Summary: This is the Sixth in our CSI series looking at Crimes and deaths in the Bible. This week we look at what we can learn from the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira
It’s one of those bizarre stories in the Bible that make you scratch your head and say: Huhh?
The church is seeing astronomical growth, thousands of people are coming to the faith and with that come practical problems and practical solutions. The apostles are working full time to administer and teach this growing group of people, which means they are no longer fishing, farming and doing whatever else it was they did for a living prior to this. And so there is now a need for providing for the leaders monetarily so they could provide for the needs of their families. There were needs of those within the community of faith, the widows, orphans and others in need that had to be met. And the church responded. We read in Acts 4:32 All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. And then if we skip down a little further it says Acts 4:34-35 There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need. Now we don’t know if the Apostles had preached on giving or money, don’t know if they passed the plate or had an offering box. We don’t know anything other then the people were generous and the needs were met. And then was even an example given, Acts 4:36-37 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas . . . He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles for those in need.
Cool. And if that was all she wrote we would marvel at the generosity and unselfish nature of the early church and this message would never have shown up in our CSI series. But the story continues.
There was a couple in the early church by the name of Ananias and Sapphira and they were obviously impressed with what Barnabas did and so they attempted to replicate his actions. They sold some property they had and brought a portion of the money to the apostles for the church. So far so good. But that wasn’t all the story, we don’t know how much they sold their property for, let’s say it was one of the lots behind us in Kingswood North, in which case they sold their land for $100,000.00. I’m sure they were looking at the money and thinking, “This is a lot of money, the church probably doesn’t need it all” And so Ananias brought part of the proceeds to the church, let’s say it was half, or $50,000.00 A pretty good chunk of change. And I’m sure it could have been used for a lot of good. The problem came because when Ananias came to the disciples he said , “Hey guys, I sold my property down on Gatehouse Run and got fifty grand for it, and here it is, aren’t I a great guy?”
Whoa, fifty grand is pretty awesome gift, there was no problem with that aspect of what he did. But listen to what happened, Bonnie read it earlier. Acts 5:3-4 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God.”
I don’t know how Peter figured this out, maybe he had seen the MLS listing and knew what Ananias was asking for the property, maybe he knew the guy who bought it or maybe, God told him. We don’t know, but we read what happened. Acts 5:5 As soon as Ananias heard these words, he fell to the floor and died. Everyone who heard about it was terrified. I guess. And they bundled him up and took him out and buried him.
Three hours later his wife arrived, and Peter asked her if what they had given was what the property had sold for and she confirmed that it was and he told her what had happened to her husband and she dropped dead and they buried her as well. And I love the power of understatement because the entire story is summed up in Acts 5:11 Great fear gripped the entire church and all others who heard what had happened.
Now a couple of thoughts here, don’t you love how the word of God doesn’t cover up the tough situations? If I was writing the Bible I’d skip that part. Think about it, it showed that the early church wasn’t nearly as perfect as we sometimes think and the entire thing about them dying, like who wants people to know about that? That’s not the best PR, “Hey come to our church and drop dead.”