The Bible says, “All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” (Proverbs 16:2) “He will bring to light what is hidden in the darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time, each will receive his praise from the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 4:5) “For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you, on the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts.” (1 Thessalonians 2:3-4)
Our motives are important to God.
Sapphire was a woman married to Ananias (Acts 5:1-11). This couple was one of the first who gave their lives to Christ and were entrenched in spreading the Gospel with the disciples. The backdrop for this couple is this, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace upon them all. There were no needy persons among them. From time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need. Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas, which means Son of Encouragement, sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:32-37).
The believers had received the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. Many were baptized and becoming Christians. I love the Scripture, “All the believers were one heart and mind.” If God gave the believer the heart to sell his possession and give to the church, then the Christian did as such. It must have been a beautiful display to see full of praise and rejoicing to help those who were in need and using this money to bring others to Christ with love for their fellow brethren.
Ananias and Sapphire were Christians who witnessed all the acts of kindness, generosity and “power” the church, apostles, and believers were exhibiting. Maybe watching Barnabas receiving praise for his generous heart, laying the money at the feet of the apostles sprang to life a desire for acknowledgment by Ananias. Maybe the desire to be noticed, commended and closer to the disciples laid the foundation of motives to sell property and give the money to the church. The problem with this couple, once the money was in hand, did not want to give it all to the church.
Holding the money in hand, Ananias could not let go of it or maybe he thought it to much to give to the church. Maybe he needed the money for himself to live, only the Lord knows what was in his heart. What was deep in his heart was not generosity, but deception.
“With his wife’s full knowledge, Ananias kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostle’s feet. Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received from the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men, but to God.’
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, ‘Tell me, is this price you and Ananias got for the land?’
‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘that is the price.’
Peter said to her, ‘How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’ At that moment she fell down at his feet and died.” (Acts 5:1-11)
Now, many may see this as “harsh”, but remember, this is the spreading of the Gospel. The first believing church and once witnessing what happened to this couple, a reverential fear of the Lord sprang to heart. Men do not see in to the heart, but God does, “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Jeremiah 17:10) Deuteronomy 8:2 reads, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”
If the Lord had not brought justice to Ananias and Sapphire, what else would they have done to sabotage the church? The Lord can see our motives, thoughts and actions before we do them. He can see if we get away “secretly” with one thing, we may test the limits in another. God was not going to allow that with the spreading of the first church!
The “Sapphire Spirit” is alive and well in our churches today. Sadly, I will admit my motives were not always pure and honest, glorifying the Lord. Ten years ago when the Lord called me back to the church, I still had the “world” in me. The world says use those you can, manipulate if you get away with it and claw your way to the top. It is hard for me to admit now, a decade later, that I would use anyone for personal gain, but I did. Obviously God would not allow the friendship to last long or the “meeting” to further into a friendship, because my motives for meeting “leaders in the church” were not pure. I had a desire to teach the Word, but in those baby-Christian years where I was drinking milk and not meat, were years God was humbling me in the wilderness.
I have a desire for Truth.
Over these years, I have prayed for the Lord to reveal ALL things within my spirit that are deception. I want to know what is in my heart. I can not help others, pray with others or encourage others as long as my heart and motives are wrong. Maybe it could be as watching another believer tithe more than you. Your heart desires to give to the Lord, but you want to impress the “leaders” by tithing more and receiving praise. Maybe you’ve heard a prayer warrior pray and many come to that person for prayer. You want to pray and have the respect from the body, but when “prayer time” comes, your heart truly is not there to pray and lift the body up to the Lord. Maybe God’s given you the desire for ministry. You try to “befriend” those in the church who can help you get there quicker than the Lord’s plan. If you desire the Lord’s plan, then you have to patiently wait, especially until your motives and heart are to glorify God. I ran out before the Lord, attempting to “hurry” my calling long, falling in to the trap of Sapphire and the Lord NOT allowing my plan to work. It was embarrassing, and still brings painful memories. I encourage you to check your motives. Are they truly for the Lord or for your own gain? Let’s lay our hearts and motives at the cross to the impartial judge or judges righteously and fairly.
Pray the Prayer for Motives on the Prayer Page. The full teaching is available on our Resource Page; One a Day; 30 Days of Prayer with the Women of the Bible, Book 2