Author: Ron Graham
Ananias and Sapphira told a lie. How big a lie did Ananias and Sapphira tell? (Acts 5)
There were some very generous people in the church of Christ in Jerusalem —people who made great sacrifices so that the many poor people in their number were not in need. Barnabas for example (his name means "Son of Encouragement" ) sold a tract of land and laid the proceeds at the apostles’ feet as a gift to the poor.
Ananias and Sapphira wanted to be counted among these philanthropists, so they too sold a piece of property they owned. However, instead of bringing all the money, they brought only a portion, yet represented their gift as the whole proceeds of the sale.
That was wrong, but haven't worse lies been told? Did the lie hurt or disadvantaged anybody? It seems that Ananias and Sapphira wanted to gain a reputation for being generous, whilst minimising the sacrifice necessary to gain that reputation. So Ananias and Sapphira tinkered with truth and made themselves out to be more generous than they really were. God did not think it a trivial matter: Ananias and Sapphira were punished by death on the spot
God sees things differently to us. "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways your ways, declares the Lord" (Isa 55:8-9). Let’s examine what the apostle Peter said to Ananias and Sapphira seconds before they dropped dead, and see if we can gain some insight into why God took this lie so seriously.
In Acts 4:33 we read, "Abundant grace was upon them all". The church wasdemonstrating genuine largesse and altruism. People’s generous sacrifice reflected their gratitude for the grace God they'd received. He'd sacrificed his only begotten Son so that they might have everlasting life. They were more than willing to sacrifice their worldly possessions so that others might have the needs of everyday life. This was a lovely, blessed, and sanctified thing. It brought glory to God and respect for the church. Ananias and Sapphira, however, were trying to gain respect and glory for themselves whilst trying to hold back on the sacrifice. They had "trampled under foot the Son of God" and "insulted the Spirit of Grace" (Heb 10:29).
So we see that this lie was no small matter at all. It was in fact a declaration of war upon the abundant grace of God. Their lie was as big as the insult felt by God’s Spirit.
Peter asks Ananias, "Why has Satan filled your heart to lie..." Peter was not questioning Satan’s purpose, because he already knew that Satan was out to destroy the work of God. Peter was questioning Ananias and Sapphira’s motive for allowing Satan into their hearts. What did they want that was worth opening their heart’s door to Satan?
When we make room in our hearts for Satan, he is not satisfied to occupy some small corner. He wants our whole heart. That’s what he did to Ananias and Sapphira. He "filled" their hearts. Obviously the heart that Satan fills has no room for God. Satan put in the greatest possible effort to make Ananias and Sapphira tell that lie. He was not throwing in one or two shovels of dirt. He was not going to rest till he'd "filled" their hearts full. And they foolishly sacrificed their souls to gain a little money and a little glory.
Again we see this lie was much bigger than we might have imagined. God was being squeezed right out of Ananias and Sapphira’s heart. If they thought they were making a minor compromise, that was just part of Satan’s deception. Their lie was as big as Satan’s effort to win them, and as big as what they lost when he did.
Peter asks Sapphira, "Why have you agreed together to put the Lord to the test?" Whenever we cross the line that God has drawn, we challenge him to respond. Instead of keeping well back from that line, people like to stand astride it and say to God, "What are you going to do about this? How about you move the line a bit?" I'm not sure what Ananias and Sapphira were thinking of, but perhaps they were saying, "Well, after all we are giving a substantial contribution and surely God owes us credit for that. If people think we've given the whole price, what harm can it do?"
God’s problem with Ananias and Sapphira wasn't that they kept back part of the price. Peter makes it quite clear that they didn't have to sell the property. If they chose to sell it, they didn't have to give the money. If they chose to give, they didn't have to give it all. God’s problem was that Ananias and Sapphira’s hypocrisy was testing him. God cannot compromise with evil, and his response on this occasion certainly stated that fact. What people don't realise is that God is absolutely perfectly pure. He is light "and in him there is no darkness at all" (1Jn 1:5).
So we see yet again that this lie was bigger than it seemed. It challenged and tested the very perfection of God, and that is a very big test. Therefore the lie was a very big lie.
The principles of this lesson apply not only to telling lies, but many kinds of sin. Any sin generally seen by mortals as trivial, can be much more serious in God’s eyes, because of the different light in which he views things.