1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 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.
3 Then 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? 4 Didn’t it belong 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 just to human beings but to God.”
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
7 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 conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! 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. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
12 The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. 13 No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. 14 Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. 15 As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. 16 Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.
In last week’s First 15s, we read about the compelling movement of the Holy Spirit in the newborn Church of Jesus Christ. In Acts 4:32, we read, “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” In Acts 4:38, we read that Barnabas “sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet.” These are two powerful expressions of the kind of unity, trust and generosity God designed for our life together in the kingdom of God.
Today, we dive into the unsettling story of Ananias and Saphhiram who experienced, or at least witnessed, that moment of complete unity within the Church when the abundance of God’s kingdom was being shared freely among all the believers. But, Ananias and Sapphira lost sight of, or lost trust in, the provision of God’s abundance and allowed their fear of scarcity to take hold of them. Worst of all, they lied and pretended to give everything when, in reality, they were holding back. Their act of deception undermined the unity of the Church and the authority of the apostles.
It is important to remember that there is nothing in this story that indicates that Ananias and Sapphira’s deaths reveal a pattern of how God responds to our brokenness. This is one unique story that we can learn from but never assume to fully understand.
Thankfully, at the end of today’s passage, there is an uplifting turn, and we learn that the momentum of the newly formed Church continued forward as more and more women and men came to believe in the Lord.
Where have you experienced or witnessed the momentum of the Holy Spirit growing the Church?
What is your own understanding or experience of God’s response to brokenness and sin?
God of goodness and grace, I give thanks to you for the compelling momentum of your Holy Spirit in the Church. Help me live with an attitude of trust, abundance, generosity and unity with you and all creation. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.