Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)

The following quote is taken from

"Peter Kills Two People -  There was also a man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.  He brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount.  His wife had agreed to this deception.  Then Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart?  You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.  The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished.  And after selling it, the money was yours to give away.  How could you do a thing like this?  You weren't lying to us but to God."  As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died.  Everyone who heard about it was terrified.  Then some young men wrapped him in a sheet and took him out and buried him.  About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.  Peter asked her, "Was this the price you and your husband received for your land?"  "Yes," she replied, "that was the price."  And Peter said, "How could the two of you even think of doing a thing like this – conspiring together to test the Spirit of the Lord?  Just outside that door are the young men who buried your husband, and they will carry you out, too."  Instantly, she fell to the floor and died.  When the young men came in and saw that she was dead, they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.  Great fear gripped the entire church and all others who heard what had happened."   (Acts 5:1-11 NLT)

You can read the full story of what happened here:

            To quickly summarize, these events took place not long after Jesus' death and resurrection, at the very beginning of the church.  The first believers freely shared all of their possessions with each other, and some sold possessions and property to give to those who were needy.  We are given the example of a man named Joseph (aka Barnabus), a Levite from Cyprus, who sold a field that he owned and gave all the money from the sale to the apostles, for distribution among the poor (Acts 4:32-37).
            Unfortunately, an instance of hypocrisy occurred not long after - the incident with Ananias and Sapphira.  We must keep in mind here that no one in the church was forced or coerced into giving; people did it of their own free will (Acts 5:4).  Ananias and Sapphira saw that others were selling property and giving the money to the apostles, and this caused them to participate, not because they wanted to help, but because they wanted to display their righteous acts before others, to receive prestige and honor for themselves.  God does not reward good works when they are only done for show (Matthew 6:1-4).
            Also, the two of them conspired to lie about the price that they received for the land (Acts 5:1-2).  They showed great contempt for God by doing this - they assumed that he would not see or know what they were doing, and they disrespected him and the apostles who represented him.  Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, saw through the lie and said, "Didn’t it (the land) 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” (Acts 5:4, NIV).  Ananias and Sapphira paid for their lie with their lives.
            Why did God take their lives for this lie?  It served as a powerful warning to the early church, and to all of the believers that would come after.  It exposed Ananias and Sapphira as unbelievers in the midst of the church, who were trying to exploit the church for personal gain, and had no fear of God.  It proved that Peter, one of the early leaders of the church, was filled with the Holy Spirit, because he saw through their lie and exposed it immediately (it should be noted that Peter did not take their lives; God did).  It was a warning that God is a holy and just God, who hates sin and does not tolerate those who show him contempt (Proverbs 6:16-19; Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).  God sees our hearts, and will reward us based on our motives (1 Corinthians 4:5).