heart! “Therefore… let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29) Yes, God is love (I John 4:4&16), but God is also a consuming fire to those who put Him to the test, to those who worship Him in tongue but not spirit and truth, to those who profess to love Him but do not prove that to be true by their sacrifice/offering of worship unto Him.
Worship God at your own risk. Not just in the flesh, but especially in the spirit. Know that worship matters to God. Know that God only wants the best from us. Know that God wants truth from us, and that anything else will be met with judgment. When worshipping God in love, truth, spirit, sincerity, and obedience… then there is nothing to fear.