From the first time I read the book of Acts, I was shocked by the story of Ananias and Sapphira. In chapter 4, Luke paints a picture of solidarity.
“Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common… There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.”
Ananias walks in to speak to Peter and give him the share agreed with his wife. It is not recorded that Ananias says a word. Peter asks Ananias these questions: “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.” My thoughts are: how was Peter so sure that Satan somehow influenced Ananias to make this decision? Why was it considered lying to the Holy Spirit? Was death a just punishment for Ananias and his wife or did they even deserve to be punished? After he sold the land, the proceeds still belonged to him? So, why would the disciples not thank him for giving something instead of keeping it all? There is just so little information that Luke gives us about this situation and really doesn’t explain anything. The fact that we don’t have Ananias’ side of the story makes it even more challenging to understand.
There are many scholars who believe that Ananias and Sapphira were not believers therefore, this punishment was just. In his article, Andrew Wommack, states that “God’s wrath falling on Ananias and Sapphira would be no different than Old Testament examples of God’s punishment. They didn’t have a covenant with God, so God was completely just in calling their accounts due.” He also points out that “Jesus taught in the parable of the tares that some of Satan’s children were mixed among His true believers (Matthew 13:37).” Now, Wommack goes on to say that some people believe that they were “believers and they renounced their salvation because of greed, that would have removed them from the New Covenant and made them candidates for the wrath of God.” So, if they were not believers, was it possible for them to be influenced by Satan? According to Larry Silverman, Yes! Silverman states that “The heart of a true Christian can NEVER be filled by Satan!”
Why was this considered lying to the Holy Spirit? Maybe Peter believed they were doing the work of the Holy Spirit and this couple was not cooperating as expected and allowing themselves to be influenced by their enemy.
I think what confuses me the most is the fact that there were bad consequences for doing something that would be praised today. According to the text, the land and the money he got from the land still belonged to Ananias. This implies that it didn’t automatically belong to the disciples and didn’t have to give it up. Today, whoever did this would be put on a pedestal for their good deeds. Now, somehow Peter knew that Ananias was acting like he was giving them all of it but in reality he had kept some for himself. Then, we do see Sapphira confirming Peter’s assumptions. So, we can conclude that they were dishonest about their giving and wanted to look good. Wommack states that “Ananias and Sapphira were a part of the early church that was walking in a revelation of Jesus and His love as possibly no other group of believers have ever done. They had experienced much and were therefore accountable for much.”
I can conclude that this story sets a good example for the consequences of professing one thing and doing another. In Ananias’ eyes he probably was doing a good thing and freaked out when he heard Peter say he was lying to God. Perhaps, Ananias and Sapphira were not sold out on following these disciples wholeheartedly and definitely made a wrong choice.