Luke gives an ideal example: Joseph the Levite, also known as Barnabas (4:36) Barnabas is a significant figure in the book of Acts, introduced here as a member of the community at Jerusalem. Barnabas sold some property and turns the proceeds over to the apostles. This stands in contrast to Ananias in the next paragraph, who claims to do the same thing but is not telling the truth. Ananias also participated in communal living, but not fully (5:1-2) Taking the end of chapter four together with the beginning of chapter 5, it looks as though Barnabas and Ananias are intentionally place in contrast with each other.
Since the sale of property is voluntary, there is no reason for Ananias to lie about the price of the property – what is his motivation? Possibly he is simply motivated by greed, he did not want to give as much as the price of the property but when others gave the whole amount, he claimed a larger amount that he actually gave. Since Peter describes him as “filled with Satan” many scholars see him as parallel to Judas, another man who was filled with Satan, whose sin also include money (eventually) used to buy some land.
Ananias “held back” some of the money from the sale. The word Luke uses here (νοσφίζω) refers to financial fraud, such as embezzlement or “a type of skimming operation” (BDAG). The word is used for people who hold back some of their crops which are to be used for the public good (Diodorus Scourus, 5, 34, 3). A more surprising use of this word is in LXX Joshua 7:1, 19-26 to describe the sin of Aachen. In that text, Aachen holds back some property which was supposed to be devoted to the Lord. His theft is therefore described as stealing from the Lord.
Peter confronts Ananias and his judgment is immediate (5:3-6) Peter tells Ananias that Satan has filled his heart. How is this possible, if the Jerusalem community is was filled with the Holy Spirit? Was Ananias possessed, or does this language simply describe temptation? This must be parallel to the experience of Judas, who was the only other person in the gospels described as “filled by Satan.” Peter makes it clear that Ananias’ sin is against the Holy Spirit – his lie is not told to the apostles or the apostolic community, but to the Holy Spirit. His wife Sapphira also lies, and is likewise judged (5:7-11) Luke tells us about three hours have passed since Ananias died before Sapphira came to Peter. We know that Ananias acted with the full support of his wife. Just as the apostolic community is of “one mind and heart,” so too this couple was of one mind in heart.
The community in Jerusalem was like a new Israel. Like the original Israel, there is no room for the double-minded. Ananias is a negative example of someone not fully committed to the new community. Barnabas is fully committed, and will be a significant player in the missionary efforts of the earliest church.
The problem is how we “apply” this story to a present day church situation. I doubt very many churches use this text to prod people to “catch up” on their tithe or faith promise, but what reasons do we have for ignoring that aspect of the story? Usually we have to add a great deal to the story in order to make the story more applicable. Go watch this well done video on YouTube. The application is fine, but is this application what Luke intended?
Does God “strike people down” who lie/steal from the Church? (At least in my experience this does not happen, some televangelists would be in big trouble!)
What principles should we draw from the story?
58 thoughts on “Acts 5 – The Death of Ananias and Sapphira”
Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging.
When I have read and heard about this part of Scripture during my outlines and in the past, I always seems to make the connection from that to Cain and Abel in Genesis. In this story, Ananias and Sapphira are Cain and the rest of the congregation that is giving all that they have to the Temple is the equal of Abel. Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of their land and they did not give the portion that they should have given to the church. This displeased God so he struck them dead for lying about it. Cain also did not bring an offering that was from his heart and was acceptable to God. Abel brought all that he could bring to give to God and he was blessed by this. I think we can take the importance of tithing and offering what we can give to God because everything that we have is His. I think the fact that they were struck dead was to really put an emphasis to this story. God had just given them the Holy Spirit and Ananias and Sapphira did not choose to give back to God what He had given them.
This, for me, is one of those passages in the Bible that’s just kind of difficult to swallow–you want to defend it but, you can’t even deny, it’s kind of extreme for a loving God. I suppose the important thing to remember here is that Ananias is a parallel to Aachen and Judas (being “filled with Satan”) and that God is just.
As a present day application, I think it’s safe to say that God does not deal with us quite the same way anymore, but it goes to show the severity of a sin like this, inspired by greed and pride and fully against the Holy Spirit. I guess it kinda sucks that Ananias and Saphira end up just being made an example, but God is God and we’re not.
” The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” Jeremiah 17:9. For me personally, what I draw from the Ananias and sapphire story is how dark our hearts can be at times. Like professor Long mentioned, the offerings to the the apostles were not required or it wasn’t something God asked them to do. The people gave out of the kindness of their own heart. As I watched the YouTube video, they described Ananias and Sapphire as jealous people, who seeked attention. Although the video was made with the purpose of entertainment, there were a few things they touched on that I agreed with. Ananias and Sapphire thought they could deceive the Holy Spirit by their false generosity. However, God knows our true heart.
I have always thought of their motive as being trying to please others rather than God. However this motive is not necessarily clearly defined. It is apparent that the money was being given to the apostles but that this was not necessarily a requirement. Peter does not reprimand them for holding the money back but instead for the lie to the Holy Spirit. I think that greed may have been an aspect of this but that the lie was the deadly sin. Perhaps this was fulfillment of what Jesus said in Matthew when the Pharisees accuse Jesus of driving out an evil spirit by the power of Satan. Jesus responds saying that whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven (Matthew 12:22-32). If this action of Ananias and Sapphira was indeed blaspheming the Holy Spirit perhaps the severe punishment was meant to explain the severity of the situation to the rest of the church. As far as the area of how this scripture should be applied to the church today I think that it is a reminder for the church to take things seriously. The Holy Spirit is not to be lied to. But I also do not think that God deals with the church in the same way as he did in this instance. Going back to Matthew, Jesus did not strike the Pharisees dead. Jesus simply warned them of the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. I think that this passage may have been a reminder to the church to heed the instructions of Jesus.
Great point Mary, I did not think of the Blasphemy against the HS, although since that statement is in Matthew there is no real literary connection to Luke. I wonder if lying to the HS is equivalent to blasphemy, especially as Matthew 12 describes it. Worth a thought, though.
I like to think of this story as a warning of how deadly sin can be. Ananias and Sapphira let greed and jealousy fill their hearts and this led them to believe they could get away with lying to the Holy Spirit. It became more about wanting to get praise from others rather than pleasing God. We should give because we want to give, not because we are forced to do it or want to make others think highly of us. I believe the church should take this passage seriously. God may not deal with us today in the same way that He did back then, but He still knows everything that we do. Tithing and offerings are important in helping support the ministry and the amount shouldn’t be what matters most but the intent of why you’re giving.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira is interesting in the way it displays the severity of the sin of lying to God and the church. Although sin is sin, and there is really no way to measure it, there are other sinful situations in the New Testament that to me, seem more worthy of death. (Herod’s wife’s plot to kill John the Baptist etc.) This goes to show that the act committed by Ananias and Sapphira was extremely serious to God.
Perhaps God judged Ananias and Sapphira more harshly because they were believers and they knew the difference between right and wrong in this situation. This being the beginning of the church, perhaps God wanted to display the severity of this sin to future generations. This act of God also seemed to really shock and terrify the people, “Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” (Acts 5:11) The believers may have been so wrapped up in all the excitement and good things God had been doing that this situation woke them up to the reality that God takes sin very seriously.
I’m not convinced that Satan did enter Ananias. When Jesus spoke to Peter after he tried to rebuke Him He said, “Get behind Me, Satan.” Obviously Peter didn’t become Satan, and I wouldn’t argue that Satan had even entered Peter here (Matthew 16). It seems Jesus rebukes Peter and confronts the fact that Peter is speaking as a representative of Satan’s lies. So when Peter says in Acts 4 that Satan has entered Ananias I’m not sure he means literally. It would make sense if it was the same idea as when he himself had been so influence by and lied to by Satan. In light of this, what we can learn from this story would be that we must not let Satan lie to us. This is impossible in our fallen world, but our job is to be surrounded by people who will call us out, not those who will lie with us, as Sapphira did to Ananias.
Peter does tell Ananias “Satan filled your heart” – this is not “possession” but more than temptation.
Lies, God knows all things because he is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent…so why do we still do it? Many times, I think, as Christians, although we know we have been called to tithe our sinful nature gets in the way. Because of this sinful nature, as humans we are concerned with our needs and being financially stable. So, without considering this act, of witholding tithe from God, a lack of faith that God will provide or as lying, we figure it’s a means to provide for ourselves and make sure we are secure.
In Acts, the church provided for one another, when someone needed something, the church came together and helped. So in a sense when everyone gave what they could to God they also gave to eachother other ways. I believe that as a “church” and as brothers and sisters in Christ this is where we fail. Fellow Christians today don’t help and aren’t concerned with the lives of other Christians. I guess that’s just what I’m seeing.
Sin has always had a price however the truth is its not always sudden. King David went years with no punishment for his adultery. To quote a Johnny Cash song, “you can run on for a long time, sooner or later gotta cut you down” Ted Haggard went years being the face of evangelicals and on the side doing drugs with a male prostitute, but his sin came to light. I think this is not a direct “satan possession” but a “no temptation has ceased you except what is common to man” -1 cor 10:13 moment. I think all men have a type of sin he or she is bent to easier than others and his was giving of his money, and his greed of money and of attention was a horrible price. Maybe this is God making an example early on that He is not a fool and he wont accept this poor behavior. All i know is this, during this time the Holy Spirit was coming on people like fire on a fire works factory. We do not hear stories like this anymore, however the principal is the same, If you think you can short God for your glory, eventually your ruin is coming.
This story is one I always feel a bit uncomfortable about. Ananias could have easily avoided this punishment if he had simply not lied about the amount of money he was giving. As stated above, giving money was done out of free will; it was not something he had to do. But because of a simple sin, God struck him, and his wife, dead. It almost feels hard to defend God in this circumstance, because lying is a sin we all commit, even if they are small white lies. But God is just, and sin is sin, so it does make sense that He had to do it. I really do see this as a warning to us about sin. It really shows that no sin is too small to make God angry, and no sin is too insignificant to make us not good enough in God’s eyes.
In the past, I’ve always thought that the severity of God’s punishment toward Ananias and Sapphira was due to the fact that He was bringing in a new age, a new covenant, and that He made an example of Ananias and Sapphira to show that the emphasis of this new covenant was on the attitude and sincerity of the heart, and not just the outward actions.
In reading the story again this time I had another idea. The believers were selling their possessions and living communally because, as far as I can understand it, they were all convinced that Jesus would be returning very soon to establish His kingdom. They weren’t concerned with having wealth or property because they wouldn’t have need for material wealth once the kingdom was established and God poured out blessing upon His people forever. When Ananias and Sapphira sold their property, it seems that they decided to create a sort of contingency clause. They donated most of the money to the believers, but saved back some, just in case they were wrong about Jesus after all.
Perhaps God’s severe judgment was not just because they lied about the price of the field, but because they weren’t genuinely sold on the whole Gospel message. Even though Peter has just preached that Jesus is the only way to salvation (4:12), Ananias and Sapphira were still holding something back.
I would say that I agree with Sydney. This passage is hard to take in some ways, but at the same time, it seems to me that the punishment that God poured out onto Ananias and Saphira was unavoidable considering their actions and the motives behind them. Ananias did commit a sin, he did lie about it, and as you pointed out; was filled with Satan. That considering, and I do not mean to sound like an overly dramatic sociopath, was somewhat deserved. The main thing that I think we can draw from this for present day application, is that God is just and consistent. If the word used to describe the sin that Ananias committed is the same word used to describe Judas’s sin, then I would have to assume that God’s actions would be the same.
Another point that can be used here is that Scripture doesn’t contradict Scripture. If God acts one way in one circumstance, it is logical to assume He will act the same in what could be the same situation.
Sometimes I feel that some things or stories were placed in the Bible for comic relief. When I first came across the story of Ananias and Sapphira I thought it was a joke. It was not until I became older and wiser and realized the seriousness of the story. I thought about the many times when I would lie to my parents. Lying to my parents when I was younger was totally different than lying to God. God sees everything and he is all knowing. Hebrews 4:13 says “nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” In Jessica’s post she said “Lies, God knows all hings because he is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent…so why do we still do it?” That is something to really think about because sometimes people lie to make themselves feel better, but God ultimately knows the truth.
Growing up my parents taught me to do to others how I would want them to do to me. I say that because I try to do the same to God. I believe that God does not strike people down who lie or still from the church; however I do believe that if you do good, good will come to you and if you do bad then bad will come to you. In other words I feel that God will punish you if you lie or steal from the church; He may not strike you down but he will punish you in some way. The principle that I drew from the story is that God knows and sees everything, and no matter how bad the situation is we should not lie to Him. God is always there for us, so we should always be honest with Him.
“Comic relief” is actually some a good story (modern or ancient) intentionally includes to break tension. It is possible the Sons of Sceva or hte boy who falls from the window in Troas are other examples of this. As far as I know, no one has ever considered A&S “comic relief” before, perhaps because it raises tension rather than relieves it.
When I first read the bible and was asking my holy spirit for discernment this story jumped out like a sore thumb. I immediately had the impression that this story was used to scare Christians into donating what they had. The fact that Paul rejected and lied about Jesus and nothing was done to him and all of the killing going on around them at that time makes me believe this is a lie. Why in the world would this couple be killed when they were believers and gave the majority of their money to the church. Listen to your heart it will tell the truth. The laws of Jesus are written upon your heart. Just another attempt at religious leaders trying to extort or guilt money out of it’s followers.
I think that their motivation was status within the church. Remember, Barnabas sold something and laid the money at the apostles’ feet and it’s one of the things he’s remembered for. (Is this laying money at their feet a ceremony, like bringing up tins of soup for the poor at some church’s harvest festivals?) I think Ananias & Sapphira want to do this act of laying money at the apostles’ feet and be seen to be generous benefactors of the new church. But they mistook financial support for giving their all. We best apply it today by being very careful about status-seeking in the church.
I find two things very interesting about this passage in particular. The first is that Ananias and Sapphira were not overcome by a typical, or common sense of greed. At least, not the selfish desire that is usually paired with money. If they were concerned with money, then it would not make sense for them to partake in that kind of optional giving. It seems that they are greedy for some sort of public recognition. You can see that in the video that you tagged in the post as well. I think that their selfishness stems from what James calls “a double-minded man” in James1:8. That kind of man is thrown about by the wind, an unstable liar!
The second thing is that I think what should be pulled from this passage is that we need to be aware and conscious of the state of our heart. Obviously, God knows it all the time, but when we act we need to be looking intrinsically enough to know what the motivation is behind the things that we are doing. And while doing that, remember who God is when we offer our services to Him, hopefully keeping us humble.
When Peter makes it clear that Ananias’ sin was against the Holy Spirit, this verse immediately came to my mind: “Truly I tell you, all sins and blasphemes will be forgiven for the sons of men. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-30). Ananias did not only sin, but he sinned against the Holy Spirit because he was filled with evil. It makes it even more clear to me that he was possessed by evil because the Holy Spirit did not come upon him like the rest of the community. He and his wife were very content with their sin and their deceiving ways because they assumed they would get what they wanted. It is evident to me that in this life if something or someone is allowing evil into their hearts and their minds, they will become numb when doing harm to others. However, I don’t think the overall message of Ananias and Sapphira is that you will be killed if you sin or blaspheme the Holy Spirit. I think an important message out of it is that we cannot deceive the Almighty God. He knows our thoughts before we think them, He knows what we are going to say before we even say it, and He knows our intentions when we do something. Ananias and Sapphira did not have the intention to be humble servants of the Lord but to appear as though they were when really they were lying and greedily hiding the remainder of the money. God knew that they were sinning against Him, yet they attempted to lie to Peter and cover it up anyways. In Acts 5:3-4, Peter in a way questions them why they would even THINK to sin against the Spirit and lie about it. Reading Peter’s response to their lying translated into my head to something like, “How could you be so foolish? Did you really think this was going to work? Did you really think you could fool the Lord?”
Found in Acts 5 the death of Ananias and Sapphire is not only an extreme story to read about for those living today but was even considered extreme for those living in that time period. “And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things (Acts 5:11).” Peter even went so far to say Ananias was filled with Satan, a phrase given to no one else in the Bible except for Judas, the man who betrayed the Messiah (Acts 5:3). Therefore, what does this story in Acts mean? Does it mean God will strike down every individual who lies/steals from the church? The answer to that question is obviously no otherwise there would be hundreds of more documented stories telling about those getting struck down after stealing/lying from the church. However, I do believe God gave this extreme punishment to Ananias and Sapphira as a lesson for those to learn during that time, during this day and age, and for future generations. Being that this was one of the first acts of complete flesh during the formation of the church God wanted everyone to know it was not allowed within His kingdom (Strauss, 2004). God knew that their fake spiritually would spread like wildfire (Acts 5:9); therefore, He knew His divine discipline would show the rest of the community inside and outside of the church that it was not allowed and would not be tolerated (Strauss, 2004).
Although this type of divine discipline is not seen today, which is a good thing because a lot of us would be dead by now, God still punishes those who steal/lie to the church. For example, in 2015, Creflo Dollar asked his congregation to each give $300 towards his fundraiser when the proceeds actually went towards his $65 million dollar jet (Serena, 2018). In 1988, Jim Bakker was charged with mail and wire fraud (Serena, 2018). The point I am trying to make here is that even though God no longer strikes individuals down after stealing/lying to the Church He still punishes them whether that be with them getting publicly caught or in other areas of their lives were His blessings no longer follow them.
Serena, K. (2018, February 22). 13 Famous Pastors Caught Doing Unholy Things. Retrieved from https://allthatsinteresting.com/pastors-behaving-badly#12
Strauss, R. J. (2004, June 28). 12. Be Honest-The Story of Ananias and Sapphira. Retrieved from https://bible.org/seriespage/12-be-honest-story-ananias-and-sapphira
One principle we can gather from Acts 5:1-10 is that the point of selling their land they had intentions of doing so. They sold their land willingly in order to give whatever money they earned to the disciples for those who had a need. But Ananias let greed fill his heart and instead of giving all of the money to the disciples like those who did before him he kept some money hidden away for himself, and then lied about it. Peter asked Ananias how could he allow Satan to fill his heart? We don’t know was Ananias tempted to take the money? Did he have a need of his own and so instead of asking he just took some money and thought it would be ok? Was the reason he took money to put in the bank for a rainy day? The only thing scripture tells us is that he know is he took money and lied about it. I am in no way saying what he did was right but maybe he had a reason to take some of the money. Selling the land wasn’t about the money…well maybe it was, but the idea was that it would be used for anyone who truly needed it. And because he lied to the Holy Spirt about taking the money he died. His wife Sapphira is not innocent either. Because Peter strait up asked was this really the amount you sold your land for? Her answer was yes, even though Peter knew the real answer he wanted to hear the truth from Sapphira, but she still lied. She could have told the truth and possibly repented for their wrong doing, but instead it was easier for her to lie then tell the truth and ask for forgiveness. And because she sinned, the punishment for sin is death and so she too died. This story resembles the story of Adam and Eve, they sinned lied about and because of that were punished. Ananias and his wife Sapphira knew what was right because they were believers. And yet when it came time to give what they said they had received, they lied about what they received and hid away a part for themselves. Another principle from this could be even Christian’s get tempted and sometimes act on those temptations. Causing them to lie, cheat, and steal. And the punishment for those such actions is death it might not be instant death like in the story but you will still have to answer for that deed done. Or you can be strait forward and truthful bringing everything before God. Because no matter what you do, you can’t fool or lie to God because he knows everything.
The story of these two really caught my attention in class and answered some of my questions. I had always thought why would God smite two people in the New Testament after his son had died on the cross and paid for all sins, where they weren’t even under the law anymore. Well society and the formation of the church was quite different back then and I think God also wanted to refer back to Achan in the Old Testament. Achan did the same thing leaving some for himself and he met the same fate. This story could also be seen as an example, how in Matthew 16:24 Jesus talks about denying oneself and taking up his cross. We must be die completely to ourselves to be a follower of Jesus obviously Ananias and Sapphira weren’t ready to give up themselves or worldly possessions hence the reason I think that they were also smote.
Peter condemned Ananias and his wife Sapphira for not giving all the money for the land they sold. It was a triple sin: 1. Thou shalt not kill, 2. Peter wasn’t satisfied with what was donated but wanted it all!, and 3. Let no man separate the husband and wife that God has joined in matrimony. On all levels he was wrong, Peter acted like judge, jury and executioner, just a further example of the brash actions that he often took. This story disappoints me.
The death of Ananias and Sapphira signifies how greed can infect the soul and mind of the believer, leading them to abandon their devotion to God. The end of chapter 4 describes how Barnabus sold his property and gave the profits to the apostles to further the gospel. As Long notes, this is paralleled with the dishonesty of Ananias and Sapphira, who sold their property but did not donate the entirety of the profit to the apostles. One might question why Ananias and Sapphira were punished for keeping a portion of the profits, wasn’t the money their’s to use? However, the issue was not firstly keeping a portion of the money, it was the dishonesty of claiming they gave all of the profits to the apostles. In Greek, the word used refers to financial fraud or embezzlement, which is considered a crime for most countries of the modern world.
When Peter confronts Ananias, he says that Ananias is “filled with satan”, which is noted by scholars as a parallel to Judas. Ananias is immediately struck down because his sin was not against the apostles but the Holy Spirit, a few hours later the same fate befalls his wife Sapphira. The question must arise, how could a couple, in the midst of a community filled with the Holy Spirit commit such an act? This action is similar to Judas, who was also described as “filled with satan”. The growing community is almost like a “new Israel”, therefore, just as the old Israel did not allow doublemindedness, neither does the “new Israel”. Ananias and Sapphira, just as Judas, succumb to the temptation of worldly greed and ambitions, choosing earthly things over the worship of our heavenly Savior. We must guard our hearts against greed and dishonesty, for we do not simply sin against others, but most importantly against God.
This story has always seemed to be on the extreme side to me. The Bible clearly says that while God is a righteous God and a just judge He is also a God of love, grace, and forgiveness. Causing someone to drop dead because of a lie does not seem like a God of love, grace, or forgiveness. It is clear that Ananias and Sapphira didn’t have to give anything. All of the giving that happened within that community was completely voluntary. Peter said that Ananias’ heart was filled by Satan and that he lied to the Holy Spirit. In this blog post the question “How is this possible, if the Jerusalem community was filled with the Holy Spirit?” is asked (Long). “The Spirit was closely linked to the unity of the fellowship manifested in their sharing. Ananias and Sapphira abused the fellowship through their deception and thereby threatened its unity” (Polhill, 2089). The reason that the people of the Jerusalem community were giving, and sharing was because it had been put on their hearts by the Holy Spirit. Ananias’ heart had been filled by Satan. The video that was linked in the blog post suggests that Ananias and Sapphira wanted to give just so that they got all of the attention. They weren’t giving out of their hearts because of the Holy Spirit, their hearts were full of greed. As far as why God gave such a severe punishment it seems that they were punished more for the reason behind the lie rather than the lie itself. Polhill suggests that this event could be seen as “God’s removal from the young Christian community of the distrust and disunity provoked by the couple’s dishonesty” (Polhill, 2090).
I would agree that it is safe to say that God does not usually “strike people down” today. This passage has many dynamics to its application for us today. But to know how to apply it, we first have to understand some things. First, understanding what is happening in the book. Second, what Lukes theme is of Acts. For our papers about the centrality of Israel, I discussed that this is a new age beginning. That this is starting to establish the kingdom of God through the Holy Spirit. Ananias and Sapphire “put the Spirit of the Lord to the test” (v. 9). What could we can apply, is that this sin against the Holy Spirit is equal to Sin against God. Because the Holy Spirit is God. It’s possible that with the Holy Spirit being a “new concept” in this time? (I’m not sure about this) I could see that their could be some followers testing the Holy Spirits limits. I would say people do this today as well. The concept of the trinity wasn’t set in stone at that time, so little did they know, the Holy Spirit is God…or did they? I guess that’s were my lack of knowledge shows.
I see how this could be a way of establishing the seriousness of sin against the Holy Spirit. The Jewish people understood OT literature and could possibly recognize familiarity. Like what happened to Cain when he didn’t give the right sacrifice (Gen 4) and Joshua 7:1, 19-26 to describe the sin of Aachen. Quite possibly God could be establishing the Holy Spirit’s authority and divinity.
Another way this could be applicable to us today is our seriousness and devotion to God. I don’t think that this passage is pushing us to giving “the right amount” of tithes. But instead focuses more on our hearts behind what we are giving to God. Are we holding back ourselves? Our devotion? our trust in the Lord? The early Christian community at that time leaned on each other. They weren’t too keen on their sense of individuality. Unlike us modern 21st century, westerners hold so dearly. Instead they cared for each other. In their devotion and trust in God, they sacrificed for the care and benefit of the community. Ananias and Sapphira didn’t do that. They were selfish, and didn’t want to give what they knew they should, and could. Instead they lied, and hoarded their possessions. What we can take from this is a sense of taking serious how much we trust in others and in the Lord.
Reflecting on the story of Ananias and Sapphira, especially in contrast of that of Barnabas, there are a few points that can be drawn from it. Long points to the contrast between them and Barnabas as a small context to understand their error. Long makes some connection between the same being “filled with Satan” as Judas, the apostle. But mainly ascertains that they lied to the Holy Spirit and kept back what they said they dedicated to God. Long and Polhill also make the connection with Achan, who kept spoils that should have been totally dedicated to the Lord (Joshua 7:1). I think it would be abuse of Scripture to apply this to the context of giving in today’s church as well as to simply say that it was to inspire the community’s fear of God. I believe that Long and Polhill are correct in focusing on the lie as the main issue and the importance of unity of the group as the main concern in such swift dealing of the issue. We are not given more details of the posture of the heart of Ananias and Sapphira, nor if they were true believers or not. But maybe we should focus more on the lesson about unity. The early community of believers lived independently and communally, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, 44). Perhaps the lack of unity and fellowship among believers and different units of the Church today limits on an individual and community level the way we experience the Holy Spirit.
Ananias and Sapphira are an interesting couple that met a sudden end. Although it is obvious they were lying about their so-called “gift” to the apostles and church, the question on whether liars are killed by God is brought to our attention. I personally believe that as Christians we should look deeper into the story. The heart of this couple was not of the Lord but they are said to have allowed Satan to have filled their hearts(Acts 5:3). Reading verse three I cannot help but wonder what this truly means. I personally translate this as them allowing Satan to instigate them into sinning. Satan cannot make us sin but is fully capable of tempting/providing us with an opportunity to sin. We as humans have the choice whether to sin or not. Going back to the fact that their hearts were filled with Satan it is impossible to know if this was an indicator that they were not saved. It is apparent that they were not walking in the way of the Lord but in their sinful desires thus going against the Lord.
Looking at the story of Ananias and Sapphira we can learn how we should give. When we give to God we just need to be honest about what we sacrifice for the Lord to those around us. The Lord calls us to live our lives for him and these two were living for themselves and in the way of Satan. This being they were killed for their wickedness and God defiling life. We should take to heart and look at what we are willing to sacrifice for God and if not much may we pray for a willingness
The story of Ananias and Sapphira is one that is easier to understand and apply when one gets older. When I was younger, the story used to terrify me because I thought that if I did something wrong, God would kill me right then and there. I did not understand the context surrounding the story and why the Holy Spirit had struck them dead. It wasn’t until I was older that I could better understand what was actually taking place.
What I find most interesting from this story is how it parallels the idea of being of one mind and action. We see that the early church was a community where everyone worked in unity. And even though Ananias and Sapphira were not fully committed to the ideals of the community, the two of them showed the idea of being in one mind and action in their grievance against the Spirit.
When it comes to how we can apply this to today, I believe that it is important to look more at the heart of the community than anything else. While we can take away application for tithing and telling the truth, the hearts of the people in the story is what draws my attention. The believers are united in how they live and care for one another, unlike many churches today. We also see that this type of living only existed because the church was fully committed to the teachings of Jesus and showing His love to others.
I may have mentioned this story in a previous blog post, but there is a Church near my house whose Pastor was fired a few years back for having a homosexual affair and embezzling money. He was arrested, but half the congregation decided to form a new Church, where they raised his bail money and invited him back as their Head Pastor. I had the misfortune of meeting him (we visited his Church because they were selling a piano), and he was certainly a man filled by Satan. He only spoke of himself, bragging of his wealth and talents. I didn’t know his background until later on, but I certainly understand why I literally could not look him in the eye. I felt as though there was something nonhuman looking at me too. I tell this story because he reminds me of Ananias. He stole money from the Lord’s people; he lied to the Holy Spirit. I think this passage in Acts 5 serves as a grave warning to individuals who allow their greed to harm the Church. I also think this passage has another important lesson as well. By being complicit in Ananias’ misdeeds, Sapphira was equally punished. Allowing sin is a sin. Whether you explicitly promote it simply turn your back to the problem, those who allow sin will be judged just as those committing the sin.
The apostle Paul will later write in Timothy 6:10 ”the love of money is the root of all evil.” This same evil was shown through the doubt and greed of Ananias and Sapphira. Joseph the Levite had voluntarily sold his property and gave the money to the apostles. Similarly, Ananias and Sapphira wanted to give the apostles money from the property they sold, just not all of it. The doubt that many Christians have today is similar to the reason Ananias and Saphira withheld funds and lied about it. They did not fully trust God and were seeking success by their own means. Peter describes Ananias as being “filled by Satan” (Acts 5:3). Polhill states “Satan was the instigator behind the couple’s deed, ‘filling’ their hearts just as the Spirit has ‘filled’ the community for witness” (Polhill, 2089). I do not believe Satan could fill someone’s heart already claimed by the Holy Spirit, but Satan does have the ability to influence believers. In this case, Ananias and Sapphira fell into temptation and did not place their trust in God to provide financially. They also seemed to care about their social status; yet another thing they placed before trusting God. The financial and social temptations are still relevant today. Many Christians seem to keep God as their “backup plan” as they tithe only the required amount or only when it elevates their social status. Just as the early believers in Acts were encouraged to voluntarily give proceeds of their possessions to the apostles, we are encouraged to joyfully give to the church. We must protect ourselves from the financial and social temptations of Satan and focus on the call of the Holy Spirit solely.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira has always fascinated me, even as a kid. I remember in Sunday school being totally astonished that God just smote this couple down from the heavens, and wondering what they could have done to deserve such a punishment. As I reread the story in later years I slowly started to understand the reason behind the punishment, although I still thought it was quite extreme. This story is not one of the happy David and Goliath stories in the Bible, where you see God’s kind and faithful promises coming true, but it does have a purpose, and it ultimately still brings God glory.
Although maybe not the most applicable at first glance, there is a lot to be considered in the passage. Polhill points out the Spirit’s role in the community of believers at that time, and how based on what Ananias and Sapphira did they broke that trust and unity. “Ananias and Sapphira abused the fellowship through their deception and thereby threatened its unity” (Polhill, 2089). This points to the heart issue. It was not necessarily the deed that Ananias and Sapphira were struck down dead for, but the deceitfulness and greed in their hearts. They were willing to lie about a stupid field in order to boost their own pride and popularity.
There are a few principles that can be taken out of this passage, firstly God does not take well to lying and cheating, but more than that it has to do with the betrayal of everything that Christ stood for. “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). This passage I think fits well with this story. Somethings it’s not just our physical appearance that we take the most pride in, often it can be things like how much money we title, or how much we volunteer, it can be easy to feed pride with that mindset. One of the biggest principles to take away from this passage is that it’s not the thing we do for God that matters, it’s the heart and attitude behind them.
Basically, the answer is no. Well, maybe. I personally have never seen God strike anyone down for the fact that they lied to the church, or withheld money from the church. However, it was the manner in which Ananias and Sapphira withheld money from the church. Peter is quoted by even saying in Acts 5:3, “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?’”. The issue wasn’t an external financial issue, though that is what is perceived. Mainly, it was a heart issue. What was happening was a failure to their commitment to their people. “a couple who abused the practice by holding back a portion of a gift while claiming to be giving it totally to the church” (Polhill, 2089). They had committed, and decided, to live a life that would line up with the practices of their people, but instead what they did was act selfishly, and not uphold this rule. Now, what this means for us, is almost (in a way) the act of us professing our faith and commitment to the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said himself in Matthew 10:33, “but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven”. It isn’t exactly the same, but that is the flavor I am sensing from this passage in Acts. Now, when talking about God’s Grace and our Salvation is secure in Jesus, I believe in that whole heartedly, but what I am pulling from this story is the fact that we should be taking this faith thing seriously. This is the God of the universe we are talking about. Not some grandfather in the clouds making sure we don’t break any rules.
The best answer to theological questions is “Basically, the answer is no. Well, maybe.”
I think this passage in Acts 4 should have more focus put on the lying aspect rather than God putting to death aspect. I feel that God striking down Ananias and Sapphira was significant in showing how lying is something that should not be tolerated. Polhill reminds us that giving to the church’s charity was voluntary (Polhill 2090). Ananias did not have to give to the church like Barnabas did, and that these accounts contrast each other (Long). A question that I have is what really were his motives? To have some back up money? To gain recognition and attention after Barnabas? To act on greed? (Long). Regardless of what his motives were to not give the full amount to the church, we see he still lied about it. We see how Satan is mentioned as being a temptation in this scenario (Acts 3). “Satan was the instigator behind the couple’s deed” (Polhill 2089). Ananias did not only lie to the church, but the Bible specifically says he “lied to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:3). This passage is an example how Satan tries to work against God and “instigates” the couple to go against and lie to God, specifically the Holy Spirit. I feel this passage can be used an applied today to show how Satan tempts us, how lying is against God, and how the Holy Spirit is one with God.
I love the Bible. Obviously, as someone who wholeheartedly professes faith in Jesus Christ and believes the Bible to be a living, breathing, word of God, then that goes without saying right? But for me personally, one of the things I love the most about the Bible is what it leaves in it. the Bible doesn’t omit any detail. Noah was a great man of God who made the Ark and saved the animal kingdom, yet he got drunk and got naked afterwards. I love that the Bible kept that funny detail in there, because it reminds that after all we are human, God is not, we are imperfect, he is perfect. Ananias and Sapphira are prime examples of not just humanity, but humanity in the Bible at it’s worst. They are put to death for their lying, and in a way, they deserve death. But only because they sinned, and the reality is that unless you or I confess our sins and profess faith in Christ, we deserve to die too. Now was their punishment fit and just? I am not one who has the right to say. The principle that we should draw from this story is to not follow the example that Ananias and Sapphira set. They set a bad example, and their sin resulted in consequences. We can debate all day whether this was just or not, but the reality is that the enemy will tempt in many ways, and that we must be on guard. We must not fall into the temptation of greediness but rather we must have giving hearts that strive to follow Christ in every single moment.
This has to be one of a challenging blog post I have ever come across out of all the comments that I gave. It is a bit challenging in the sense of how do we apply the story into our modern culture, if deceiving the Holy Spirit meant to be being strike down by the Holy Spirit resulting in death, then none of us will survive. The sin that Ananias and Sapphira committed was occupying back some of the money from the property that he and his wife sold which is an acts of deceiving the Holy Spirit in their cultural contexts, but its seem to be rare if we look at in our modern cultures. Not only that many Christian lie against the Holy Spirit, we have a habitual sins in our daily life, which is in contrary with being filled with the Holy Spirit, none of us will make this far. However, if I have to give my best input here, I am convince that God is trying to teach us something through this couples on the danger aspect of lying against the Holy Spirit for the coming generation to learn the lesson and being aware of dreadful it is when a person lied against the Holy Spirit. During that time, the community of believers were filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the couples were also apart of “the believers”. By the conviction of the Holly Spirit, many believers were enlighten and willingly to sales their property for the ministry, so that the gospel will be spread all over. But unfortunately, I don’t think both couples had the intention of lying the Holy Spirit, but rather to men, if they knew about this they would have resisted. But according top Peter, lying to men was not the big issue here, instead Peter was furious the facts that both couples were lying to God(the Holy Spirit) for the prospect of gaining money. God is all about intention, heard and mind of a person, obviously both couples stand in the complete opposite of what God want. As a result of their action, God strike them down resulting in death, because God is trying to teach us something from this couples. Rev. 2:23 said, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and xI will give to each of you according to your works. God want, people to know that He searches mind and heart of people, and nothing can be hidden in his sight.
Looking at Acts 5 with the story of Ananias and Sapphira, it showed me that it is possible to be filled with Satan as Peter told Ananias in Acts 5:3. I am unsure if Ananias and Sapphira actually had the Holy Spirit in them to begin with, but this story reminds me of temptation just as Professor Long’s article mentioned. We are human and we are filled with the temptation to sin from Satan. The temptation is there and sometimes we fall, but the thing we as believers have to do after is repent which Ananias and Sapphira did not do. After watching the youtube video that was attached in the article, it seemed to me that they did this out of jealousy which is a type of sin. Satan saw this jealousy and took action.
What was interesting for me to look into was the difference between someone who did have the Holy Spirit in them and someone who did not. In my opinion, it seemed to me that Ananias and Sapphira did not have the intent of listening to the Holy Spirit in this situation. Someone who did have the intent of listening to the Holy Spirit was Peter. Without having any evidence, Peter used the power of the Holy Spirit to convict them of their lies.
I see the similarities to Cain and Abel. Like Cain, Ananias and Sapphira try to pull one over on God, but the church is the realm of the NEW ADAM. Sorry but none of that stuff here…
I sometimes wonder why the Lord doesn’t strike people down more often but then again He didn’t do it very often in the early church either, or maybe He does do it, but we don’t realize it…
What I found to be the most significant lesson from the beginning of Acts 5 is how Peter tells Ananias that he lied to the Holy Spirit. Peter makes it extremely clear in Acts 5:3 that his sin hurt God first and foremost. Long mentions how Ananias may have simply been greedy and that is why he did not give the portion which he should have, which I think as humans we all can easily be tempted with that type of sin. It can be easy to not tithe the 10% or even get on a routine where we don’t regularly give to the church because our flesh is greedy. We as humans believe that the more money we have the happier we will be and yes that may be true to a certain extent, but in reality, joy is what we need and joy comes from the Lord. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils,” (1 Timothy 6:10a). Money is a way for the devil to control us and help us fall into sin so we can do the works of him and not of God. The truth that we can get out of the story of the death of Ananias and his wife is that when we lie we are sinning. In their case, they were sinning and then lying about it to try and hid their sin which was making it overall just worst, and in the end, they died. The principle of this story is that when we sin we are not just hurting ourselves or those around us, but also God.
When reading through Acts 5, it took me by surprised how straight forward Peter was to both Ananias and Sapphira. Right when Ananias put the money down Peter told him that he knew the truth and why would he let Satan overcome him. In Acts 5:4 and how it talked about how Ananias and Sapphira didn’t just lie to a man, but they lied to God the most powerful. Thinking deeper about that verse makes me personally think about all the times I’ve tried to hide something from God but end up releasing that He knows even when we don’t tell Him. That relates back to Acts 5 because Ananias and Sapphira didn’t even have to tell Peter about not giving all the money to the church. God told Peter this and then they paid for what they had done. One of the possible take away is that there is no gain in lying to God and or others. Even though this blog post talks about giving to the church I think this verse is hitting on lying and not being honest. There are other verses in the bible that talks about giving like 2 Corinthians 9:7, but this verse personally is really showing that lying and disobeying can lead to the unknown and hurt.
The key verse of importance in this passage is verse 4. “ 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 man but to God” (Acts 5:4, ESVSB). Polhill explains that Ananias was not required to give anything to the community (2008, p. 2271). Yet, Ananias was still being deceitful and pretending as though he was giving over what he really was. Living in community is a theme that is stressed throughout Acts. In Acts 2, all of the newly gained followers of Christ “devote” themselves to the teachings of the Lord, prayer, and breaking bread (Acts 2:42). Later in the chapter, Luke explains that people have started selling their houses and possessions so that they can give to the needy and witness to them in that way (Acts 2:45). Furthermore, they had “all things in common” (Acts 2:44). The death of Ananias and Sapphira is undeniably surprising. However, after digging into the historical background and intent of the text, it becomes easier to digest. I think there is a possibility that God struck down the couple because they did not have “all things in common” with the rest of the believers. They were being deceitful among a group of people who were following God to experience eternal life and witness to others. God’s grace was extended to them in that He did not expect them to give anything, and when they did- they lied about the amount. God’s act to kill Ananias and Sapphira may have been in part to cleanse the new community of such sinful acts before it infected others.
The problem suggested in this blog post is how to address this story and issue within the church today. I personally have an interesting view on this story because I have heard it in church twice. My church on this side of Michigan has talked about Ananias and Sapphira as well as my family’s church on the East side of Michigan. They both addressed the topic differently. My family’s church skipped over the story entirely only mentioning pieces from the story. However, my church did address the story mentioning how important it is. This brings up the question does God really strike people down who life or steal from the church? I think the simple obvious answer is no, but there is more to that. No, he does not send a lightening bolt and kill them instantly. However, I believe he does make them pay for their actions even if we do not always realize it. Matthew 16:18 says, “And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” This verse tells us that God protects his church and those involved in it. Therefore, he will not let anyone, not even Satan destroy it. The general principle I obtain from reading these passages and hearing about it in church is that God protects his church and his people. Therefore, he will remove people whose intentions are to steal or harm the church. While I think it is harsh to kill someone over this type of lie, it fit the time period. This story showed the people that lying to the church or the apostles was the same as lying to the Holy Spirit, Acts 5:9. Therefore, principles we should take from this story is for one not to lie to God or the church because he sees everything, and two, God will take care of you and the church if you are honest and truly giving the amount God calls you to give.
In today’s society God doesn’t “strike” people down directly. With the access that we have to the Bible today God has left us to make our own decisions to either obey him wholeheartedly or to not. In today’s era we see that God lets the consequences of our sins play out by themselves, especially because we have already been given all the resources to know right from wrong. So if we take for example some of the leaders from megachurches who have been exposed for wronging people or stealing, their sin is eventually laundered out the world because it is part of the consequence of their sin, not including God’s judgment on them. Like Jesus had said in Luke 8:17, everything that is in the dark will come to light, whether that is stealing, cheating, causing harm, or even half heartedly worshiping God.
This leads into the principle or theme we can derive from the story of Ananias and Sapphira.
One of the main principles we can gather is to worship God wholeheartedly, without ulterior motives and without expecting anything in return. Like Ananias and Sapphira, we aren’t forced to worship God (in their case sell their land), so it is a choice that we must make, not to receive praise from others but because we want to praise God. When we don’t do it for the right reasons of course there will be consequences, in Ananias and Sapphiras case, not only were they struck down but they “abused the fellowship… and threatened the unity” (Polhill, 2008, p. 2089) of the fellow believers. This was specifically important because they were just starting out and both Ananias and Sapphira knew that selling their property was not mandatory to begin with. As stated in the blog, “Like the old Israel, there was no room for the double-minded” (Long, par. 5), similarly with us today, we should not be hoping for more blessings or for praise from others as a result of our worship, but rather we should be hoping to exalt and further the kingdom of God.
It surprises me that Ananias was not required to give anything to the church, but rather chose to voluntarily and then still lied about the amount (Polhill, p. 2090). In a way, he doomed himself from the start. Although it does seem harsh for God to strike down Ananias over a lie, it’s clear that God does not tolerate sin, especially within the church. I find the parallel between Satan filling Ananias’s heart and the same phrase associated with Judas interesting. Judas’s sin seems weightier than Ananias’s, but they both deal with greed. Both Ananias and Judas wanted money for themselves over doing what was right and remaining dedicated to God. I think as Christians today, it can be difficult to justify God choosing to kill Ananias and Sapphira over greed and a lie, but there’s a much deeper message in this passage. Not only should we choose not to lie to the Holy Spirit, which is equivalent to lying to God himself (Polhill), but we should never allow our greed to take a higher place in our hearts than God himself.
Also, I think because this is the first instance of greed and lying within the church, God chose to cut it off quickly. Acts 5:11 (ESV) says, “And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” Not only were Ananias and Sapphira rightfully punished for their sin, but they were also serving as an example to the rest of the church to discourage others from making the same mistake. Although it does still seem harsh, it is clear that God was making a direct statement to all of the believers: Do not lie to the Holy Spirit, and do not allow your greed to take a higher place in your heart than God.
In this generation we are not going to see anyone being struck down if they lie or steal from the church like Ananias and Sapphira. But I still can’t think of why they would lie if the giving’s were voluntary. Mr. Long shared that Annanias and Sapphira lied and kept some of the money possibly because of their greed. Many of the other people giving to the church were giving all they had. Annanias and Sapphira most likely wanted to keep some of what they had but didn’t want to come off as cheap to everyone around them. In 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 shares that God doesn’t command his people a certain amount to give to the church. But those who give graciously will reap the benefits of God’s kingdom (Polhill, 2008, 2234-2235). Annanias and Sapphira remind me a lot of Adam and Eve. They both gave into the temptation of sin. Both were deceptive in their actions. Adam and Eve hid their nakedness from God because of their sin, and Annanias and Sapphira had lied about the amount of money they were giving to the church and kept some for themselves. Adam and Eve faced the consequence of their sin by being forced to leave the Garden of Eden, while Annanias and Sapphira paid for their sin with their lives. Temptations will always be in our lives and there are many examples throughout the Bible that shares God’s view on giving into our temptations.
One principle that I believe can be universally brought out from this story is that nothing can be kept from the Lord. We see the Lord’s judgment done to Ananias in this story as he is struck dead very quickly. Now, like mentioned in the blog, we do not see this happening in today’s time. Which leads to the happenings of this story to serve as more of an example to the Christians of that time and for us now reading the Bible years later. The Lord does not deal kindly with those who lie to him, whether that be striking you dead then and there or eternal suffering. We as Christians know that the Lord is all knowing and powerful, so why would be try and hide from Him what he already knows of? In the end it was not about how much one gives, but the heart of the one giving. Ananias was greedy and kept from the Lord what was already his, showing that his heart was already in the wrong place. We know that the Lord is not as much interested in how much one gives, but the attitude of one’s heart. We can see this the very beginning with the Cain and Abel story, where God rejected ones offering because of his heart (Gen. 4:6). God wants an offering out of a heart of giving, not out of a place of force.
The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira in the book of Acts serve as an important lesson for the early Christian community and for believers today. First, the event emphasizes the serious nature of sin. The couple’s attempt to deceive the apostles and the community by pretending to give all the proceeds from the sale of their property, when in fact they kept some of the money for themselves, was a serious breach of trust and integrity. The immediate consequences of their actions, death, highlight the severity of sin and the importance of avoiding it. Second, the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira serve as a warning against hypocrisy and deceit. In the early Christian community, there was a strong emphasis on living lives that were characterized by honesty, generosity, and selflessness. The couple’s actions were in direct contrast to these values, and their deaths served as a reminder to others to avoid similar behavior. Finally, the event underscores the importance of accountability and transparency in the Christian community. The apostles were able to discern the couple’s deception because they were operating in an environment of openness and accountability. This encouraged others to live lives that were characterized by honesty and transparency, and helped to maintain the integrity of the community as a whole. In conclusion, the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira serve as a powerful reminder of the serious consequences of sin, the importance of avoiding hypocrisy and deceit, and the need for accountability and transparency in the Christian community. These lessons continue to be relevant for believers today and serve as a valuable reminder of the importance of living lives that are pleasing to God.
I had never quite thought before that Ananias’ actions could be juxtaposed to that of Judas. It does seem fitting as both betrayed one of the persons of God when they were under no means to be forced into following God. I think this is almost some means of foreshadowing the Kingdom to come. Any sin is enough to separate us from God and in doing what Ananias did it would make sense he would be cut off for his actions, thus separated from the Spirit which makes us alive in Christ. Revelation 21:4 shows us an old order of things passing away and if the Kingdom is to be established it would appear that this is to be one of those instances. This passage of Scripture reflects some of the Old Testament in that of testing the LORD, only now It is the Spirit being tested (Polhill, 2090). As mentioned in Deuteronomy 6:4, the LORD being one, this passage provides great evidence for the Spirit as well being God, and is a good defense for the Trinity. There is so much to gain from this passage both theologically as well as morally. As those baptized with the Spirit we are called to live a different life.
This story is really interesting to me and prior to reading it just now, I had never actually heard of it before. The first question that came to my mind after reading it was why were Ananias and Sapphira struck down? As you stated above “Since the sale of property is voluntary”, I first thought that surely anything that he gave was better than nothing, since nothing was required of him. I then read the notes in the ESV which stated that the couple had claimed that they were giving the whole of the sale to the church, and obviously they then kept some of it for themselves. This passage is a great reminder that when we sin, as we all do daily in our lives, we are not just sinning against ourselves or other people, ultimately, we are sinning against God. The most important takeaway from this passage for me is that it does not matter what we do for God, for example a rich man could give a lot of money to a church, but his reason could be just for his own standing. What matters is our heart and our attitude in these acts of Goodness.
Reading this story in the Bible is one that may be hard to grasp but easy to read and connect with things that happen in today’s world. We know that in the world today as Christians or even people in general when we sin because we are all sinners we are not struck down directly when something happens. Living in today’s world there is a lot of access to how we perceive who God is and how to take his word and apply it to our own lives. We read the Bible, have Bible studies, we have a church, Christian schools, etc. With all of this in our lives, we have the access to make decisions for ourselves, we can either do as he says or not do what he is telling us to do, we have a choice to make. Looking at the story of Ananias and Sapphira, we can see that they sought out membership, they wanted recognition and a position in God’s church for it to serve themselves, they wanted everything to satisfy their own needs and not to care about anything else. As Christians, we want things for ourselves in our walk with God but we have to make sure this applies to God’s will, we surrender our lives to him and to serve him for all we are. We should take away from this story that we should not challenge or test God. Another thing that can be learned from this chapter is that this story is about monet and greed, this can relate to use as Christians as well and how we deal with economic issues in society. This story is important and relates a lot to us as Christians.
I think that one principle to be drawn from the story of Ananias and Sapphira is that actions are meaningless if your heart is in the wrong place. Ananias’s sin was not that he did not give everything that he had – Peter clearly points out in Acts 5:4 the “voluntary nature of the church’s charity: Ananias did not have to give anything” (Polhill, 2008, p. 2090). Ananias’s sin was in trying to appear righteous–by lying and “holding back a portion of a gift while claiming to be giving it totally to the church” (Polhill, 2008, p. 2089). I often wonder, if Ananias would have been honest about his giving, if he had only sold a portion of his property to give that money, what would the outcome have been?
This section made me think about the story of Cain and Abel. Both Cain and Ananias are attempting to give a lesser portion and get away with it–perhaps they wish to appear righteous without actually having to sacrifice what they have. In both situations they are confronted, and it becomes clear that it is impossible to lie to God.
I do not think today that God will “smite” someone who lies or steals from the church. However, I think the principle of “Why am I giving” should apply. Isn’t it better to give only a small portion and to be honest about it than it is to give a small portion but claim we are giving a larger portion in order to appear more righteous? How often do we give, volunteer, speak up, not because we truly feel led by the Spirit or are genuine in our desires, but because we seek to appear righteous, or seek to impress those around us? I think it’s good to check ourselves when we are in those situations, and evaluate what our motives truly are.
Polhill, John. (2008). The Book of Acts. Pages 2073-2145 in ESV Study Bible. Wheaton: Crossway.
This story of Ananias and Sapphira is quite an interesting story in Acts. What is crazy to think about, is just how powerful the God we serve actually is. He has the ability to take us out whenever he wants. In this story, it was quite clear that Ananias and Sapphira had other motivations for donating money than to actually glorify God. They were donating to show that they were great people so that people would look upon them with more respect or honor. However, we clearly see that God has nothing to do with what they seek, which is why I believe God ultimately ruled with an iron fist. They were trying to deceive the creator of the universe, and at the same time gain popularity for their “righteous” actions. Many people in the world today have this same problem and are not punished, at least not that we humans can see. However, I do feel that when someone deceives themselves, there will always be some form of punishment from God, whether that be a feeling of guilt or shame, I feel that the holy spirit would not honor such actions, even in the world today.
The problem with Ananias was not about keeping back part of the money. It was because he lied to the Holy Spirit. He could’ve chosen not to give the money in the first place since it was not mandatory, and he could’ve done whatever he wanted with his money. But, when he lied about the money he kept back, he’s not only lying to Peter but also to God. I think his intention for donating the money was wrong as well. If he was genuine about giving, he would not have kept back some. I think he did it so that the church would think highly of him or praise him like Barnabas in the previous chapter who sold his field he owned and gave the money to the apostle. This just reveals how hypocritical Ananias was. Sometimes we are like Ananias too when we give offering, tithe, or donation to the church. Our motive is not always right. We give it to impress or to boast. Matthew 6:1 says “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”
The death of Ananias and Sapphira teaches me that there’s always consequences for our sins. God is holy, righteous, and He hates sin. I don’t think he’ll “strike people down” who lie or steal from the church, but there will be consequences. Verse 11 says “the Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.” This event was like a warning to the church that God will not tolerate any hypocrisy and covetousness.
The story of Ananias has shown a clear example of someone who was not fully committed to the Lord, unlike Barnabas, and who willingly lied to the Holy Spirit. Nothing can be kept from the Lord, and yet this was an example of someone not giving their all. The severity of the punishment made sense because they were not only “filled with Satan,” but they were threatening the unity of the community that was being established. The community was of “one heart and mind,” and the couple was of one mind contrary to theirs (Long, p. 4). Although we do not see people being smited for not fulfilling their promises for tithing nowadays, this story can be a good example of what it looks like to not be fully invested in the Lord. Ananias and Sapphira were not required to sell their property, it was voluntary. God asked for a giving and honest heart, but the couple deliberately lied to the Holy Spirit when they kept some proceeds for themselves. This could apply to us still, in that we should give willingly and honestly, without boasting or keeping back some for ourselves. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” God cares more about the heart behind giving, not the amount. He wants unity, not division.