Daily Devotion for May 17, 2011
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
Martin Luther's Prayer for Morning
I give thanks to you, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ your dear Son, that you have protected me through the night from all danger and harm. I ask you to preserve and keep me, this day also, from all sin and evil, that in all my thoughts, words, and deeds I may serve and please you. Into your hands I commend my body and soul and all that is mine. Let your holy angels have charge of me, that the wicked one have no power over me.
For Each of Us in Our Work
Almighty God, heavenly Father, who makes it possible for me to work and gives every creature its food, declaring your glory and showing your handiwork in the heavens and in the earth; Deliver me, I pray, in my work, from coveting material goods, from falling into the temptation of serving mammon and putting money in the forefront of my life. Help me to perform the work which you have put at my hand, in truth, in beauty, and in righteousness, with singleness of heart as your servant, and to the benefit of my fellow men as well as myself; for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lived and died only to serve us.
Prayer for Renewal
Lord, I am one of your people, the sheep of your flock. I pray for you to heal those who are wounded; touch those who are in pain; clean those who are soiled; warm those who are cold; help me to know the Father's love through Jesus the shepherd, and through the Spirit.
Help me to lift up that love, and show it all over this land. Help me to build love on justice and justice on love. Help me to believe mightily, hope joyfully, and love divinely. Renew me that I may help renew the face of the earth.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
Acts 5:1-11 (NKJV)
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. And he 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. But Peter said, “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.”
Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him.
Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?”
She said, “Yes, for so much.”
Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
Notes on the Scripture
Ananais has become a byword for Christian hypocrisy. With the other members of the first church in Jerusalem, he and his wife made an oath to the other members, and to God, to sell all that they owned and give the proceeds to the general fund. (The members lived communally — see yesterday's devotional.) But they did not, and they lied about it.
The Scripture does not say that God caused them to die; very possibly they could have died of sheer shame. Nor did Jesus teach that we would suffer death for not following his word. Just the opposite, in fact; he told the disciples that many of them would die for following his teachings, or at least, for spreading them.
What, then, are we to make of this passage? We should not lie to God. It is human nature to try to make ourselves look good, to arrange the facts of our lives so that we seem to be righteous. If we argue with our spouse or a coworker, we rehearse the facts in our mind, remembering why the other person was at fault and why we were justified in arguing.
But this is the sin of pride, operating at full force. When we pray, rather, we must try to measure our actions against Christ's words. We must measure our own conduct, not our justification for it. Christ taught us to make peace, to love and forgive our brethren, not to justify ourselves when we engage in conflict. Even if we find it impossible to admit publicly to our sins, we cannot lie to God about them. We must recognize them and ask God for the strength to overcome our sinful nature.