Small Group Tools
Life in the Early Church
Texts: Acts 2:42-46; Acts 4:34, 35; Acts 3:1-26; Acts 4:1-18; Acts 5:1-11; Acts 5:34-39
July 21, 2018
Last week Knox News reported on the deadly deceit of a pharmaceutical company that pushed sales of OxyContin and led hundreds of thousands into addiction to the drug. A lawsuit was filed by attorney generals for 27 states against Purdue Pharma for fueling an opioid epidemic in order to snare profits. The company not only failed to police itself, but pushed “sales staff to put OxyContin in the hands of cash-paying patients at pill mills across Tennessee.”1
Earlier agreements by the company were repeatedly broken. No sales incentive (bonus) program for sales of the drug were to be given to any health care professionals, yet a special “Toppers Club” was created for top sales staffers who pushed the drug. “From 1999 to 2016, more than 200,000 people died in the U.S. from overdoses related to prescription opioids. Overdose deaths involving prescription opioids were five times higher in 2016 than 1999. The most common drugs involved in opioid overdose deaths include: Methadone, Oxycodone (such as OxyContin), and Hydrocodone (such as Vicodin).” 
In this week’s Sabbath school lesson, we learn how deceit is deadly. The early church discovered the consequences of members who tried to appear generous before leaders, but were attempting to cover their tracks. Ananias and Sapphira had voluntarily agreed to sell property—as did many others—to support the growing work of the church, but “kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 5:2).
The problem with Ananias and Sapphira did not center on choosing to keep an amount of funds for themselves, but lying about it to the church community. Peter plainly nailed the issue when he stated, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God” (Acts 5:3, 4). The deceiver fell over dead and three hours later his wife followed in the same path to the cemetery.
The quick punishment seems severe, but highlights the seriousness with which God takes broken promises and deceit—especially when it harms the body of Christ.