Let’s talk about sin. Turn to Acts 5.
In Acts 5 we meet Ananias and Sapphira. From what we can tell explicitly from the text, they are husband and wife and sold a piece of property.
Read Acts 5:1-11 and write down (or mentally record) how you feel about God’s punishment towards them.
Now read Joshua 7:16-26 and write down (or mentally record) how you feel about God’s punishment towards Achan.
I want you to keep the short story of Achan in the back of your mind as we continue in our discovery about Ananias and Sapphira.
We can gather, based on the first 4 chapters of Acts, that they might have been part of the group of believers who were gathered and now following Christ's teachings especially, since Act 5:1 begins with the word, but. One thing you can begin recognizing as you read and study the Bible, are transition words and conjunctions. Little words like: but, now, and, therefore are good indicators that something else important is connected to the passage of scripture you are reading. What happened before the but in this instance? Well, Jesus ascended into heaven (1:6-11), the Holy Spirit filled the people (also known as Pentecost) (2:1-13), Peter preaches a pretty powerful sermon and around 3,000 people were saved (2:14-47), a lame man is healed (3), Peter and John are put in prison then released and believers prayed for boldness (4:1-32), then finally, the believers are back together (just to name a few things).
Read. Acts 4:32-37 (I have given you three different translations: ESV, NLT, & MSG):
They Had Everything in Common (ESV)
32 Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. 33 And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold 35 and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. 36 Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, 37 sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet.
The Believers Share Their Possessions (NLT)
32 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. 33 The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. 34 There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them 35 and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need. 36 For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus. 37 He sold a field he owned and brought the money to the apostles.
32-33 The whole congregation of believers was united as one—one heart, one mind! They didn’t even claim ownership of their own possessions. No one said, “That’s mine; you can’t have it.” They shared everything. The apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Master Jesus, and grace was on all of them.
34-35 And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need.
36-37 Joseph, called by the apostles “Barnabas” (which means “Son of Comfort”), a Levite born in Cyprus, sold a field that he owned, brought the money, and made an offering of it to the apostles.
Clearly, these people were walking with the Lord or at the very least, a part of this new group. Now read Acts 5:1-11 again. Do you have a little bit of a different perspective? My initial reaction is to think, “man, that is harsh God. You didn’t even give them a chance! So they were a little greedy, is that enough to kill them?" Much like our Old Testament friend, Achan, the punishment seems pretty harsh. These people just took something (a robe and money), but does that really mean they need to be put to death? But, if we look a little closer, we can see that the lesson here is not about taking a robe from a country or keeping a little cash off the top of a property sale, but what we have here—are idolaters. According to Exodus, “Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction” (Exodus 22:20, English Standard Version). Instead of choosing to fully follow God and worship Him and Him alone, our three new friends found themselves falling to their flesh and bowing down to the idols of greed or security.
At Jericho, the people were told not to take anything for themselves from the city, “But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it” (Joshua 6:18, English Standard Version). Now read Joshua 7:1… what does it say they did?
They broke faith (ESV).
Getting back to Ananias and Sapphira, and the word but. The people had just decided to give all they had to each other and in doing so “laid it at the apostles’ feet” aka, placed all of their resources under the apostle’s control. Placed all they had essentially at the feet of Jesus. And what did these two do? Held a little back for themselves. Just in case.
They broke faith.
I think we see their punishments as harsh, but we should see it as a wakeup call. I have seen time and time again parents rescue their children from harsh lessons or punishments, but when we do this (yes we because I think we can all be guilty) what are we teaching them about sin and death? Ananias and Sapphira as well as Achan were given the opportunities to choose. To choose to have faith in God. To choose to be obedient.
If we go all the way back to the beginning of the Bible, we encounter another couple who had the opportunity to choose faith and obedience or sin and death. Genesis says, “Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11, English Standard Version). Direct disobedience. And because of their direct disobedience, sin and death entered the world.
Therefore, our story about Ananias and Sapphira, Achan, or Adam and Eve are not merely about taking something we are not supposed to take, but about how the penalty for our sin is death. We are all given opportunities to choose Jesus or choose sin, and I don’t know about you, but I really really really want to always choose Jesus. The beautiful thing about following Jesus is that he laid is all down for us on the cross. He stood in between us and death so that when we leave this earth, we can be reunited with Him in Heaven. But here is where I want us, as believers, to really process this and think… Our actions, are they causing others to stumble or are they bringing people closer to Christ? The choices of the people discussed drastically effected the people around them. What about you (and me)? What about our sins? Are we living in the same one and knowingly choosing to be disobedient to Christ? Or are we making the effort every day to choose holiness? To choose the sanctification process? A life for Christ is not an easy one. It is a hard road filled with highs and lows. We are told that the eternal payoff is worth it, but sisters, I’m here to tell you that the here and now is worth it. Leading others to Christ, discovering what you learn about the God of the universe as he forms our hearts. The journey is hard, but it is oh so satisfying, not just because of escaping eternal damnation, but because continual sanctifying. So what are we going to learn about sin? What are we going to do about our sin? The accounts of Ananias and Sapphira, Achan, and Adam and Eve were all placed in God's Word to tell us about what happens when we choose sin, but to also point us to the one who can save us from that Sin. Are you pointing others that way too?
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.