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The Lie of Ananias and Sapphira

Of the seven things that God hates and considers as abominations in Proverbs 6:16-19, two of them involve the sin of lying.  Never was this more severely demonstrated than in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied to God and received the penalty of death as their wages (Acts 5:1-11).

This episode involving Ananias and Sapphira presents a drastic contrast to the many wonderful events that had happened since the beginning of the church.  Immediately after the establishment of the church on the Day of Pentecost, we read of the members of the church devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, prayer, and worship while the apostles were performing wonderful miracles among them (Acts 2:42-47).  Even when the apostles began to be persecuted, the rest of the church continued on and multiplied (Acts 4:4).  They even shared their belongings together in love for one another and for the Lord (Acts 4:32-37).

Within this idyllic setting, Ananias and Sapphira determined to commit their evil deed.  They sold a piece of property and brought a portion of the proceeds to the apostles.  However, they presented their gift as if they were giving the full price from the property, thus misrepresenting the depth of their charity.  Being guided by the Holy Spirit, Peter pronounced their guilt and the sentence of death, which was executed by the miraculous power of God.  As a result, the Scripture says that “great fear came upon the whole church, and upon all who heard of these things.”  The church had experienced joyful awe as it began, and now it experienced dreadful fear.

At first consideration, we may be shocked at the severity of the penalty received by Ananias and Sapphira.  After all, were they not doing a good thing by offering a gift of charity for the relief of their fellow believers?  Could not much good be done with the money they offered?  Was anyone harmed by their minor deception?

Truly, this is an excellent example of that which God said in Isaiah 55:8-9, which is that His ways and thoughts are higher than ours.  God does not think as men think, and Peter proclaimed to Ananias, “You have not lied to men, but to God.”  Whereas men may consider that this deed by Ananias and Sapphira was harmless, God considered it to be an abomination.  Whereas men may consider that this act of charity did much more good than evil, God considered it to be worthy of death.

Let us understand the spiritual truth about the wicked deed of Ananias and Sapphira.  This was not an issue about the gift or its value.  Peter made this clear when he said, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not under your control?”  Truly, this was a matter of irreverence and deception toward God.  The gift was offered for the glory of Ananias and Sapphira and not for the glory of God.  They believed that they could perpetrate this deception before men, but they failed to recognize the truth of Galatians 6:7, “God is not mocked.”  They could not treat God as unholy and escape punishment.

In this record, there are many lessons for us today.  Certainly, we should recognize that God hates lies and has reserved punishment for all liars (Rev. 21:8).  It is especially disrespectful toward God if anyone attempts to deceive Him in any way, for this betrays a heart that disbelieves God’s complete wisdom and power.  We should also learn that the value of our gifts back to God is not in the quantity that we give, but rather it is in the humility, gratitude, and submission of our hearts.  Therefore, our contributions are not about raising large quantities of money, but they are about expressing our reverence for God.  Moreover, we must realize that not everything that men consider to be good is truly good in God’s sight.  If a work of charity can arouse the wrath of God, then we must be careful to revere Him and obey Him in all that we do.

When we consider the story of Ananias and Sapphira, we certainly see the “kindness and severity of God” (Rom. 11:22).  In the midst of God’s many kind blessings upon the early church came this act of God’s severe wrath, which was provoked by the sin of Ananias and Sapphira.  By our reasoning, we may consider their punishment to be harsh, yet it was right according to the righteous judgment of our God.  This example stands as a warning to us to never put God to the test.  Therefore, let us be honest and sincere in all of our dealing with God and man so that we may always receive His kindness and not His severity.

Stacey E. Durham



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