Each of the stories that arose in the early church still teaches us today. Whether happy, funny, tragic and sometimes cruel, they allow us to learn spiritual lessons that prepare us for the Lord’s return.
Among these stories, we find that of the tragic death of a couple in Acts 5: Ananias and Sapphira. Contrary to what one might think, their deaths were not the result of old age, illness, or persecution. The two fell dead in front of the apostles after being punished by God for lying. To understand this account, let’s look at the background and what was going on in the early church during this time.
Acts 4: 32-35 teaches us that those who believed in the Lord Jesus had “one heart and one soul. No one said that his property belonged to him, but everything was common between them ”. The Christians shared everything they owned, to the point where those who had land or houses sold them, brought the proceeds, and deposited them at the feet of the apostles so that everything was shared according to the needs of each. It is in this context that the episode of Ananias and Sapphira appears in Acts 5: 1-11:
But a man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a property and withheld part of the price, his wife knowing it; then he brought the rest and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Peter said to him, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so much that you lie to the Holy Spirit and kept part of the price of the field? If it hadn’t been sold, didn’t you have it left? And after it was sold, wasn’t the price available to you? How could you put such a plan in your heart? You did not lie to people but God. Ananias, hearing these words, fell and died. A great fear seizes all the listeners. The young men, having risen, enveloped him, carried him away, and buried him. About three hours later, his wife walked in, not knowing what had happened. Peter spoke to him: Tell me, did you sell the field at such a price? Yes, she replied, that’s the price. Then Peter said to him, How is it that you have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the God? Behold, the ones who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you away. At the same instant, she fell at the feet of the apostle and died. The young men, having entered, found her dead; they took her away and buried her with her husband. Great fear gripped the whole assembly and all who heard of these things.
Ananias and Sapphira sold something they owned so that they could give it to the church. The problem here is not the refusal to give all the money they had. The problem is, they decided to lie. Ananias and Saphira agreed to sell their property, but they lied about the actual sale price. As the owners of their property, the couple had no obligation to donate all the money from the sale. They could very well have given a part of their profit rather than lying to give themselves a good image. Their greed and avarice, unfortunately, cost them death. Here are five lessons to be learned from this tragic story:
God sees everything, including what we keep secret
Ananias and Sapphira attempted to lie to Peter and the apostles, but they could not lie to God. God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. We must understand that no matter how hard we do everything to hide our sins or keep secrets, we will never be able to flee the face of God!
“For God sees the conduct of all, He looks at the steps of each.” (Job 34:21)
Greed and the love of money will cause the loss of many
The Bible teaches us that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). See how much money rules the world system. All seek to increase their wealth. No one cares about eternity because what matters to most people is living in luxury and building a financial empire where money will flow.
This race for wealth has caused the loss of many. How many are now in prison for stealing or cheating? How many of our political leaders are being prosecuted for embezzlement or money laundering? Greed leads man to commit all kinds of sins.
When we lie, we lie to Lord and not to people
We must realize that any Christian who lies is not just lying to man. He also lies to God. As Kingdom ambassadors, everything we do affects our relationship with Him and the image of faith that we send back. When parents learn that their child has committed a crime, they are often angry and saddened because the whole image of the family is sullied and their name scorned. It is the same with God, who is our Heavenly Father.
As sons and daughters of the living God, all the misdeeds we do smear the image of our faith and dishonor the Lord. For this reason and many more, Christians must put an end to lying and sin in general!
There is no point in pretending to be more spiritual than you are
Ananias and Sapphira were determined to lie to the church to give themselves a good image and a good reputation, but their hearts were not there. There is no point in seeking the approval of men by pretending to be more spiritual, more generous, more selfless, and simply better than others. What interests God is our sincerity and the state of our hearts.
Many Christians today want to give themselves a pious image, but their personal lives are in total contradiction to what they want to show. They give more importance to appearing and neglect the simple fact of being. Yet God expects us to be genuine disciples and walk-in truth daily, especially when we are in His temple!
God is no less harsh on us than He was on them
Many mistakenly consider the God of the Old Testament to be much more severe and murderous than the God of the New Testament. The death of this couple narrated in the book of Acts proves the contrary. God has not changed, and He continues to chastise those who sin anyway.
Just because we no longer see Him slaying death as we did in this story doesn’t mean God is less severe. He is still so Holy and expects us to embrace His nature! As the Apostle Paul states in Galatians 5:13, our freedom in Christ should not be an excuse for living according to the flesh. The time of grace is no excuse to lead a life of sin. Even if we have the impression that God lets it happen, a time will come when He will exercise His righteousness, and each one will be judged according to his works.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira is rich in meaning and should prompt every Christian to reconsider their attitude within the church and outside. We must seek truth, authenticity, and righteousness and turn away from lies and compromise if we do not want to experience the same tragic end as this couple.