Sapphira has been the butt of many a joke because it took her so long to get ready for church. (She arrived three hours after her husband did.) But what she and her husband contrived together to do was certainly no laughing matter.
Acts 5:1-11 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.
Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a possession and gave part of the money to the church as an offering. So far so good. They were under no obligation to give all the money to God—or any of it, for that matter, except the tithe. As for the rest, they could have invested it, spent it, saved it, or given it away.
So what did they do that was so bad that God took their lives on the spot? They lied to the Holy Spirit. They gave a portion of the money to the Lord for use in the church, but in pride they wanted everyone to believe they had given all the proceeds. What was the point? To look pious before their peers?
Keeping Up with Joses
Back then to become a Christian oftentimes meant they would suffer persecution. They might even lose their jobs. Suppose an architect comes to know the Lord as Savior. At work he is assigned to design a temple to one of the false gods, and his conscience will not allow him to do this sort of work anymore. Without work, there is no money, and without money, how will he put food on the table?
The church had established a sort of food bank to help those who were impoverished. If you look back into the previous chapter, you will see that others were also selling what they had and bringing the money to the church. Acts 4:32 says the people shared all they had with one another, not calling anything they possessed their own. And in verse 36, a man named Joses (known better as Barnabas) is called out in particular because he sold a parcel of land and brought all the proceeds to the church to be used to help others less fortunate.
No doubt Ananias and Sapphira saw the esteem that was bestowed upon Joses, and they wanted some of that glory too. The trouble is, when they went about to deceive their friends and fellow church members, they did not seem to realize that God knew the condition of their hearts. They did not only lie to the people, but they lied to the God (5:3).
No Hiding Place
There is a very important lesson for you and me in this story: We must be honest in our dealings with others because God is watching. He knows our thoughts. In fact, He knew everything there was to know about us before our mothers knew they were expecting. I invite you to read Psalm 139 with me.
O LORD, You have searched me, and known me. You know my downsitting and my uprising, You understand my thought afar off. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.
Where shall I go from Your Spirit? or where shall I flee from Your presence? If I ascend up into heaven, You are there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall Your hand lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hides not from You; but the night shines as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to You.
For You have formed my inward parts: You have covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Your works; and that my soul knows right well. My frame was not hid from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes did see my substance, being yet unformed; and in Your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with You…. Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
This truth is both an admonition and a comfort. It is an admonition to be real, and to be honest, because although I can fool some of the people around me, I can never fool God.
But this is also a comfort because no matter where I go or what happens to me, God will never lose track of me. There will never come a time when He cannot see me. There will never be a moment when He does not know what’s going on in my life. And best of all, there will never be a second that He does not care and is not in complete control of my life. I don’t always understand His plans because I’m not God. But I trust Him.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
Do you remember the children’s song, “O Be Careful”? The words in summary go something like this:
O be careful, little eyes, what you see…
O be careful, little mouth, what you say…
O be careful, little hands, what you do…
O be careful, little feet, where you go…
For the Father up above
Is looking down in love.
Yes, love, not judgment. But if we disregard His love, we can be assured of His judgment. If you don’t believe me, ask Sapphira.
❧ ❧ ❧
Next week: Michal
Photo courtesy of estall of Pixabay