“Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 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.” – Acts 5:1-2.
Most people who have spent time in church have heard the story of Ananias and Sapphira. A little background first: The story of Ananias and Sapphira take place when the church was young. One of the notable qualities of the early church was their generosity. Generosity is best measured not by the sum of what was given, but by the sacrifice that comes with it. The Acts 2 church was willing to give the little they had to help others, trusting the Lord to provide for them. Acts 2:45 says, “They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.”
The early church realized that everything they had was from God, that it was given to them not for their own exclusive use, but to be shared with fellow believers. There was no coercion involved. Any believer was free to own property if he so chose, and no one would think less of him for it. Enter Ananias and Sapphira. They wanted to be part of this early movement and that is where the trouble began.
We read in Acts 5:1-2 that they sold a piece of land and kept part of the money for themselves. The rest they would give to the disciples. They would not necessarily say they were giving all of the money they received from the sale; they would just let everyone assume that.
What was so wrong with their plan? They did not really lie to anybody, did they? They just gave the money and said nothing about what percentage of the total sale price it represented. They could not help what other people thought, could they? Evidently they could. Peter called it lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3). He explained that they were under no obligation to sell their property. And even after they sold it, they were under no obligation to give all the money to the church. But they were obligated to be honest (Acts 5:4). The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was dishonesty. Peter said, “You weren’t lying to us but to God!” (Acts 5:4). Ananias died and his wife died 3 hours later.
It is easy to see why God takes dishonesty so seriously. Dishonesty can destroy marriages, families, churches, relationships and our witness. It hurts us. It hurts others. It hurts God.
- Is telling part of the truth the same as lying? Why?
- What can we do this week to be totally honest?