Summary: The Church is to be a place of honesty and integrity. Satan plants the seed of dishonesty in order to disarm and distract the church.
Some of the strongest language used by our Lord while walking the earth in ministry was reserved for religious people who were masters of deception in the sense that they deceived others in making them think one way about themselves (holy/pious) when in reality they were something altogether different (wicked/evil/malicious). These masters of deception were the religious people of Jesus’ day, largely leaders and authority figures within the religious system, who worked hard at making others think of them in a way that was not really true. Jesus minced no words and often referred to them as “white-washed tombs,” “a brood of vipers” and even “sons of Satan.” Jesus often used these masters of deception as examples of how not to pray, give, serve, worship, etc… when He was teaching His disciples the ways of Kingdom living.
The most frequent word Jesus used to describe these people was the word “hypocrite.” Our English word “hypocrite” comes from the Greek word that was used to identify an actor on stage that would wear a mask in order to live up to the role he or she was assigned. The mask was not who the person really was but only a false representation of who they really were. That is really what hypocrisy is—wearing a mask so that others think one way about me but in reality I am something or somebody totally different.
As we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus interaction with the hypocrites of the day we quickly conclude that He certainly was not a fan of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy was a major issue during His day and He addressed it openly and honestly. Hypocrisy was one of the first major internal issues that the early Church had to face and our passage lays out in detail how it was dealt with.
While Ananias and Sapphira are the primary players of Acts 5 we cannot truly understand their actions until we look at somebody who is largely overlooked in the story. His name is Joseph. He was a Jewish man who became a follower of Christ through the preaching of Jesus by the early church. There was more to him than the name Joseph could communicate for the Scriptures say that Apostle’s called him Barnabas. So faithful and Spirit filled was this man the Apostle’s changed his name to reflect who he really was—an encourager. He was an encourager both to the Apostle’s and to his fellow believer. Joseph was the real deal. These passages of Scripture that describe the early activity of the Church are not hypothetical, “pie in the sky” hopes of what they wanted to be but was actually descriptive of what was actually happening in the early Church. So pure in spirit was Joseph/Barnabas he willingly sold a piece of valuable property on the island of Cyprus for a price and brought all the proceeds from the sale to the Apostle’s so that those who had need may be served by the Church.
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira…