(Narrative from the account recorded in
Soon after the day of Pentecost, many of the newly converted Christians sold their houses and lands. They brought the funds to the apostles and “distribution was made unto every man according as he had need” (Acts 4:35). For a short while, these saints in Jerusalem shared all things in common as they daily fellowshipped and continued in the apostles’ doctrine. This practice was not ongoing in Jerusalem for long nor was it observed by Christians in other locations. It was not incumbent upon the Christians at Jerusalem to sell all of their possessions, but it was rather a voluntary act of communion and fellowship.
Imagine a group of Christians, happy in their new faith, bringing money to the apostles from the sale of their earthly goods. They were focused on heavenly things and were literally “selling out” in preparation for the return of Jesus Christ. During this special time of worship, a husband and wife named Ananias and Sapphira also sold their land. Unlike others, who with joy had sold their property and given all of it to the church, Ananias and Sapphira discussed it and decided to keep some of the money back for themselves. It was their money, and they were under no obligation to give any of it; however, they agreed to act as if they were giving all of the money when they made the donation.
Perhaps Ananias entered the dwelling where the saints were meeting with a satisfied smile on his face as he began to tell others about how he had sold his property and was donating all the funds to the church. With pride and a pretense of humility, he gave the money to the apostles. The apostle Peter, observing what was happening, asked him, “Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back part of the price of the land? When you owned the land, was it not your own? After you sold it, was it not still in your power to do with the funds as you wanted? Why then did you try to deceive us? You have not only lied to men, but you have lied to God.”
Without warning, Ananias fell over dead. The day did not end as Ananias had expected; his eternity had begun, and his heart was in a state of sin and hypocrisy. Ananias did not have to give anything to the church. He could have even given twenty percent and kept the rest. His sin was that he lied. He told an untruth in trying to deceive others into thinking he was giving a hundred percent. Yet, the greater sin, as expounded by Peter, was that Ananias had lied in his heart to God. In the presence of God and man, his sin of lying and deceit was revealed and in judgment, God sentenced Ananias to death.
Great fear came upon everyone that observed or heard about what happened. The awful judgment of God against the sin of deceitfulness and hypocrisy was manifested to all. As the crowd was moved with awe and self-examination, young men wrapped the body of Ananias and took him out to bury him that same day, according to ancient Jewish custom.
Three hours later, Sapphira, not knowing what had occurred, came into the meeting place. Peter approached her and asked, “Tell me, did you sell the land for so much?” Sapphira answered affirmatively. Peter replied, “Why is it that you have agreed to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? The feet of them which have buried your husband are at the door and will carry you out also.”
Straightway, Sapphira fell down and died. The same young men came in and took her body to bury her by her husband. The judgment of God was the same for Sapphira as it was for her husband. She was complicit in the sin to deceive, and the judgment of God was no less.
The scripture reiterates that fear spread among the people because of this event. “Great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.” May the same fear of God come upon all people within and without the church. Surely, people began to examine their lives and were fearful of speaking, acting, or living deceitfully. While emotions run high at the moment of such an occurrence, they usually do not last for long, and people fall back into their normal patterns of behavior.
If the judgment of God were to fall on all liars and hypocrites in congregations today, who would remain standing? Many professing Christians are living deceitfully and are not honest with God, themselves, or others. It is true that Ananias and Sapphira may have made a great sacrifice, but their sacrifice did not outweigh their dishonesty. Right doctrine and good works will not excuse or justify a lying tongue.
The judgment of God will eventually come; eternal death awaits those who have lied and not repented of their sins. Will you be left standing?