Acts chapter 5 begins with a dramatic tale:
A man named Ananias along with his wife Sapphira, sold some property. The funds were to be used to support the early New Testament church. But, they brought only portion of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. His wife supported his deception.
When confronted by Peter, he fell to the floor, dead! He was covered with a sheet and brought out to be buried.
About three hours later, Peter asked Sapphira if she and Ananias had turned over all the proceeds from the sale of the land. Without hesitation, she said yes. She too fell to the floor, dead. (You can read the full story in Acts 5:1-10)
The judgement from the Holy Spirit came not because they did not turn over the money, but because they thought they could lie to God.
Let me clear that up: God doesn't need us to fund His work. He doesn't need us to provide for Him. Everything in the whole world is His (Psalm 50:12).
However, this couple made a pledge to give everything from the sale of their land to God. This was a voluntary decision. Nobody forced them to do it. They made the vow of their own free will. Vows made to God are not to be taken lightly.
I like the way the NIV puts Ecclesiastes 5:4
"When you make a vow to God, do not delay to fulfill it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow."
Which brings us to today's lesson:
It's easy to look at Ananias and Sapphira and call them selfish, or foolish or greedy because they sought to make a profit for selling their possession. But, how many of us practice an Ananias mentality?
In our bedrooms, in our closets, in our secret thoughts we have things that are unlike Christ. Things that we would prefer if no one knew about us. Not even God.
We somehow convince ourselves that our secret is really secret. We forget that God knows the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21)
There is nothing we can do that God does not see (Job 34:21).
There is no place that we can go that He is not there (Psalm 139:1-12). As the psalmist puts it, even if we make our beds in hell, God is there.
My prayer for us today is that we forsake our inner Ananias. Give it over to Jesus and He will make our paths smooth. (Proverbs 3:6)
Jehovah, forgive me for those sins I commit in secret. I know nothing is hidden from You. I pray that I will always be comforted by the fact that there is nowhere I can go outside your presence. In Jesus' name. Amen.
What other lessons can be learned from the story of Ananias and Sapphira?