This past week we studied the story of Sapphira and Ananias in Acts 5: 1-11. This is a well-known story occurring shortly after Pentecost as the Apostles are growing the ministry and funding it through communal ownership. This is not a call for socialism or communism, although plenty of people have made that mistake. The people in this story, the Apostles and the new believers are making choices to sell property and share the proceeds with the group, under the care of the Apostles. You will notice the people are willingly joining and holding their property in common, neither of which exist in socialism or communism. I just want to dispel that myth since it has nothing to do with this story, but many people lead others astray based on this early practice.
Into this atmosphere, Ananias and Sapphira sell a property to support the early believers, but decide to withhold some of the proceeds. Major repercussions result as first Ananias dies for this lie and then his wife shortly thereafter meets the same fate. They entered into the story where the group is of one heart and one soul and that their property was for the benefit of all.However, with their withholding of money for their personal benefit we quickly discover they were not sharing in the one heart and soul with the rest of the group. They were separate and wanted the benefits of belief, but also the benefits of the property.
This is extremely difficult and challenging, more so today because of the twisting of this story into the political and social realm today. Trying to use this story to justify a political movement completely misses the point of the story. So what is that point in no particular order?
- Why does God not strike down believers trapped in lies and deception today, like happened in this story?
- God gives us the grace to live and repent, which also is likely to result in even greater good being done by us for the Kingdom of God.
- Does this mean there are no consequences for our actions because God is not striking us dead immediately?
- Absolutely not, there are consequences today for our sins. How many ministries have been hurt by our sins? How many relationships have been hurt by our sinning? How many people have suffered because of their sinful ways?
- Yet, even with all the suffering that results, it is an opportunity for even greater glory for God. The fact people can be redeemed, even after the most horrible sins shows the power of God to forgive the repentant that believe.
- We can use this story as a warning that God takes notice of our sins. There are results in response to our sins and we need to root our corruption in ourselves and others because Jesus is sufficient for all.
A question to ponder. What would happen if God still did this today and for the past two thousand years? If God struck the sinful dead after they believed in Jesus, what would happen?
- Would the church be filled with the most devout folks or would it be empty because we are still sinful?
- Would people hold God at arms length, scared to engage in a relationship out of love?
- How much greater or smaller would the size of churches be if people knew they died immediately after committing a sin? Would that not be utterly scary?
Thankfully God is merciful and full of grace. He loves us enough to allow us to learn from our mistakes, bringing even more glory to Him and added depth to our relationship.