Acts, #21 in series Acts 5.1-11
Why in the world did God strike Ananias and Sapphira, husband and wife, dead after they lied? The two sold a piece of land, and brought the money to share with those in need in their community, saying they had given the entire amount to the apostles. In reality, they had held back a portion of the money—that is to say, they lied. Was God being overly tough on the two? After all, they were voluntarily giving their own money to folks, right?
In the last briefing, I asked for your thoughts on God’s swift judgment. . . so here are a couple responses: "I often wondered about that scripture. It was harsh. But I think it is similar to God’s law of not “grieving the Holy Spirit.” It wasn’t so much the greed as it was the lie. And the church being so new-- just starting out-- had to use them as an example."
"While on my walk this morning, I was listening to today’s Morning Briefing. I was intrigued by your question about Ananias and Sapphira. Why would God cause them to die for just lying?
As soon as I got home, I read Acts 5. It is a perplexing question, because what they did didn’t seem to deserve a sentence of death. My thoughts are that they didn’t die because they were just lying to a few people. They were lying to God himself and the Holy Spirit. Dishonesty and greed have no place in a church, especially one as new as this one. God used them as an example to show others these sins will not be tolerated.” Thoughtful insights.
Just the mental exercise alone is valuable. Why does God do the things he does?
As we look at God’s swift action with Ananias and Sapphira, we must zoom out and take a wide angle view. The Jerusalem believers are growing in intimacy, faith and numbers. At the end of chapter four, Luke (the physician who is good with details of names of people and their hometowns and such—which serves to set them in history), succinctly tells of Joseph (the first mention of the one called “Barnabas”) who sold his land and brought the proceeds forward to help his brothers in need.
There was an atmosphere of authenticity, generosity and trust in the tightknit community, and maintaining that trust was paramount. Some had lost jobs, and others had been cut off from their Jewish families as they embraced the gospel message of Jesus Christ. The message just didn’t fit with Jewish people who had been awaiting the Messiah who would conquer Rome and overthrow the harsh tyranny under which they lived.
The community of believers was everything to these Jesus followers.
Keeping it pure was critical.
There has been much written in the last several years about outsiders’ views of Christians, and it isn’t too positive. Research shows one of the primary complaints about Christians is hypocrisy1. Turns out God is not fond of hypocrisy either.
God would not tolerate the adulteration of the tender, growing family of believers, particularly from those who professed his name. Repeatedly, Luke writes that the devoted were filled with the Holy Spirit; friend, the Holy Spirit does not coexist with lies, covetousness and pride.
Ha, perhaps if we were to read on-line of a similar scene taking place today at the First Neighborhood Church of Alabaster, we too would have a little more reverent fear of the almighty and holy God, and that he wants us to play it straight. Playing it straight means we will also follow our own consciences. If we call him our God then we must value holiness, as we are to ‘Be holy even as he is holy.’ 2
Are you thinking about how you can never really be holy? Well, don’t. Invite God to do a cleansing work in you, and to fill you afresh with the Holy Spirit. Ask him to stoke the embers of your desire for him … and he will do it. The more earnestly you and me want to see God,
the more we will pray; and
the more we pray,
the more we will see God show up,
and make himself known.
Ask God to give you a love for his word, and he will do it. I know.
Turns out God agrees with you. Lying to God could not be permitted in the community of believers. God is holy. 'Be holy even as he is holy' really challenges me. "Rise Up" Cain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw8IgPHRBr4
, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
2 – 1 Peter 1.13-16