Sapphira's shocking tale should strike fear in our hearts, as in "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10). But Sapphira and her husband were fearlessand foolish.
In the first century, Christians willingly shared their resources, encouraged by believers such as Barnabas, who "sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles' feet" (Acts 4:37), a public expression of devotion to God.
When the leaders heaped praise on Barnabas for his sacrifice, Sapphira and her hubby, Ananias, decided to earn a few accolades of their own. They "also sold a piece of property" (Acts 5:1) and put their profits "at the apostles' feet" (Acts 5:2), with one little difference: Ananias secretly pocketed some of the proceeds "with his wife's full knowledge" (Acts 5:2).
I always wondered, What's the problem? Couldn't they spend their income as they pleased?
Yes, they could. They were under no obligation to sell their property to support the young church. But once they chose to lay the proceeds at the apostles' feet, Ananias and Sapphira openly gave that land to God, while other believers bore witness.
Their hypocrisy, not the amount of their money, was the real issue that made their sin so heinous. As Jesus once charged the Pharisees, "You appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness" (Matthew 23:28).
Secrets and Lies
We can imagine Ananias and Sapphira singing, "All to Jesus, I surrender," with their fingers crossed behind their backs, thinking Peter and the other apostles couldn't discern the truth. "Having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:5), Ananias and Sapphira ignored the Holy Spirit, newly bestowed on the true followers of Christ.
But Peter saw right through their hypocrisy and blamed the "father of lies" (John 8:44) for their deceitful behavior. "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit?" (Acts 5:3).
We hold our breath, waiting for Ananias to fall to his kneesconfessing, repenting, begging for mercy, something.
He fell down, all right. "And died" (Acts 5:5).
The same phrase was used when Jael drove a tent peg through Sisera's head"and he died" (Judges 4:21)a verb reserved in Scripture for someone struck dead by divine judgment. Make no mistake: God called the shot.
The news spread, and "great fear seized all who heard what had happened" (Acts 5:5)a healthy, holy reverence for a God who wouldn't be mocked.