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
Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the failed attempt that crashed in Pennsylvania, Max Lucado wrote a powerful and evocative essay. Titled, Do it Again, he wrote in part:
Remember Joseph? You rescued him from the pit. You can do the same for us. Do it again, Lord.
Remember the Hebrews in Egypt? You protected their children from the angel of death. We have children, too, Lord. Do it again.
And Sarah? Remember her prayers? You heard them. Joshua? Remember his fears? You inspired him. The women at the tomb? You resurrected their hope. The doubts of Thomas? You took them away. Do it again, Lord. Do it again.
You changed Daniel from a captive into a king’s counselor. You took Peter the fisherman and made him Peter an apostle. Because of you, David went from leading sheep to leading armies. Do it again, Lord, for we need counselors today, Lord. We need apostles. We need leaders. Do it again, dear Lord.
We likely feel that way in the wake of the evil recently unleashed in El Paso and Dayton. Bring justice quickly. Vengeance is yours, O God, so mete it out! Put this evil to an end. You did that here in the earliest days of the church. You stopped Ananias and Sapphira in their tracks. Why not bring down the terrorists, murderers, shysters, con artists, seducers, abusers, and deceivers now?
There is a better answer to this question than we might like. Peter tells us that God is not slow about his promises as some count slowness. He “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (1 Peter 3:9). While we yearn for justice and swift retribution we are the beneficiaries of God’s patience and forbearance.
There are times that outward gross evil must be stopped. The call for God’s justice to be served is an ancient one. It is not an illegitimate desire. But fear should grip us all when we see such swift comeuppance. For none of us can stand before a holy God in our own righteousness. Our call is to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. That will be seen in a life of humble obedience.