There were 2 men named Ananias mentioned in the book of Acts – Ananias of Damascus [Acts 9:10], the man who was instrumental in aiding Paul in the aftermath of his conversion – he was the one who went to Paul and prayed for him, enabling his eyes to be opened and explained to him about what had happened – we generally regard him as the ‘good’ Ananias. Yet as good as he was our focus today is on the other Ananias, who naturally becomes the ‘bad’ Ananias – the husband of Sapphira, who we know from the Bible lied to Peter (which really means lying to the church, and therefore, God) about their offering of money. There are so many topics we can talk about from this negative example – money; offering (or even tithing); justice/wrath of God; authority and knowledge of the apostles; and of course, lies. A lie that involved a pair of husband and wife – we saw it in Adam and Eve [Gen 3:6], we saw it in Abram and Sarai (before their names changed) [Gen 12:19]. In this verse, we will attempt to examine the stakes involved in this ambitious lie of theirs.
With his wife’s full knowledge – Surely this means that the wife knew that Ananias was going to keep some of the money for himself, but did she know that he was going to lie and pretend that what he was giving the apostles was all the money that he obtained from selling the land? There’s a significant difference in that knowledge – she was described to be in full knowledge of his intentions – there was no excuse for her. It wasn’t like Ananias did it behind her back. It wasn’t like Ananias lied to her. She knew everything, she knew what was happening, and more likely than not, she approved and agreed with it. She was given a chance to be honest when Peter asked “is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” [Acts 5:8] Not knowing that the lie has been exposed and that her husband has been struck dead, she kept to the story. When Ananias kept back some of the money in her full knowledge, Sapphira had already known that Ananias was going to lie. She knew, and she approved. It doesn’t matter if you weren’t the main culprit. If you had only approved, or participated in the lie, or the sin, you’re like Sapphira – and she was struck dead too.
he kept back part of the money for himself – Nobody insisted Ananias to sell his land and give all the money to the apostles. Perhaps they had been encouraged to aid the apostles monetarily, as we so often do in churches today; but when Barnabas sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet [Acts 4:37], nobody told Ananias to emulate his act. Barnabas had the faith required for such a huge offering. Ananias simply didn’t. His faith was only sufficient to offer up a portion of what he had obtained. So be it. More likely than not, people are going to compare him to Barnabas, who had just sold his land and yet had offered everything. It’s inevitable – that’s the power of gossip; that’s the one downside to fellowship. But at the end of the day, in placing his personal pride in front of honouring God; Ananias paid the ultimate price with his life. I personally think that being able to give a portion of money from his sale of his land is already a very admirable thing. He wouldn’t have been struck dead even if he had kept all the money to himself – the issue here really, was him seeking honour in his acts of charity.
but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet – In doing this we can tell that Ananias was completely copying Barnabas. In Acts 4:34-35 we see that this was actually a rather ‘in’ thing to do. A lot of times we too are subjected to peer pressure. He is serving in 3 ministries. Why do you only have one? He has gone for 3 mission trips. Why have you only gone for one? He has brought 3 friends to church this month. Why have you only brought one? In varying degrees, even if nobody compares us to others, we have the tendency to compare ourselves to the holiest in our lot. More often than not, comparing ourselves to people who have more faith will indeed provoke us and challenge us to greater heights. But when we set expectations of our self according to the benchmark made by others, that’s when the pressure comes in, the pressure to take on more tasks, the pressure to do things that we cannot handle, the pressure to live up to these big expectations enter our lives, and either entraps us, strangles us, or forces us to make a wrong decision.
The Bible didn’t mention it, but I’m sure that Barnabas was honored and appreciated in the community after his offering of the entire price of his land. I’m sure God, in his own ways, honored Barnabas for his act of faith as well. Perhaps that was what Ananias was looking for. Was that wrong? Perhaps looking for humanly appreciation is narcissistic, but God honours those who honours him [1 Samuel 2:30]. The blessing that we’re assured of when we honour God is often the saving grace and the motivation (and often the comfort/consolation) behind that one leap of faith that many of us would, at some point in our lives, take. Yet to what ends would you go when seek that appreciation? Ananias went to the extent of lying. Would you?
In our pursuit of heavenly rewards, in our pursuit of blessings from God, in our desire to honour God, we may often find ourselves going to great extents, sacrificing many things. Sometimes, when we’re so engrossed in the noble notion of honoring God, we may find ourselves tempted to do what is not right. Let us be alert to never sacrifice our honesty in our pursuit for blessings. Let us not dishonour God en route to honoring God. Let us not use Satan ways to reach our destination. Why should we, when there is God?
I wonder how many times I could have been struck dead had this still been the days of the apostles. We are very, very blessed today, aren’t we? Let us not take God’s mercy for granted. Ananias was struck dead – so was Sapphira. Let us live vigilantly and seek to honour God with honorable means.