We finished up yesterday talking about the generosity of Barnabas. And today we are going to talk about the greed of two people, who thought they could pull the wool over the eyes of God. The two people we are going to be talking about today are a husband and wife by the name of Ananias and Sapphira. And as you will see they sold some property they owned and decided to give some of the money that they made off that sale to the church, but they also decided to tell the church that what they had given was the full amount they had received for the property they had sold, which was their ultimate crime, lying to God not keeping some of the money for themselves.
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ 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 for 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 just to human beings but to God.”
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.—5:1-5
Ananias and Sapphira’s act may have been inspired by the response to Barnabas’s generosity. But they wanted to appear more generous than they actually were. Peter confirmed all the rights one has to sell, give or profit from personal property. These were all Ananias’s privileges. His sin was not that he gave only some proceeds to the church but that he lied about it, portraying his act as more generous than it truly was. He lied to the church, and since the church is indwelled by the Spirit, he lied to God. Ananias’s death confirmed God’s displeasure at such self-promotion that undervalues the presence of God.
Then some 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 the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! 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. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.—5:6-11
Those taking the body away were not church officials but some younger men among the believers. The burial practices of the day were to simply wrap the body in cloths and put it in a tomb. It is quite likely this could have been done without Sapphira having heard about it in the time expressed. However, the act, apart from family involvement, is unusual and suggests recognition that Ananias had been struck down under God’s judgement. His wife had ample opportunity to do the right thing, though she chose not to and then suffered the same fate as her husband.
God’s judgement on the sin of Ananias and Sapphira caused an immediate response of humility and fear, or the holy awe and reverence that makes us aware of our accountability to the Almighty God. Without a proper fear of God and his justified anger and judgement against sin, God’s people will soon conform to the ungodly ways of the world. As a result, we will cease to experience the power and benefits of the Holy Spirit and God’s miraculous presence. We will find ourselves cut off from God’s mercy and favor. The fear of the Lord was a necessary element of New Testament faith, and it must also be present as part of Biblical Christianity today. And that is where we will pick up tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s Bible Readings:
1 Chronicles 12:19-14:17, Romans 1:1-17, Psalm 9:13-20 and Proverbs 19:4-5
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