The book of Acts chronicles the daily life of the early church, their unity and love for the brethren. “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things in common.” [Acts 4:32] Ananias and Sapphira were a married couple who belonged to this fellowship and like many others, including Barnabas, sold their land and gave the proceeds to be distributed according to people’s needs. As land was often an inheritance and not lightly disposed of, such a gift was a sacrifice of love for the Lord. Like the garden of Eden, this church was a perfect, loving, supportive and generous environment in which the Christian could grow in faith and be strengthened. Ananias and his wife were caught up in the pleasure of being together with the believers, but didn’t understand the cost.
The temptation to hold back something for themselves overruled their zeal for the Lord and they lied. They forgot their first love and put their confidence in their own plans. They gave in to temptation and held back from the Lord their full offering by keeping a portion for themselves. They resented giving away all their profit, but to gain favour pretended that this was all they had.
“But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” 1Timothy 6:9-10
But there is always a way of escape from the temptation to sin; as Peter said, the money had been theirs to do with as they wished, but they chose to lie to God about how much they were giving. The fear of the Lord and His indwelling Spirit will always protect us from committing sin, but when Ananias and Sapphira were blinded by the idol of money, their fraud and hypocrisy were exposed: Peter asked “why has Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?” [Acts 4:3]. Their sin uncovered, Ananias and Sapphira died instantly - a mighty demonstration of God’s desire for His church to be Holy. Like Achan, in Joshua’s day, who lied and brought trouble on the Israelites, they also sinned against God. They failed to fear Him and love the brethren; through their unbelief, Satan had tried to bring compromise into the church, just as Achan’s sin had brought wrath upon the congregation of Israel.
The Bible is clear about how we should respond to sin; speaking to Cain, God says, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is crouching at the door, its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.“ [Genesis 4:7] The word of God warns that committing sin is an act of the will that even the most upright of people are capable of when their hearts turn away from the Lord. We must therefore be watchful, alert, awake and determined “because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. [1Peter 5:8] However, we can take heart and be confident because Jesus said though temptation comes, there will always be a way of escape. In His presence, we can “find grace to help in time of need” [Heb 4:16]. Praise God, He is reigning in our mortal bodies! we are able to resist sin because He is with us, and in us and the devil will flee. This is victorious living in the power of Jesus Christ.