The early book of Acts delivers a message that blessings from the Lord are exceedingly abundant. We are shown that prosperity and blessings were bestowed upon believers that were eager to give unselfish sacrifice to God, but only when done so with an honest heart. When the offerings were tainted with deceit, the blessings turn to curses and the prosperity was vanquished by famine and death. An example of such a case is represented in the story of Ananias and Sapphira.
And Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles, translated means “Son of Encouragement”, sold a field which belonged to him, and brought the sum of money and laid it at the feet of the apostles, (Acts 4:36-37) was a man filled with the Holy Spirit. For he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith (Acts 11:24). Then there was Ananias, whose heart was filled with Satan. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled you heart to lie to the Holy Spirit, and to keep back some of the price of the land” (Acts 5:3). Here we have two sides of a spectrum. One was utterly truthful, while the other a liar. There offerings show us the differences in counter pointed faith and unbelief, selflessness and selfishness, goodness and deceitfulness, sacrifice and sacrilege, trust in God and the worship of self, total commitment and supported hypocrisy. Even when grace was offered the selfishness of man prevailed and the consequences were severe.
However, there are major problems and concerns that we can question concerning the nature of Ananias’ sin. Ask yourself what if Ananias had just said: “Here is where we would like to be, with Barnabas’ kind of trust and generosity, but we find that we are not there yet. All we can do for now is give part of the proceeds. May the Church of the Holy Spirit help us grow toward what we would like to Become?” Then there would have been healing, nurture, and grace mediated through other believers in the caring fellowship. But instead there was deceit and death.
Ananias and Sapphira were ordinary people who wanted to flaunt a spiritual beauty they didn’t possess. Then again, what sins might have we committed if we were sure we’d never be found out? If people carried out some of the evils they plan or dream about, all of mankind would be in jail for life. But the sin of Ananias and Sapphira was simply not greed, but deception and hypocrisy.
The Setting was a collective paradise. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sale, and lay them at the apostles’ feet; and they would be distributed to each, as any had need (Acts 4:34-35) The people of the church has a financial community of shared resources, sensitivity to others needs, and security – not only in material things, but also in the risen Christ as well. It very well may have been the closest to communal utopia the church has ever seen. And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own; but all things were common property to them (Acts 4:32). Sinners were repenting, being forgiven, and accepted. The sick were being healed, and great grace was upon them all.
But in the midst of all this beauty and harmony, the serpent slid his way back into the garden again. Ananias and Sapphira were engaging in a sort of impression management to manipulate the other believers’ opinion of them. There motives were probably pretty ordinary, perhaps even defensible. More than likely their generosity was inspired by the charity of Barnabas. It’s reasonable to speculate that fear crept in and questioned there sacrifice. Leaving the couple to ask questions such as, “What about the poor people on the receiving end of the handouts? Why should they receive something for nothing?” Even more so, their distrustful selves may have even raised question about the apostles’ honesty. But in the end their egocentric selves won. They wanted glory without sacrifice; they sought after the regards Barnabas had received, but without having to pay the full price.
It’s clear to see the dishonesty, but there was a deeper deception here. There was something more insidious, subtle, and dangerous with this lie. Ananias was engaged in the act of worship during his deceit. While Barnabas has laid his gift at the apostle’s feet (Acts 4:35), he did so wholly and unselfishly. This same expression is used of Ananias (Acts 5:2), but in his heart was a different scene. Both offerings weren’t merely to the apostles, but to God. Their motivations, the thoughts of their hearts, and internal mindsets, were therefore God’s concern. This is the worst kind of hypocrisy. This was hypocrisy bordering on sacrilege, an unforgivable sin in the eyes of God. It wasn’t just a matter of pretending to be a devout follower, but really being a liar, a cheat, and a thief towards Christ.
Sacrilege goes a lot further. It’s robbing God of what is rightfully Gods, “stealing Divine glory,” withholding what we have professed as belonging to the Lord. Ananias and Peter, the Apostle, are not simply two mortals confronting each other. This is between God and Satan, in an epic ever going battle for souls. Previous to that, Ananias may even have been among the seventy apostles preaching the Kingdom of God, healing the sick, and casting out evil spirits. And the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even demons are subject to us in Your name.” (Luke 10:17). Delivering a message to us that no matter what position we hold in the eyes of man, there is no sin impossible for any one of us to commit.
Peter makes it very clear that Ananias didn’t have to follow the course he did. He was in full control at every point. “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under our control? Why is it that you have conceived this seed in you heart? You have not lied to men, but to God.” (Acts 5:4) This wasn’t a mandatory thing in which he engaged. Private property had not been abolished from the church, and no one was being force to sell his home or her possessions. The sharing that was present was voluntary, not a precondition of entering the church. Even after Ananias and Sapphira decided to bring only part of the money, they still had an alternative course of action open to them. Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” (Acts 5:7-8) Showing us that grace and deliverance from harm was offered.
It would be reasonable to speculate Ananias and Sapphira had a warped view of God. There view was one of a “perfectionist” who could not accept them if they were imperfect. If only Ananias and Sapphira had realized that God is not like that, God is a grower of persons and not in the business of mass production. There is no such thing as instant sanctification in the eyes of God. They also had a defective view of their fellow Christians. They were fearful about their inability to measure up, and obviously felt they wouldn’t be accepted by others if they confessed to being less than Barnabas.
Hence it would be reasonable to say that hypocrites have huge inferiority complexes and are unable to accept their own uniqueness and imperfections. Hypocrisy is prevalent in today’s society, but the consequences may not be as sudden as Ananias’ fate. It may take a bit longer to reap what dishonest lifestyle is sown. Honesty to ones self leads to maturity, and maturity is all about living with imperfection, your own, your parents, and others as well. Hypocrites have to play a sort of one up game in which they come out best in every comparison, but they seem to only come out best in there own eyes. On the other hand, the essence of grace is acceptance. It’s an acceptance by God, of others, and most importantly of us. Grace is love before worth and it creates a worth in another rather than responding to worth in others.
We therefore can conclude that grace abounds were sin abounds. While the church is a society of people on the receiving end of God’s grace, it’s the communal balance of excellence were we accept others fully on the same basis as God has accepted us. Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God (Romans 15:7). While God’s grace is offered, anyone with honesty can accept this offer.
Acceptance is solely on the basis of grace; not law, not doctrine, not sacramental observation, but God’s grace alone.