The Internal Revenue Service would love to have the discernment Peter had the day he questioned Sapphira and her husband Ananias about the amount of their gift to the church. How much would it be worth to know for certain if someone is telling the truth?
When Sapphira lied to Peter about the price of the land and the gift they were giving to the church, it wasn't a memory lapse or a slight exaggeration. She had full knowledge of what her husband was going to tell the leaders of the church. What she didn't know was that the consequences for lying were going to be quick and severe.
The love of money was Sapphira's downfall. She and her husband Ananias, had agreed with others in the community to share all that they had with one another and to contribute to a common treasury to meet the common needs (Acts 2:44, 45; 4:32)· Sapphira and her husband were not forced into doing this. They could have withdrawn from the community if they didn't want to meet the requirements of those who believed with one heart and soul. But they had agreed to it voluntarily, and this agreement had become a sacred pledge for the faithful. After reading this account and looking into what developed, I wonder was it possible that she and her husband only said they agreed to impress people? How often are we tempted to do just that? We must remember that although people look at our outside actions, the Lord looketh on the heart. So who are we trying to please? And who are we trying to fool? We had better purpose in our hearts right now that no matter what we will NOT say one thing and do another, lest we too fall the way Sapphira did.
Peter clearly stated, it was not required of them that they give up all their property and even after they had sold it the proceeds still belonged to them to share voluntarily with those in need.
But Sapphira could not stand a stern test with money. She, with her husband, desired credit for giving all to the Church without actually doing so. They coveted some of the money for themselves and resorted to dishonesty and untruthfulness to keep it.
The Bible says: Ac 5:1-2 "But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet."
What a strong indictment this is Of a wife. The phrase "with his wife's knowledge" makes her as guilty as her husband. We can most likely make a stronger conclusion of Sapphira and say that she may have been guiltier than her husband, for it could have been she who more so coveted the money. A wife cannot always influence her husband in what is right, however, we have NO mention here of her trying or at the very least voicing her disagreement. We have no record that Sapphira even tried. Her husband committed evil entirely with her knowledge, and it would also seem with her support if not at her priding and bidding.
The early meaning of Ananias' name is "Yahweh is gracious." God had been gracious to Ananias in giving him a beautiful wife (that is what her name means) and in blessing him with land. No doubt he and his wife were among the more affluent members Of this early Christian community and should have been more strongly committed to generosity and honesty than those with far less. Let us not forget either that this was a period when there had been a great outpouring Of the Holy Spirit. Luke tells us here in Acts that the people Acts 4:31 And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness."
Sapphira had the opportunity to know what this outpouring of the Holy Spirit could mean in the life of a Christian. No doubt she was familiar with the gift of Barnabas,
"Acts 11:24 For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith: and much people was added unto the Lord."
She had seen him give a practical walk to his faith in Christ by selling his land and bringing the money and laying it at the apostles' feet (Acts 4:37) And she knew that because of such generous giving there was not a needy person among them (Acts 4:34).Like Barnabas, Sapphira and Ananias were committed to the same cause. They had dedicated themselves and all they owned to the common good. Like these other Christians Sapphira probably was familiar with Christ's own words,
Matthew 6:24 "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
She knew that this new Church, now numbering about 5 thousand was now undergoing a stern test in all its responsibilities. She knew that a tremendous conviction of truth had welded these first believers into a great fellowship of heart and soul and that all in this fellowship lived in daily expectation of miracles. There is the account, for example, appearing a short time before hers of the lame man begging at the Temple gate who was healed by Peter (Acts 3:2-10). All the people knew that this man who had asked for alms had been given much more than he asked for; he also had received a well, strong body, and he had gone forth "walking, and leaping, and praising God". And the people "were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him".
Funny though how it seems convenient to forget those things (reminds me of those wandering taking lap after lap), when we are making a decision as to our wants isn't it? Yes, great grace was upon the people, and many were turning away from their iniquities. It was no time to think of how great were one's possessions. It was a time to think of how great was one's faith, how great was one's knowledge of God, and how willing one was to remain true to the covenant with God.
But amid all these noble ideals Sapphira and her husband had become more interested in what they had than in what they were. When Ananias first handed over the money from the sale of the land to the apostles, Peter's stern question was...
Ac 5:3-4 "But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. "
Ananias had no answer, and he fell dead at Peter's feet. Not knowing what had befallen her husband, Sapphira appeared before Peter three hours later; and when he asked her if the land had been sold for the amount specified by her husband, she answered, "Yea, for so much" (Acts 5:8) In this dishonest answer she revealed herself as a wife who thought it better to conceal her own and her husband's dishonesty than to be honest with the Church and loyal to God.
Sapphira's greatest sin as a member of this early band of Christians was not that she and her husband withheld a part of the proceeds from the sale of their land but that they lied to the Holy Spirit about it (Acts 5:3)· When Sapphira had come into the church with her husband when he laid this money from the sale of the land at the apostle's feet, she was pretending to be something she was not. That is exactly what I was referring to in the beginning of this study. In the eyes of the people there she appeared generous; but in the eyes of God she was a hypocrite. Through Ananias and Sapphira hypocrisy wound itself into the Christian Church.
Interesting it is to note that in these passages about Sapphira and Ananias the word "church" (Acts 5:11) appears for the first time as a name for the Christian community. Again we begin to understand what an extremely important obligation rested upon Sapphira as a leading member of this first Christian Church. Our tithes and offerings ARE as important as our prayer and attendance! Just think of the blessings that Sapphira lost out on when she they decided to ROB God.
Now don't think for a minute that God really needs your money.. He after all owns the cattle on a thousand hills, amen? ;-) BUT He needs your obedience, your faithfulness, my pastor always says.. "You can not outgive God". He is right. There are no needs that our Heavenly Father will not provide us if we in obedience walk in faith.
When are you most tempted to lie?...when you are trying to stay out of trouble or trying to save money? If you knew lying would bring severe consequences would you let even an exaggeration come out of your mouth? If God chose to impose the same swift judgment on you that he did on Sapphira, how long would you last?
Whatever lies you have told, big or small, recent or old, can be forgiven by confessing them to both God and the people involved. Why wait until you are in the presence of God to tell the truth? Tell the truth now, while God is giving you the opportunity that Sapphira didn't get.
LYING ALWAYS COSTS US SOMETHING!
The sudden death of Sapphira and her husband made others in the Church see what could happen when a husband and a wife became partners in evil and not in truth. They saw that a sin two people had arranged was worse than one done singly. Two reaping for the sowing. The people saw, too, that one cannot trifle with truth and go unpunished, that there is no halfway mark with truth, that either you are honest or you are dishonest.
Let us learn from the story of Sapphira that the love of money/things... are but for a moment. It just isn't worth it!