In the fifth chapter of Acts, we read of the deeds of Ananias and Sapphira, and how God smote them for their sin. It is the only time in the New Testament where we are shown an example of God instantly smiting individuals for not performing His will. What did they do that was so wrong?
This is the account which we are given in Acts 5:1-11:
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he 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 some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.
Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?”
And she said, “Yes, that was the price.”
Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.”
And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.
Where did Ananias and Sapphira go wrong?
They intended to deceive the Apostles and God. Nowhere in this passage or in any other Scripture do we receive the hint that it is wrong to keep a portion of one’s earnings for oneself. Ananias and Sapphira did not sin because they desired to hold back a portion of the money, but because they said that the property was sold for what they gave, which was a lie. They died because of their attempt to deceive our God.
They did not place their trust in God. We are told in Matthew 6:25-34 that God knows our needs, and will furnish us with them. We must put first His Kingdom and His righteousness; unfortunately, this is extremely hard for any man to do. Ananias and Sapphira clearly did not place their trust in God as the rest of the disciples had: in Acts 4:32, we see that they held everything in common, and that everyone’s needs had been filled. This was not good enough for Ananias and Sapphira, for they felt that they needed to store up the little that they had. Had they trusted in God as their brethren did, their needs would have been supplied, and they would not have sinned unto death.
They did not humble themselves before God. We do not necessarily know the exact reason why Ananias decided to keep back some of his proceeds from his property, but it is clear that he did not wish to do as the rest of the Christians were doing, selling all that they had and giving it all to the Apostles so that none would have need. They would not humble themselves to that level, and this allowed Satan to enter their hearts, leading to their downfall.
We have seen that Ananias and Sapphira were believers who, for some reason or another, fell to the wiles of Satan and attempted to deceive God. God then made an example of them by causing them to die instantly because of their sins, so that all would understand the gravity of the situation. God was successful, for we read that a “great fear came upon the whole church,” (Acts 5:11). We would do well to also observe this example with great fear, because God has made evident His feelings toward us, that we should not sin, especially by attempting to deceive others. We may deceive men, but there is no deceiving God (Isaiah 55:9-10). If God killed Ananias and Sapphira on the spot for their sins, what will He do to us after we have lived a life of sin and face His judgment? We would do well to take heed of God’s judgment of Ananias and Sapphira.