“The Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last.
So great fear came upon all those who heard these things“ (Acts 5:5).
The story of the united church is interrupted by the tale of a stingy couple who is punished by their instant death. Ananias and Sapphira, like others, sold a property and pledged the money to the church. But they kept part of the money from the sale. The sin was not lying to the apostles about the amount of money they had received, nor was it keeping part of the money. It was theirs—they could keep it; no one was required to give; it was purely voluntary. Their sin was trying to deceive the Holy Spirit. Because making a promise to God and not keeping it, is lying to the Holy Spirit, and That is a betrayal that God does not overlook. They wanted to receive recognition from the church without a sacrifice. Ultimately, their covetousness triumphed over their honesty, and they committed the sin of hypocrisy.
If the impulse that they felt to sell the property came from the Holy Spirit, the impulse to keep the money came from the enemy. Peter, the eldest leader of the recently organized church, spoke with each one separately. First, he confronted the husband, Ananias, and gave him the opportunity to con- fess his sin. Had he done so, his life would have been spared. But Ananias opened his heart to Satan, and filled with covetousness, there was not room for repentance. Immediately, Ananias fell dead at Peter’s feet. How sinful is fake holiness!
It may seem like a severe punishment, but the church was just beginning and unity was key for the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit. Ananias’s conduct threatened the people’s confidence in their leaders and their good testimony, undermining the work of the apostles. God uprooted all hesitation and distrust that could have impeded the progress of their communion, saving the church from greater dangers.
A great fear came over those present. It is possible that some of them had been considering the same type of dishonesty, but a reverence mixed with terror now paralyzed them. This fear is healthy for those who are not sincere in their Christian life. “From the stern punishment meted out to those perjurers, God would have us learn also how deep is His hatred and contempt for all hypocrisy and deception… . The warning has been given; God has clearly manifested His abhorrence of this sin; and all who give themselves up to hypocrisy and covetousness may be sure that they are destroying their own souls.”—The Acts of the Apostles, ch. 7, pp. 75. 76.
Be honest when calculating and returning your tithes and offerings.