“But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 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. 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? 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 man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.” Acts 5:1-6
Acts chapter 5 begins with the story of Ananias and Sapphira. In it Peter, who had so recently experiencedthe forgiving and restoring grace of God after his denial of Jesus in the high priests palace, speaks words of death of the couple. Try how we may, we cannot imagine Christ acting towards sinners as Peter here is represented as doing.
The selling and giving of goods to the community of the early church was voluntary. The piece of land belonged to Ananias: he could keep it or sell it as he pleased, and when he sold it the money he got from it was his to use as he chose. Ananais and Sapphira retained part of the sale price for their private use, as they had every right to do, but he stated the balance he gave to the church as the total purchase price that he received from the sale. He tried to lie and deceive them into thinking he had done an extremely pious act. A higher standardof character and honesty must prevail among the followers of Christ. Ananais, in an effort to gain a reputation for greater generosity than he had actually earned, tried to deceive the believing community. However, in trying to deceive the community he was really trying to deceive the Holy Spirit, whose life-giving power had created, flowed through, and maintained the community. A lie told to Peter on a separate private transaction though it would be a sin, may not have been as condemning. But this act, whether Ananias knew it or not, was a lie told to God, something prompted as Peter said, by “Satan filling his heart” and he became an adversary to God and humanity.
The desire to gain a higher reputation than one is due for generosity, an act of humility, service, or some other virtuous act is not so uncommon among us that anyone of us can take a self-righteous attitude toward Ananais. Instead I believe we are called to deep self-reflection on how we may have or are currently lying or deceiving to our community of faith, or more importantly ourselves personally about our level of generosity, tithing, giving, and surrender to Christ. What ways are we building ourselves up in our minds and the minds of others of our level of generosity and obedience to build up or maintain a reputation, while in reality with are with holding and deceiving others, deceiving ourselves, and more importantly trying to deceive God and the Holy Spirit.
Satan filled Ananais’s heart with a desire to be well thought of and known, a high reputation, a person of position, and to be thought of as special and important in the great movement of the Holy Spirit and movement in the church. His deception however was one that tried to cause the movement of the Holy Spirit in the church to stumble. How often do we see a movement of the church that is growing and revival and power being seen and present be hindered or derailed by pride and deceit of a leader or member.
We are fasting and praying through Acts now over direction, vision and the revival of a movement of God. Take time today to pray into the honesty of your heart. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal ways you are deceiving, others, yourself, and God. Don’t lie to yourself and take 30 seconds to glance at your soul then carry on your day and pretend you gave it your all. We are covenanting to read a chapter of Acts each day and spend time in SOAPS or reflection on the chapter. Pray 30 minutes a day. Get in a Band group. Spend a solid hour in prayer a week and fast one day a week. Are you fully engaging in this or deceiving yourself in you level of participation? If we want to see a movement of God, we need to be all in, not withholding anything.
Your participation is important in this time together. Please share your reflections in the comments box below.