Everyone at some point in their lives wants to fit in and contribute—or at least having others think just as much. When baseball players take steroids, they do so so they will heal more quickly to return to the field or court to contribute to the team’s success (and not lose their jobs in the process). Those in business may risk stealing ideas from a co-worker and taking credit for something that brings them many accolades.
The same temptation happens in church world—especially in the South. For the longest time, the culture in the South was, “If it’s Sunday, you should be in church.” It was the thing to do! In other parts of the country, it is not culturally acceptable to be in church. So many respond to what is culturally acceptable, depending on the region of the country.
Ananias and Sapphira fell into this trap. In Acts 4:32-37, we see that the majority of those in the early church did not consider what they had as something that belonged to them. This was not a precursor to Communism, because Communism is mandated by the government and therefore involuntary. This giving was fueled by all that Christ had given them as outlined in His Word. Great power and grace was on the church.
Ananias and Sapphira, however, felt they needed to give a pretense of this same type of self-sacrifice, but secretly they plotted to keep some of it back.
5:1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things (ESV).
Peter makes the point that they did not have to give everything, but they had said they would, and thus they lied to God and to the church. This reminds one of the story of Achan in Joshua 7 when he stole some of the devoted things and hid them in his tent. His theft caused sin to come into the camp and it affected everything, even as they went into battle against an inferior enemy. Achan, Ananias, and Sapphira were dealt with strongly—executed even—to keep sin out of the community and causing great fear to come upon those inside and outside the church!
Take inventory of your lives! Are you associating with those whom you are because you just want to fit it, or because it’s the right and true thing to do? No one is immune to this temptation! Otherwise, we’re not just lying to God or to our group of people we fellowship with, but we are lying to ourselves as well.