Summary: Many love the Lord but do not have the fear of the Lord in their heart. They take God for granted and treat Him with contempt. We need to honour Him with reverence and respect.
The church was enjoying the presence of the Lord, since Pentecost.
• Acts 4:32-35 says all the believers were one in heart and mind. They shared everything they had. Needs were met. The apostles continued to preach with great power. The church was doing well.
Acts 4:36-37 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.
• An offering came from a foreigner, from Cyprus (an island blessed with many natural resources, a rich land). So it was likely a substantial amount.
• It was no ordinary offering. It was huge, and it became the talk of the church.
The people were happy. That action probably made Barnabas well-known.
• Then enters this couple, “Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property…” (Acts 5:1)
• The author Luke used the word, “ALSO sold a piece of property” – giving us a hint that some wanted to repeat the same act to get the attention.
Acts 5:2-4 With 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 belongs 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."
Something else was motivating them – not the love of God, or their care for the needy.
• We can read into their motivation. “This was far too much money to part with. We don’t need to give it all. We just have to APPEAR to be giving it all. We would have achieved our goal and no one would know.”
• John Ortberg called this “shadow mission” - it is not the true picture of what God has called us into.
• In ministry, we are always tempted by this “shadow mission” – a desire to please self more than God, to seek the praise of men more than the praise of God. It looks like I am doing it for God, but it is not.
• Do you sometimes have this urge? You want to APPEAR to be pious, to be righteous, or to be good? You want to APPEAR to be someone you know deep down in your heart you are not?
Beware of “shadow mission” where your motivation is no longer God but something else; when you find yourself driven by a different agenda and not God’s agenda.
• When you are tempted to IMPRESS, confess it to the Lord quickly, and neutralise that temptation.
• Such a desire will usually lead to the next step - deception.
Ananias and Sapphira agreed together to deceive. This was the logical next step.
• It was perfectly alright to keep the proceeds from the sale for themselves. No one was obliged to give.
• Even then, they can also choose to keep a portion of the proceeds for themselves – the money was theirs. They can do what they want with it.
• But sadly they had another agenda - they wanted the praises of men more than truth, more than the praise of God.
• They cared about men’s opinion of them, more than God’s opinion of them. They feared men more than they feared God.
Peter said, “You are not lying to men, but to God.” (v.4)
• Every lie is a lie before God.
Acts 5:7-11 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8 Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?"
"Yes," she said, "that is the price." 9 Peter 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." 10 At 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.
This was the problem with the couple - and this became the object lesson for the church – they had no fear of God in their heart.
• They may have the love of God but they have no fear of God in their heart.
• They were likely believers of the church, regular worshippers, and probably do care for the needy among them.