Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Chasing Rabbits

My friend Matthew asked with a recent blog of his, "What rabbits have you chased lately?" There are subtle threads woven throughout the fabric of scripture that are fun to follow if you are deliberate about following them. So, faithful blog readers, for your obscure Bible passage(s) of the week: rabbit chasing.

One came up tonight in Bible Study. In the adult class on Wednesday nights at the Lynn Haven Church of Christ, we are studying Acts. Tonight ... end of Acts 4 & beginning of Acts 5. Barnabas & Ananias and Sapphira. I love how "the folks" tiptoed around giving -- "well of course this means we aren't supposed to give EVERYTHING away." Fun stuff.

Anyway, Ananias & Sapphira can be a disturbing story that is difficult to understand. But something clicked with me tonight as I read it. One of the themes that Luke develops in Acts is that of Giving God Glory. Luke very carefully shows that one of the greatest sins is that of failing to give God his due.

This is why Herod was killed in Acts 12. Herod spoke, and the people cried out, "The voice of a god and not of a man! 23And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died." Herod should have deflected and not accepted such praise. How interesting that God killed this man for a sin of omission.

And then, soon after this, we have the story of Paul & Barnabas in Lystra in Acts 14. Paul heals a man. So we pick up in verse 12. "12And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. [...] 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out 15 and saying, "Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the Heaven and the Earth and the sea and all that is in them." Their response was the proper one. They gave glory to God. And so the worms were held at bay.

So what does Ananias & Sapphira have to due with giving God glory? Well, you know how we have figures of speech in language? It clicked with me & I remembered that Jews had a figure of speech about giving God glory. Dr. Ken Neller taught it to me in my 3rd semester Greek Readings class at Harding. It occurs twice in Scripture:

John 9:24. The man who was born blind was healed by Jesus & being brought before a council of Pharisees. '24 So a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said to him, "Give glory to God; we know that this man (Jesus) is a sinner."' What they are saying is this: "Come clean. Tell us the truth. What really happened to you?" But the figure of speech isn't "Come Clean," it is "Give Glory to God."

Joshua 7:19. Achan has sinned, and Joshua is trying to discover the truth. 19 Then Joshua said to Achan, "My son, I implore you, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me." Joshua isn't saying, "Go sing some songs to God, and then come tell me the truth." With there being so much repetition in this text, it's like Joshua is channeling Tom Cruise: "I WANT THE TRUTH!"

So, back to Ananias & Sapphira. What was their sin? It isn't that they didn't give all they earned from the selling of their land. It was lying about it. And by lying, they were not giving God his due glory. I have little doubt that this figure of speech was in Luke's mind when he wrote this down, and that "Theophilus" was able to pick up on it while reading this story.

So there you go. Give glory to God and you'll avoid being food for worms.

I pity the poor soul whose wife reads this blog. "Honey, give glory to God: does this make me look fat?"


David Johnson said...

I don't know about that. I think the juxtaposition with the story of Barnabas selling his land is meant to tell us something about what Ananias and Sapphira were up to: they wanted the same sort of acclaim among as Barnabas had gotten for giving all the proceeds of the sale to the apostles. I'm thinking of this in contrast to Matthew 6. They had wanted to be acclaimed as "righteous" and as "examples." So they kept some of the money from the sale for themselves and laid the rest at the apostles' feet as though it were the full amount, hoping to receive the same sort of praise and acclaim that Barnabas no doubt received for his gift. They were seeking glory for themselves (which, of course, means that they weren't trying to give glory to God).

You could be right. But that's how I've come to see the story recently.

I also love how "the folks" must always tiptoe around when Jesus tells the rich young ruler what he must do. "Well, obviously Jesus' instruction to this man was just for this man, because of the love of money he harbored in his heart. It doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with having money. It doesn't mean that if you have money you must give it all to the poor." But God loves 'em, and I can't condemn 'em.

Matt said...

That is an interesting connection there. Josephus talks about the death of Herod Agrippa in a similar way the only difference being the timing of his death as later rather than at that moment:
Flavius Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 19.343-350.