Lent 2023 Day 20: Thu 16 Mar
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. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
If you think that this is tough reading then read on in the chapter and see what happened to Ananias’ wife Sapphira. We should be very careful to distinguish the word of knowledge God gave to Peter from the punishment that God meted out to Ananias.
Peter’s response to Ananias was prompted by the Holy Spirit revealing to him that Ananias was a fraud. This Holy Spirit action is usually described as a word of knowledge. The Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that this man had held back some of the money from the sale for himself. No-one would deny that selling property and giving large amounts to the apostles is a generous act. Ananias, however, had kept back for himself some of the proceeds and made out that what he was offering was the total sale price.
Ananias had no need to do that. The apostles would have been appreciative of whatever Ananias gave. The only reason I can think of for his actions is that he wanted to impress the apostles. He did not, however, impress God, who saw what Ananias had done. The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The cattle on a thousand hills are his. My work and state pensions are his. All that I own is a gift from God. I’m the steward of what he gives me. None of it has any carry-over value in eternity. Ananias’ offering was ultimately to God. By blessing the apostles Ananias would be honouring God. But Ananias did not think it through. He only saw, to my mind, honour in the sight of the apostles. That’s fraud.
Peter did not condemn the man. He asked him earnestly how he could have allowed himself to be so influenced by Satan’s deceits as to lie about the money. He’d lied to God.
What happened next would have shaken the room, Peter included. Perhaps God had made his personal anger (a better word is wrath) known to Peter, and Peter could sense where this incident was heading, and the outcome that lay ahead for Ananias.
God is not deceived. Ananias met an untimely end.
Imagine you are the apostles’ treasurer. What would you have done with the large sum of money Ananias had offered?
Has God been gracious to you when you may have deserved tougher treatment?
Are you holding anything back from God?
Father God, you know my heart, my desires and my plans, and they may not always be resonant with your heart, your desires and your plans for me. Bring me back to your divine harmony, I pray. Amen.