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Wednesday: Ananias and Sapphira — 16 Comments

  1. I am not a big fan of pledge offerings where a strong emotional appeal is made for people to make pledges to give towards a major project. They get to sound a bit like a Tupperware party where people get together and convince one another to buy more plastic than they can fit into their cupboards. In this pledging environment, I have seen the story of Ananias and Sapphira used to put the frighteners on folk about the importance of honouring the pledges. And I have felt great concern for people who have wrestled with this when things have gone wrong and they have been unable to honour their pledges due to unforeseen circumstances.

    The story of Ananias and Sapphira is not about honouring pledges no matter what. It is about planned deceptiveness and manipulation. And in that context how often do we use questionable strategies to achieve a particular result in a church or conference board meeting? Or to achieve a goal in a business; or push our way to the top on the social ladder.

    Devious and covetous behavior is not limited to money dealings with the church but covers a wide range of our activities. The ninth commandment says "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." We often read that as "Don't lie!" and concern ourselves with trivial situations like when you are asked by your wife, "How do I look?" The real intention of this commandment is to make sure that we are transparently clear in our dealings with both God and man.

    Ananias and Sapphira bore false witness, fueled by covetousness, to their fellow church members and to God. That was their big sin.

  2. I have truly been blessed by the lessons quarter after quarter. I felt the need to respond to the caution regarding returning tithe. This is a story about willingly offering all that one has. Tithe is altogether a separate issue.

    The point is, we should not give to impress or deceive others. We can never fool the Holy Spirit. I don't believe that God would strike any of us dead today for doing what the couple did. However, that period in the church history was crucial, and the Spirit was among them in a mighty way. What they did was a threat to the great movement going on. Perhaps during the outpouring of the latter rain, we will see something like that again.

  3. What is the purpose of the story of Ananias and Sapphira? Yes, they coveted the monetary gain. Yes, they said they were going to give all to God then had a change of heart. The real purpose is, where am I in this story? How would or how have I responded in a similar situation. It's easy to read and diagnose what we think the issue is at hand for Judas or Ananias and Sapphira. It's much harder to read these biblical accounts and honestly say wow that's me! When I read these accounts do I say wow such wretched people or do I say, Romans 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?

  4. The story of Ananias and Sapphira teaches us to be honest and transparent with our community, especially within the church. Using this story, or utilising other tactics, to make people feel guilty about not giving enough money to the church is just plain wrong, and it's spiritual abuse. We should never manipulate others using religious teachings. Instead, let's approach our faith with an open mind and heart, and always be kind and respectful to others.

  5. The stories of Achan and Ananias and Sapphira are used as examples of covetousness, but our SS class will be discussing them in more detail. Ananias & Sapphira had devoted sale proceeds to God and then didn’t keep their vow, Deut. 23:21-23. A high handed sin, no atonement available.

    Achan died because the destruction of Jericho was a holy war. Therefore, everyone and everything in Jericho was God’s holy property (except Rahab and her family). The only way to present them to God was to destroy and burn them. The holiness of the stolen property was transferred to Achan, his family and property so they must suffer the same fate. Interestingly, all Israel suffered the consequence of Achan’s sin. He took away their holiness and God’s protection. One member affected the whole body.

    • Hi, Carolyn. You raise some interesting questions.

      Peter's rhetorical question,

      "And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?" (Acts 5:4 NKJV)

      seems to suggest that Ananias and Sapphira could have withheld part of the proceeds without sin, had they not decided to lie about it and to pretend that they were donating the entire sum. To my mind, this would mean that they had not taken a vow, devoting the proceeds to God. Certainly, Peter states that it was their lying to the Holy Spirit that condemned them.

      I've heard of "holy war" as a Muslim concept, but I've never seen it in the Bible. Was the battle against Ai any less "holy," in which the children of Israel were allowed to keep the plunder? (See Joshua 8:2.) Ellen White's comment in Friday's lesson seems a more plausible explanation to me, suggesting that God had claimed Jericho's spoils as the "firstfruits" of the conquest of Canaan. Presumably, Rahab and her family had become saints by faith, which by definition means "holy ones." So, I guess not everything devoted to God is to be destroyed, but if possible used in His service. I believe the issue here is obedience to God's commands, as with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

      Honestly, I think that God is more concerned with the practical consequences and intent of our actions than with theoretical technicalities. Mark 2:25-28 convinces me of this.

      • Hi again, Carolyn,

        I'd like to explore the idea of "holiness," since you mention that "God took away their holiness." Let's look at the word "holy, " which is another word for "sacred," and it means "dedicated or consecrated to God". We are "holy" when we choose to dedicate ourselves to the service of God. Israel was "holy" when they accepted God as their Ruler and Lord. By this acceptance, they dedicated themselves to the service of God.

        I don't see that God ever "takes away" holiness. Rather, he asks us to choose whether or not we want to serve Him - whether we want to be holy - whether we want to serve God or self, as He did in Joshua 24:15. The same concept appears throughout the Bible, though in different words. God chooses us to be saved, but we choose to either accept or reject His salvation. We choose whether or not to be "holy." God never takes away our choice.

    • Hi Carolyn,

      You raise some interesting questions. However, I suggest that in your Sabbath School class, it will be best to stick with what the Bible actually reveals. Peter, under inspiration, stated that Ananias and Saphira had agreed to lie to the Holy Spirit by lying to the apostles. They pretended to bring all the proceeds of a sale, when they only brought a portion. As Peter said, they were not compelled to bring the whole proceeds; they could have brought only a portion, and that would have been fine. Instead, they conspired together to lie about the transaction and pretend to have given all, like many others had.

      I don't see any evidence in the Bible that God led the Israelites to wage "holy" or "unholy" wars. Their success always lay in trusting God enough to obey His instructions implicitly.

      As for the whole nation being held responsible, we need to consider a bit of background. In the modern world we tend to think in terms of *individuals,* rather than whole groups. By contrast, God's promises are to the *nation* of Israel, but only individuals who were faithful to the conditions were able to gain the eternal rewards. Throughout the history of Israel, the faithful often suffered with the unfaithful for their lack of obedience. The whole nation went into captivity for their unfaithfulness, and the faithful, like Daniel and his friends, went into captivity right along with them. (But while the faithless also lost their eternal reward, the faithful will enter into their eternal reward, in spite of the faithlessness of the nation.)

      In the story of Achan, right at the beginning of their national history, God demonstrated how important individual faithfulness is - that the whole nation suffers for the unfaithfulness of a few. He was teaching an important lesson that was, unfortunately, too often forgotten. It's also a lesson for us today in our churches. One dishonest individual can give a local church a bad reputation and hinder its effectiveness. We need to consider whether or not we are contributing to or hindering the effectiveness of our local congregation.

    • Interestingly, Jesus discouraged his followers from making vows at all, so I'm not sure this is an issue of a failed vow, though I guess it's hard to say for sure. I'm also not sure that there was absolutely no forgiveness for broken vows in the Old Testament. Leviticus 5:4 seems to suggest that the guilt offering would cover those situations. Also, David's sin with Bathsheba was certainly a high-handed sin, but God was able to forgive him. Also Acts 13:39 mentions Jesus justifying us from everything that cannot be justified by the law of Moses, so that to me suggests that even intentional/rebellious sin can be forgiven.

      I don't say this to make light of keeping vows (though really we probably should avoid most of them anyway), but as encouragement for anyone reading this who has broken a vow in the past (which I suspect is many of us). You can be forgiven for that.

  6. May God have mercy on us all. There is a lot of things we can think about the story of Ananias and Sapphira. But there is one thing that strikes me, the two persons I cannot lie to, God and myself! This is a serious business! How much am I holding back from God after knowing the truth about Him who is my true provider?

  7. Apparently, the Apostle Peter only asks Sapphira about the amount that was given. But as for Ananias, The Holy Spirit must have revealed the details of the transaction to Peter. It is interesting to me that no actual numbers are revealed about that transaction in the account in the book of Acts.

  8. I am not too sure about how much time it took between the sale of the property, to the time the proceeds (presumably part of the profit) were laid at the feet of the apostle. But here is what I have learned in life:

    The number of zeros after the first digit can be quite tempting. It is prudent therefore to quickly give/surrender our pledge so that we free ourselves of the sometimes inevitable temptation that is associated with looking at the number of zeros, or how low the bank balance will be after we remove the pledge. Coupled with this is to be completely honest with our strengths and weaknesses as regards money.

  9. All the book of Acts indicates first about Ananias and his wife's transaction is that Ananias and his wife sold their property and kept back some of the money of that sale. Then it says that the Apostle Peter confronts Ananias with "Lying" to the Holy Spirit. So then, to me, I see this as Ananias and his wife making plans of deception to appear that they were giving "all of the money" from the sale of their property to God's cause, when in reality they were keeping some of it in secrecy for themselves. Apparently there was no forgiveness for Ananias nor even opportunity for him to repent of this. But for the wife there apparently was, but she chose to stick by her and her husband's plan to keep their keeping back some of their profits of their sale a secret, so she also then suffered her husband's Holy Spirit condemnation of death.

  10. also, Ananias and his wife's sin was against "The Holy Spirit." Jesus, in Matthew 12:31 indicates that sinning against The Holy Spirit is unforgiveable. I do not see their sin as being the sin of "Coveting." It was the sin against the Holy Spirit which is unforgiveable. Jesus, in Matthew 12:31 also very clearly indicates that "All Sin" would be forgiven and I am sure that spilling His Blood for this takes care of that. But apparently not even His Spilled blood takes care of sinning against The Holy Spirit. So also and apparently, sinning against God's Holy Spirit is not to be found in any of the 10 commandments either.

    • Hi Pete – I concur with your understanding of what happened to Ananias and his wife. I see sinning against the Holy Spirit as the depraved mind and heart working to deceive to benefit oneself under the pretense of benefitting others or supporting a cause. I found the same to be true for Judas Iscariot. He also, as I see him, was a pretender of the faith in order to achieve personal gain.

      Peter pointed out that they were lying to the Holy Spirit - lying in the form of pretending to be someone that they were not. Yes, they could have kept all their possession and the Holy Spirit would not have faulted them with that, but they chose to lie about their true motives and suffered an immediate response. All who pretend to believe are considered in the end to be those who worked iniquity - Matt. 7:23.

  11. Apparently, not all coveting is evil. In 1 Corinthians 14:39 and also 12:31 the Apostle Paul uses the word "Covet" in reference to going after the best "Spiritual Gifts." And even the 10th Commandment in Exodus is indicative of (not) "coveting" what belongs to ones' neighbor. So it seems that it is "desiring" what does not belong to you that makes "coveting" evil.


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