Summary: A look at the story of Ananias and Saphira to see that God treats sin seriously and that we are called to be people of Integrity
Have any of you seen the movie Catch Me If You Can. I have to say before I say it I thought it was recipe for disaster. I mean it starred Leonardo Di Capreo. But actually it turned out to be quite good. It’s the true story of Frank Abignail, who as a teenager runs away from home and starts forging checks. He assumes an identity as an Airline pilot and flys around the world for free. He then continues forging checks and masquerades as a doctor and then a lawyer. Eventually he is arrested and imprisoned but released early when he agrees to help the FBI with forgeries. It’s quite remarkable, this teenage manages to pretend to be a pilot for years and a doctor and lawyer for months. And not once is he suspected. The police track him down because of his forged checks not because anyone suspects he’s not who he appears to be.
The story we read is very similar. It’s about a couple in the early church who were counterfeit Christians. OK, so we assume that at some point they did actually become Christians. But when we join the story, they were up to the old con trick of trying to convince others that they were something they weren’t, or at least doing something that we’re really doing.
Actually the story of Anaias and Sapharia is one that most people don’t really now what to do with. It’s one of those stories that just feels out of place, that we does fit with our views of God, like Jesus making a whip and chasing the people out of the temple, or Jesus telling his disciples to go and buy a sword if they didn’t already own one. Is God not a God of love. What’s he doing striking people dead. Its the kind of story we wouldn’t be surprised at, if it occurred in the Old Testament but here in the New, its not really what we expect. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons for including this story, is to remind us that the God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament. Jesus might have got a body in the meantime but he’s still the same God. But its not the primary reason its here although as I have said before the picture we have of Jesus needs to include these troublesome stories as well as the ones we like, if we are to truly know who Jesus was and what Jesus would do.
Seriousness of Sin
The first level we might approach this story from is that it teaches us the seriousness of sin. We were talking about this in our Bible Study during the week. Sometimes in Christian circles we can loose the seriousness of sin. Its so easy to get forgiveness that sometimes we don’t really think about sin as a problem any more. Oh, other non-Christian’s sins count, particularly the “big” ones like homosexuality, although personally, I don’t believe homosexual acts are the worst form of sin. But us and our sins, well they’re just wee things and we can ask forgiveness so what’s the harm. There will be some who will deliberately go out to sin, knowing they can ask forgiveness when its over. There are others, who are willing to expose themselves to places where they might sin, because if they do end up sinning well, they can always ask for forgiveness. Sin just isn’t worth bothering about because it can be forgiven. And yet this passage reminds us that God still takes sin seriously. Sin is not something flippant to not be bothered about in the life of the Christian. Yes, we can be forgiven, but when we repent and turn away from sin, not while we still intend to do it. Sin is still the thing that breaks our relationship with God, that needs to be restored. Sin is still serious. OK, we’re never going to get it all right before we get to heaven, but there’s a difference between dealing with sin when it happens in a repentant and remorseful manner and just not bothering about it. If the story of Anaias and Saphira tells us nothing else, then let it tell us that sin is a serious thing. That sin matters. God doesn’t want us to sin. We are saved to be like him, to enable us not to sin.
Lying to God
So next obvious point. It’s about lying to God. We shouldn’t lie to God. Only this is only obvious because that’s what Peter says. Where do they get the lying to God bit from? They sell a field that they own and decide to give some of that money to the church. Sounds good so far, but then they decide that they will tell the church leaders that they are giving them all the money they made. The passage doesn’t say they prayed and told God they were giving him everything. They said to men, the apostles that they were giving everything. So why does Peter say that they have no lied to man but to God. There are two aspects to this, one is that the Holy Spirit lives in all Christians. When you become a Christian you receive the Holy Spirit. Therefore when Ananius and Saphira lied to the church they were lying to the Spirit within them. They were in fact lying to God. This has implications for us that we’ll consider later. But for now, because God is present in his church, when they lied to the Church they lied to God. The second aspect to this, is that giving is worship. Its what I try to bring in out by having choruses when we give our offering and most of the time in the words of the songs we sing when we have our offering. When we give to the church we are worshipping God. Therefore because the money was gift to the church, it was an act of worship and directed at God. So again it is directed at God. It was worshipping dishonestly. Lying to God.