This week we are dealing with a difficult story in the New Testament; it has caused some bewilderment for some Christians, so we are working through it and will conclude today.
There are several things that we can learn from the story of Sapphira and her husband, Ananias.
In our world today, and in our churches, there are two kinds of people. It's virtually impossible to tell them apart, looking at them from the outside, as we humans do. Some people are real, and they inspire us to be better people ourselves -- some are not! Some people are so good at telling lies, and are so skilled at disguising themselves, that they can get away with being fakes. They are very accomplished at being hypocrites, and we just can't distinguish them from the real things. But don't be fooled; the lies and hypocrisy are a very unsteady foundation for a life, and they can come tumbling down quickly!
The other side of that coin is that while it may be difficult for us humans to see the difference between a believer's repentant heart and a fake, it's not hard for our Father. Nothing is hidden from our God. Here's a thought that may stay with us all day, or maybe longer: the Holy Spirit knows our thoughts, just as if they were being displayed on a movie screen! And that is why, in spite of the fact that they may have fooled everyone else, Sapphira and Ananias were discovered. No matter how we may try to avoid detection, there are no locked doors for the Holy Spirit. And there is a day coming, when every secret will be known:
We cannot hide from Him. Do we believe this, deep down? What a life-changer! Perhaps Sapphira had known this, but then forgot it. They were so eager to win the praise of others that they forgot there is only One whose praise really matters. You and I can't see inside other people's hearts and see their motives, but God can. If we say or sing that "Jesus is Lord," and then we don't act like it . . . we needn't think that we've tricked God. He knows the truth!
We mentioned before that not everyone gets struck down immediately for their sin. Why Sapphira? Why Ananias? I'm not a scholar, but perhaps their deaths serve as a sign. God took a truth from the kingdom of God and put it on physical display. We see this in a positive way in the healing miracles of Jesus, and later of the apostles, but we can also see it in this judgement, as well. God doesn't do this to all who lie to the Holy Spirit today, but this is a picture of how God feels about it!
The final verse in our focus passage says that these dramatic deaths caused a great deal of fear, but then we also read that "more and more" people believed in the Lord. Today, we don't think much about fearing God, but fear is an integral part of worship. This seems kind of harsh to us; we think more often of our infinitely loving God. But His love only makes sense when we realize the magnificence of His glory, and when we think of the might and strength and power that He is. As our fear, or reverence of Him grows, so does our faith in His love. You see, we have been invited to have the closest possible relationship with our God, but our intimacy with Him must never overshadow the holiness and majesty of Who He is.
If we are honest, when we read this passage many of us find God's actions here jarring. Even offensive. Our human nature questions the whole story. But we need to remember the depth of our sin, and the height of God's holiness. I guess we should not ask "why did they die?" but instead, "why are we still alive?" Of course, God is patient. He is slow to anger.
But that patience should make us grateful that we had time to repent -- it should not make us unafraid to sin!
Perhaps the most important lesson here is to "get real, folks!"
And then to "stay real."
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:7)