If only they’d been honest, their story could have been so different. In the cleverness of their hearts, Ananias and Sapphira really believed they could fool the Holy Spirit and the Apostle Peter when it came time to share their wealth with the church described in Acts 4.
In a marvelous spirit of unity and generosity, this church had come alive with the understanding of salvation through Jesus Christ. Hearts and lives began to change as the believers learned about the goodness and power of the Lord. They began caring, sharing, and giving to each other in extravagant, unselfish ways. It’s what happens when the Spirit of the Lord takes over, described best in Jesus’ words, “Freely you have received; freely give” (Matthew 10:8). His attitude toward healing, casting our demons, even raising the dead was that of openhanded, unsparing, freehearted giving. As for money and material possessions, the Lord loves a cheerful (Greek “hilarious”) giver, 2 Corinthians 9:7 declares.
And so it was with this church, as documented in Acts 4:32-36 (ESV): Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. An excellent standard had been established that pleased the Lord tremendously.
All God wants is truth. Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part [of my heart] will make me know wisdom (Psalm 51:6 Amplified). A profound lesson unfolded in Acts 5:1-11, as the sad account of Ananias’ and Sapphira’s tragic end rocked the church. I’m sure no one was ready for the shocking jolt of judgment that ended in their deaths, but the fear of the Lord is often that—a shocking jolt of supernatural finality orchestrated by God alone. Here’s the account:
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much." And she said, "Yes, for so much." But Peter said to her, "How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out." Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
All God wants is truth. He desires truth in our innermost being, in the hidden part of our hearts. Even there, He can see us, and sadly, He saw the untruthful, greedy motive of Ananias and Sapphira. From His earliest interaction with man in the Garden of Eden to today, the Lord longs for an honest, open relationship with us. As He moved with signs, wonders, and miracles in the Acts church, a standard of absolute truth had to be established for the mighty work of God to continue as His Kingdom expanded on the earth.
They lied, that’s all. That was enough. Lying to the Holy Spirit is not good. Ananias and Sapphira did not disclose the total selling price of their property. They gave the false impression that they were giving everything when in fact, they withheld a portion of the proceeds for themselves. Who would know but the two of them? God, that’s Who. The Holy Spirit in Peter knew immediately that they had lied to men and more grievously, to God.
If only they’d have been honest and said they were giving part of the proceeds from the sale. That was the truth, and there would have been no false pretenses. False impressions reflect a part of the heart that is not truthful, and for Ananias and Sapphira, it cost them their lives. God is a God of truth.
When we were buying our house, my husband and the seller were admiring the property when my husband asked, “Would you be willing to barter?” The owner asked, “Sure, what do you have?” In other words, “Show me the money.” With full disclosure of the value of a property we owned, my husband told the seller of the land, withholding no details. The seller enthusiastically agreed to accept it as a down payment, and the Lord blessed us with a lovely country home that has served us well for over 25 years.
When we give, we can’t fool God. Whether it’s money, property, clothing, gifts, or even our talents—when we give to make an impression, He can see any wrong motive in our hearts, just as He did with Ananias and Sapphira. God gave us His best gift—Jesus Christ—because no one else could accomplish what Christ did. Father God did not withhold anything from us.
You desire truth in the innermost being. As followers of Christ, we are called to stand out as a people of transparency and truth. Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth (1 John 3:18).
© 2023, Chris Custer Werre