“Then Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have carried you’re your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’” Acts 5:9 (NRSV)
This story has always seemed a little extreme to me, but then we need to revisit the time and the circumstances. This incident occurs in the early days of the Church. In Acts 2 we are given a brief description of the community of faith and their life together. In Acts 2:44-45 we read, “All believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.”
Fast forward now to Chapter 5! Ananias sells a piece of property and his wife Sapphira consents to this transaction. Sapphira is aware that Ananias withholds some of the money, bringing only a part of the proceeds and laying them at the apostles’ feet. It is clear that they did not wish “to distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” They intended to share with the community of faith, but they also wanted “to put aside a little in case of a rainy day. The property was theirs to keep or to sell. If however they chose to sell any property, all of the proceeds then rightfully belonged to the church. They are equal partners in the selling of the property.
Once the property has been sold, Ananias decides to withhold some of the money and Sapphira knows about it. If there was any discussion … any difference of opinion … or disagreement between the husband and wife regarding his actions, then we are not told of it. Ananias cheats God and the Church and Sapphira knows all about it. She is just as guilty as he is, and they will both bear the consequences of their sin.
When Ananias presented the money, Peter asked him, “How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us, but to God!” Immediately Ananias falls down, dies, is carried off and is buried. A short while later, Sapphira comes and Peter asks her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have carried you’re your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately Sapphira falls down and dies. I can well imagine what we read in verse 11: “And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.” While belonging to the Church today does not require us to turn all of our proceeds from business transactions over to the Church, we are called to be concerned and to assist brothers and sisters in need as we are able. We are bidden to trust that God will provide for our needs … even as that may come through the hands of a brother or sister within the community of faith.
Lord, help us to share generously with the Church and to show Christ’s compassion to others as we continue on our journey of faith. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.