The True Meaning of Laying Money At the Apostle's Feet
Acts 4:33-35 is probably one of the most popular scriptures used erroneously in the Church. From this passage we read:
33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all.
34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold,
35 And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. (KJV)
The Misconception We've Been Taught
Many leaders have quoted Acts 4:33-35 as a way of compelling members to sow financial seeds each time they give a message. However, when we examine the context of the passage, we realize that the people were giving to bless the entire congregation--not just the apostle. The scriptures say, "and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need." That means it was not a love offering to the one ministering. It was for every member of the congregation that had a financial need.
If the apostle was one of those people in need, I'm sure he would have been given an offering. But the purpose of that offering was not to bless the apostle. It was to bless the entire church.
Clarity from the Scriptures
Let's look at Acts 4:32: And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.
The people were on one accord to the point where they didn't see their own material possessions as just theirs. We hear people talk often about paying tithes, but these people were giving way more than a tenth! How do we know? They weren't trying to keep the 90% to themselves because even part of that was given away and distributed among the those who had more need.
We talk about tithes to take care of the physical church, but in this passage, we see that it took more than tithes to care for the church and its members.
How many people we know would sell some of their assets and give the money to the church for it to be distributed according to other people's needs? Probably not many in today's society. However, if we go by Acts 4:33-35, people paid more than tithes to support the ministry. The more affluent members sold their possessions to make sure not only the leaders' needs were met but also the needs of everyone else. The church was the hospital and the welfare department. If you were a member of the congregation, you had help. That's why the scriptures say they had all things common and no one was in lack among them.
Acts 4:33-35: A True Benevolent Offering
Unfortunately, people can't get this type of help in most churches today. If anything, we are taught to sow financial seeds to offset the expenses of the church. However, Apostle Paul was not teaching people to sow a financial seed just to keep the church in operation. He was teaching the people to take care of the entire church--the building and the people-- by giving a benevolent offering to make sure the physical church and the people who make up the church were well taken care of. This is the fulfillment of the scriptures that say: "And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not./As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." (Galatians 6:9-10)
The Problem with Acts 4:33-35 for the Modern Church
Also, the language of Acts 4:33-35 suggests these actions may have spanned a course of a few days of meeting at the church. The apostle brought the gospel with power. The people got saved and came back to subsequent meetings that were held that week (or maybe during the entire month for that matter). The church did a consensus on what the church needed--both the sanctuary and the people making up the church. Those who were able financially brought back provisions and laid them at the apostle's feet, so the apostle could distribute the money according to people's needs. That was not the apostle's money to keep. It was money to take care of everyone who had need.
As saints, do we divide our wealth like that now? No... If it weren't for tithes being paid in the modern church, most ministries would suffer greatly financially. However, if we apply the principles of giving set forth in Acts 4:33-35, there wouldn't be a need to pay tithes because people would give even more than that to help out.
However, we rarely see people getting help from the church these days--especially to help with living expenses. And if we question whether that's the church's business to help members when they get behind on their bills, all we have to do is revisit what was happening in the book of Acts: everyone's needs were taking care of and none went lacking. So, if none went lacking, it makes sense that those expenses that needed to be paid for adequate survival must have been covered by the church surplus or else people would be living with lack in some aspect of their life. Remember even Christ took time to make sure the multitude following Him were taken care of by being fed when they became hungry.
Some of you may be saying, “I’m not giving up my hard-earned stuff to give to people who may not be managing their money right,” or “They can do the same things I did to get where I am. I shouldn’t have to do all that.” But what about those who don’t have financial management issues? What about those who just don’t have enough regardless of how well they try to live responsibly? What about those who have lost things due to unforeseen circumstances, and their situation is not the results of poor stewardship or irresponsible behavior? How do our excuses apply in these instances? They don't.
A Final Thought on Acts 4:33-35 Giving
I’m pretty sure Ananias and Sapphira said something similar themselves when they changed their mind about how much they were planning to give from selling their property. They could have easily been honest to begin with and proposed to give a lesser amount and spared themselves. But I guess they got caught up in the moment because they knew they had more to offer than a lot of others. And being more capable of giving more was a bragging tool for them to look good. So, their dishonesty revealed their proposal to give a much larger amount was for show since they had no intent in their heart to give a much larger amount anyway.
Unfortunately, many people today feel the same way when it comes to giving. They are more concerned about who the money benefits instead of just giving cheerfully. The only way to remedy this misconception about giving to the church is to teach people correctly (including leaders) about what it means to give in the house of God.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Yvette Daniel