The story of Ananias and Sapphira in the Book of Acts is both tragic and instructive.
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. (Acts 4:1-5)
Against the backdrop of a small community that had committed to follow Christ until death, shared all their possessions and had a single minded objective of sharing the gospel of Christ and growing the church, this couple took a distinct deviation. They wanted to follow Christ, but their minds and hearts were not fully committed to him. Their decision to withhold part of the money and then lie to the apostles that they had given their all, demonstrated the dominance of the worldly passion within them. Tragically they paid for it with their lives as the Lord took both their lives prematurely.
When we look around and see so much corruption within the church and its leaders, many should be dropping down dead for so much more than Ananias and Sapphira. Why did God mete out so harsh a punishment for this couple?
First, the church was at a most critical juncture in its history. A mere handful of people picked and trained by Jesus would go on to multiply and create the most dominant force on the face of the earth. No imperfection or deviation from God’s objective could be tolerated at this point. Consider an embryo growing within a mother’s womb- it goes from being a single cell to being a 2 cell, a 4 cell, an 8 cell embryo and so on as rapid growth takes place. Any defect sustained to the embryo at this stage will make the pregnancy non viable and cause an abortion. When the fetus is fully grown, an insult sustained at say, 6 months of pregnancy, would cause some defects, but usually not the loss of the fetus. This couple had deviated far enough that their continued presence could have dealt a serious blow to the growing embryonic church.
Second, the incident is a demonstration of how God views sin. The wages of sin is death and eternal death awaits all who have not repented of their sins. If untimely physical death were to accurately represent this eternal reality, we would be seeing a lot more of deaths like those of Ananias and Sapphira. However, God patiently tarries, giving man multiple opportunities to come back to him and repent.
Lastly, all untimely physical deaths could be God’s way of preserving a deviant soul from eternal death. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:30,
That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.
‘Falling asleep’ or dying can occur when a person deliberately sins against the Lord and sets himself up on a path that can lead him to eternal ruin. With death being a certainty in life, it is better to die when you have eternal life rather than when you have thrown it away, consequent to living in sin! This was certainly the situation of Ananias and Sapphira and it is possible their premature deaths were also an act demonstrating the mercy of God.
The shocking death of the Ananias and Sapphira is a reflection of both the awesomeness and the mercy of God.
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