Summary: Ananias and Sapphira’s quick death was not about giving....it was about being genuine, and not hypocrites
CEDAR LODGE BAPTIST CHURCH
a fellowship of faith, family and friendships
November 21, 2004
1Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
7About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
9Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” 10At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
12The apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.
Acts 5:1-16 (NIV)
Any time the Bible uses the same phrase multiple times in a short passage, it is a subtle signal for us to sit up and take notice. In our text the phrase “great fear seized” is used twice to describe what happened to the good church folk of the First Church of Jerusalem.
I looked up the Greek words used in the manuscript. “Megas phobos” (ìÝãáò öüâïò) – means “great fear”! Those folks were afraid…VERY afraid; they were terrified! There is no need for further clarification; there is no need to try to dance-around the meaning of “fear”. We don’t need to substitute “reverence” or “awe”. They were petrified! These early believers had their knees knocking with trembling over what had happened.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a knee-knocker. Knowing the sermon was on this infamous couple, I wonder if any of us were motivated to put more in the offering plate when it was passed a few minutes ago? (Would anyone like a second shot at the offering plate now, before I proceed? All hearts clear?)
The incident recorded by good Dr. Luke is not about our responsibility to give; it is more about our responsibility to be genuine – not hypocrites. The explanation of that is in the context. There was much generosity and sharing going on. Barnabas had sold a house and given the proceeds to meet needs in the church family. That was generous, and it was genuine.
Many others were selling possessions and bringing the money to help the poor. These were acts of generosity driven by a sense of genuine spiritual joy and thanksgiving. By contrast, the actions of Ananias and Sapphira were motivated by the hypocrisy of wanting to be thought spiritually-mature, by a big show of giving, but not actually letting-go of the money. They were greedy, but wanted everyone to think they were generous. They were not genuine; they were hypocrites.
The very premise of the story proves how spiritually-immature Ananias and his wife were; they were attempting to impress the people at the church, and ignoring the Lord of the church. How dumb is that? Ananias assumed he was able to hide his real intentions from both man and God. That is certainly impossible. You may deceive men, but God always knows what is in your heart.
We have an example of that in the process of selecting the young shepherd boy David to be king, God revealed the way He looks at us all…