Acts, chapters 4 & 5

“You have lied, not to men, but to God. […] Why did you two agree to make a test of the spirit of Jehovah?”
~Acts 5:4,9

Ananias and his wife Sapphira were members of the Christian congregation in Jerusalem.
They tried to deceive their brothers and sisters by claiming they had contributed more than they had really given. (Acts 5:1,2)
Some people lie to preserve their reputation or advance their interests.
While some can deceive their friends and family, it is impossible to deceive God. (He. 4:13)
The Apostle Peter acted as God’s representative when he questioned Ananias and his wife about their deception.
He was moved to do so by God’s holy spirit.
In that sense, the couple was trying to lie to God.
As imperfect humans, from time to time we may be tempted to try to get away with improper behavior even while we serve Jehovah.
We must remember that Jehovah hates deception to the point of equating it with violence. (Ps. 5:6; Prov. 6:16,17)
If we learn to be honest with ourselves and with those around us, we can maintain a good standing before God. (Zech. 8:16,17; Luke 6:45)

Acts, chapters 1-3

“All those who became believers were together and had everything in common, and they were selling their possessions and properties and distributing the proceeds to all, according to what each one needed.”
~Acts 2:44,45

Were the first Christians practicing an early form of Communism?
The story of the first Christian congregation relates that they went from 120 members to over 3,000 people in a single day. (Acts 2:41,47)
Many of those people were from far away and had not originally planned to extend their stay in Jerusalem, but that is what they ended up doing in order to learn more about Christ. (Acts 2:5-11,42)
The generous Christians knew that very soon, they would be persecuted and eventually, Jerusalem would be destroyed, so their possessions would be lost. (Acts 8:1)
Their material things were put to better use because they had a sense of urgency, not because of a philosophical ideology.
While donations were administered by the congregation, property owners could choose how to manage their own assets. (Acts 2:46; 5:1-4)
Later on, a formal distribution was arranged for the benefit of widows only. (Acts 6:1-3; 1 Tim. 5:16)
Christians were always encouraged to share, even after the congregation had been well established. (Acts 20:35; Jas. 2:15-17)
But the fact that there were still class distinctions indicates that the congregation did not redistribute wealth as a rule. (Rom. 12:13; 15:26; 2 Cor. 9:7)

John, chapters 11 & 12

“Let us also go, so that we may die with him.”
~John 11:16

While most Christians do not die as martyrs on account of their faith, the Apostle Thomas set a good example of willingness to follow Jesus’ example of self-sacrifice.
Two attempts against Jesus’ life had already been made in Judea. (John 8:59; 10:31)
Still, Jesus courageously returned to the area with the intention of resurrecting his friend, Lazarus. (John 11:11,14,15)
Jesus later emphasized the need to be self-sacrificing when he returned to Jerusalem a week before his death.
He prayed, “Father, save me out of this hour. Nevertheless, this is why I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” (John 12:27,28)
Jesus knew he was about to endure a great deal of pain, but he put his Father’s plan before his own comfort.
He trusted his followers would be willing to do the same, and Jehovah blesses them for that. (John 12:25,26)

Luke, chapters 10 & 11

“[…] Give as gifts of mercy the things that are from within, and look! everything about you will be clean.”
~Luke 11:41

What are the things “from within?”
Jesus has been asked to dine with the Pharisees and has reprimanded them for outwardly appearing to be spiritual while hiding greediness and wickedness within. (Luke 11:39)
“The one who made the outside made also the inside, did he not?”
Jesus explains God’s justice and love, which we are capable of imitating, should be our main focus.
Then he further denounces their religious hypocrisy. (Luke 11:40,42,44)
So when Jesus says to give gifts from within, he appears to be alluding to sharing generously from a pure heart, with selfless motives.
The attitude with which we give stems, of course, from the way we choose to think. (Jer. 4:14)
At the end of the day, God is looking at whether or not our love is sincere. (1 Pet. 4:8,9)

Mark, chapters 13 & 14

“Let her alone. Why do you try to make trouble for her? She did a fine deed toward me.”
~Mark 14:6

Mary’s strong appreciation for spiritual things has always impressed me.
Myself coming from a culture that, like ancient Jewish culture, assigns value to a woman based on how industrious she is within the home, and personally not being inclined to cook, I have always easily identified with Mary’s personality.
On the occasion in which Jesus taught at their home, Mary was picked on by her sister, Martha, for sitting at Jesus’ feet instead of helping her serve. (Luke 10:38-40)
Now, five days before his death, Mary takes an extremely costly bottle of genuine nard and pours it on Jesus’ hair and feet.
This time she is criticized by Jesus’ own disciples. (Matt. 26:6-9; John 12:2-5)
According to the Jewish Talmud, women were not supposed to be well-versed in spiritual matters, and we are not aware of any precedents of women closely following a prophet. (Sotah 3:4)
Still, Mary set an excellent example of being spiritually conscientious and maintaining a balanced view of material things, all while not letting others’ negativity discourage her.

Mark, chapters 11 & 12

“When you stand praying, forgive whatever you have against anyone, so that your Father who is in the heavens may also forgive you your trespasses.”
~Mark 11:25

It can be particularly difficult to forgive others when we consider their sins to be much graver than anything we ourselves have ever done.
Jehovah himself has standards for forgiveness.
For instance, Jehovah expects wrongdoers to repent in order to receive his forgiveness. (Luke 17:3,4; Acts 8:22)
But even if we cannot know the heart condition of someone who has wronged us, forgiving them is key to achieving inner peace. (Eph. 4:31,32)
What’s more, Jesus taught that we should not judge others and that we should pray for our enemies. (Matt. 5:44; 7:1,2)
It helps to remember that the person, like us, was born imperfect. (Ro. 3:23)
The Bible encourages Christians to try to conquer evil with good, and to leave matters that are beyond us in God’s hands. (Ro. 12:17-21)
And we do well to keep a humble view of ourselves, knowing that Jehovah “has not dealt with us according to our sins.” (Ps. 103:10-12)

Mark, chapters 7 & 8

“[…] He sighed deeply in his spirit […].”
~Mark 8:12

Jesus was a man who clearly expressed his emotions.
This is the only passage where the greek verb “anastenazas,” or exasperation, is used in the Scriptures.
It describes how the Pharisees’ lack of faith made him feel.
But Jesus also sighed when speaking sign language to a deaf man he was about to cure. (“estenazen,” Mark 7:34)
He did not simply go through mechanical motions like an overworked doctor.
His sigh conveyed heartfelt empathy, a quality he reflected from our heavenly Father.
People may respond favorably or critically to God’s message, and they can move us, encourage us or drain us.
And like Jesus, we will need to discern who truly is appreciative of the good news and keep looking for them without becoming disheartened.