Summary: Ananias and Sapphira sold a piece of land and gave part of the money to the apostles. But there was something not quite right about this and it became clear very quickly. This is another outline from a mini-series on Acts I preached several years ago.
Introduction: the early church faced a significant problem: taking care of new converts and their needs. The last verses of Acts 4 describe how people sold things they owned and gave the money to the apostles to help meet these needs. Barnabas, a Levite of Cyprus, even sold a piece of land and gave all the profits to the disciples (one wonders what kind of fees were charged for real estate transactions, even in those days). There was another couple who sold land, but they weren’t completely honest about it—and they paid dearly for it.
1 The facts of the case
--Little is known about Ananias and Sapphira. His name, Ananias, is the Greek form of Hananiah. Some good men had that name, such as Daniel’s friend who was given the Babylonian name “Shadrach” and a disciple of the Lord who later lived in Damascus (Acts 9). There were at least two men who were not good: one was a false prophet who preached, during the days of Jeremiah, good things were going to happen. He was one of the few who heard a personal death sentence: “this year, thou shalt die” and he did, only two months later (Jer. 28:15-17). Another Hananiah was Annas, one of the high priests who questioned Jesus just before He was crucified (John 18:13-24).
--They did own land; location and size unknown.
--They sold that piece of land, which was commendable in and of itself; perhaps they had a genuine desire to help the other new disciples.
--They kept part of the profits or proceeds for themselves.
--They only brought what they wanted to give. They even did the same thing as other believers and Barnabas (4:34-37) by laying the money at the feet of the apostles.
2 The failure of this couple
--They had agreed to lie about the amount of profit from the sale of the land.
--They then agreed to lie about how much money they had received to the apostles.
--Worst of all, they had lied to the Holy Spirit!
--They paid with their lives by telling this lie. No matter how much they had received in profit, they couldn’t take it with them, and they wound up profiting nothing.
3 The follow-up for the Church
--The apostles gained respect in the eyes of the people. They were human, like the rest, but they were special. This event vindicated their authority and proved they had God’s power.
--Many more signs and wonders took place.
--Many more new believers were added to the Church.
Conclusion: we may not be called upon to give of our possessions but we all should be willing to help those in genuine need. Also, there is nothing wrong with giving any amount of money to the Lord’s work—the problem with Ananias and Sapphira was that they lied about how much profit they had made and also lied by saying “here’s all the money”. A simple “We’d like to make a donation and here’s some money we received from a sale” would have been enough. They lied and paid for that lie with their lives. What a warning for believers even today. May we never let our greed cloud our giving.
Our Lord knows our hearts: is yours right with Him?
Scripture quotations were taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV).