But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.”10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. – Acts 5:1-11
I’ve never tried successfully to put on a show. I’ve always been found out. Usually it has to do with channelling a certain personality in a public place. I’m not very good at it so I seldom attempt it, but when I do, it comes off poorly. So I’ve learned not to try to do it.
Ananias and Sapphira, on the other hand had not learned that lesson. They apparently saw what Barnabas did, and envied him for the fame and recognition he received. They wanted in on the fame and recognition. They wanted to look good in the eyes of the people of God.
So they devised a scheme. They put on a show. They diverted attention from the truth and projected fake reality on the people. They made it look as though they had given to the apostles all they had received from the sale of their property. In fact they had sold the land for far more and kept part of the proceeds for themselves. The problem was not that they had kept part of the proceeds for themselves. The problem was that they had lied about it. They tried to deceive God’s people. Worse yet: they had lied to the Holy Spirit. They had lied to God.
God doesn’t love fakes. He doesn’t love the best projections we can make of ourselves. He doesn’t redeem those who wish to have no need for redemption. He loves sinners. He redeems lost people. He saves the repentant who come to grips with their failures and poor projections of themselves and seek his mercy and grace.
I’m not certain how Ananias and Sapphira should have handled all this. I am certain, however, that what they did was wrong. And rather than coming clean a the earliest possible time, they tried to maintain the deception. That was their ruin.
There may be a place of deception you need to reveal before God, or your husband, wife, best friend, or co-worker. The results of doing so may be grave and difficult. Better those difficult truth encounter now than the harsh distress of unmasking in the light only of judgment. Difficult truth encounters turn into grace encounters. For God delights in repentant hearts and dismisses arrogant pretenders, leaving them to their own self-deception and delusions.
That’s why every day, we say, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” And every day, he says, “I have been. You are forgiven. Go now and sin no more.”