The Early Church was growing. They devoted themselves to learning from the apostles, breaking bread (communion), praying together and sharing their lives with each other (fellowship) as in Acts 2:42. The more they shared, the more they realised that other believers needed financial and material help. So a number of property owners sold homes or land, and gave the money to the apostles to distribute (Acts 4:34-35).
One couple, Ananias and Sapphira, did just that. But before giving the money to Peter, they agreed together to keep some for themselves. However, they wanted the apostles to believe that they had given all the money (Acts 5:1-2). They lied. Perhaps they wanted to be applauded by the other believers, and pride was their motivation. It may be that their real motive was greed, cleverly camouflaged by generosity. But Jesus condemned such religious lying (Matthew 6:1-4).
Peter knew the truth because the Holy Spirit gave him discernment (John 16:13). Even though Ananias and his wife were believers, they had allowed Satan to stir up greed and lies in their hearts (John 8:44). They did not have to sell their property. It would not have been wrong to keep all the money, or tell Peter that they had retained some of the sale proceeds. But in lying to God's servant, they were lying to Him. God's judgement came quickly as Ananias fell down and died instantly. It was a big warning to all the believers - not to play religious lying-games with God and His people.
We live in a corrupt world and wrong desires lurk within everybody, including us who love Jesus. Satan always tries to take advantage of our weaknesses. His evil plan is to convince us that wrong is right, even showing us how to justify it - sometimes with a mixture of religious fervour and lies. That may look good to the church, but not to God. Ananias had no opportunity to repent, but most of us do (Revelation 2:5). So, let us repent; resolving, with the Lord's help, to identify and resist Satan's temptations to gain personal advantage … and be determined never to lie to God or His people again.
© Dr Paul Adams