Everything seems to be going idyllically with the new church. Thousands are hearing and believing the bold proclamation of the Gospel by the apostles. Believers are gathering together in prayer, unity, and fellowship. No one is going without. People are selling their belongings and sharing their wealth to meet the needs of other believers. Consider Barnabas who recently sold his field and laid the money at the apostles’ feet. It is a beautiful picture of new Christian love and community.
A couple who is part of this new community of believers, Ananias and Sapphira, are taking it all in. They see the accolades and attention Barnabas receives with his donation, and they want a piece of it. Together they decide to sell some of their property. You see, they are excited and moved by this new movement, but unlike Barnabas, they aren’t willing to let go completely. Their motivation is in the praise for themselves and not the provision for others. They still want to maintain some control over how it all goes down and who gets the glory. With one foot in the Church door and one in the world, they agree to keep a portion of the proceeds for themselves while maintaining the appearance of selflessly and sacrificially giving it all. After all, who will know? And they will be seen as superstars like Barnabas…and still have some cash stored away if this whole Jesus thing turns out to be a bust. It’s a win-win, they think. Consumed with the praise of others, they forget whose approval really matters. Or perhaps they never knew.
Here’s the problem: you can’t hide from God. Ever.
The Spirit prompts Peter to what is up, and instead of being celebrated as heroes, they are called out for their sin against the Holy Spirit. Peter reminds them that the property was theirs to do what they wanted with…and even in the sale, the proceeds were theirs as well. No one commanded them to sell the property or give all the money away. What is desired is a pure and sincere heart. Guzik’s commentary points out, “According to Calvin, these are the ‘evils packed under’ the sin of Ananias, beyond the mere attempt to deceive God and the church: The contempt of God, sacrilegious defrauding, perverse vanity and ambition, lack of faith, the corrupting of a good and holy order, and hypocrisy.” In an instant, they die. Whoa!
While their sudden death might seem harsh, sin is a big deal to God, and the seedlings of His new church are no joke to Him. Like the miracles were signs of the goodness of God, the death of this couple was a sign of what it ultimately looks like for those who aren’t truly surrendered.
It is easy to look at Ananias and Sapphira and think, “Glad I’m not those guys!” But is that true? Are we not? Do we have one fit in the world and one in God’s kingdom? Do we manipulate things for spiritual appearances and accolades, while holding back for ourselves? Do we have a pure, sincere, and fully devoted heart? Anything less is a compromise with the world.
Guzik shares, “For many Christians in compromise, their greatest fear is not in sinning itself, but in being found out.”
I don't know about you, but this is a huge gut check for me. Because if our hearts are truly near to Gods, they would be very far from coveting or tightening our grip on material things and human praise. What does that gap look like in my life between alignment with the world and alignment with God? Sadly, it is often too close to the worldly side of things. Do I tend to straddle the fence between both? Time and again, we are told we must choose. Both can’t be our master; one has ultimate lordship over our lives, decisions, desires, and actions.
Lord, give us clean hands and pure heart. Thank you for Your Word and preservation of these stories that allow us to check our hearts. Empty us of the world and fill us with YOU so that everything our heart desires is what You desire, and Your glory is what we seek above all.
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