They Had Everything In Common
One of the most tragic stories about a married couple, Ananias and Sapphira, who lied about their giving, comes from Acts 5. Their story comes right after the account of Barnabas (Joseph), who sold a piece of land (Acts 4:36-37). Scripture tells us that more and more believers “had everything in common,” meaning people’s needs were being met by each other (Acts 4:32-34). People were selling their land and belongings to donate so others could benefit. The Bible says, “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.” (Acts 4:34).
The Life Application New Testament Commentary says, “At the inception of the church, the practice of selling one’s possessions in order to give money to those in need showed the believers’ willingness to help other believers. Not everyone was liquidating everything, nor was there pressure to do so…This was a freewill offering, and it appears to have been practiced only here in the early Palestinian church.”
Ananias and Sapphira
Ananias and Sapphira, like others, also sold some land. They contributed to the good of others. The Bible tells us that they “sold a piece of property, 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” (Acts 5:1-2). The critical part of that verse is that “he kept back for himself some of the proceeds.” He withheld from the group. In fact, after giving their amount, Peter questioned Ananias. It was apparent to Peter that Ananias had not been truthful. “Given insight by the Holy Spirit, Peter saw through Ananias’s lie. Involved in the new church, Ananias and Sapphira had succumbed to temptation and allowed Satan into their hearts” (The Life Application New Testament Commentary). Regarding their sin, Dr. Warren Wiersbe alludes to how they “acted” among the people. He says, “[They] put on a lovely ‘front’ to conceal the shabby sin in their lives, sin that cost them their lives” (Warren Wiersbe). Essentially, they were not honest with their giving. They were acting and not being truthful.
The consequence of Ananias and Sapphira’s sin was death. God is holy, and He takes sin seriously. As noted, Ananias and Sapphira tested God. “Their sin was lying to God and to God’s people- saying they gave the whole amount but holding back some for themselves and trying to make themselves appear more generous than they really were. This act was judged severely because dishonesty, greed, and covetousness are destructive in a church” (Life Application New Testament Commentary). In addition, Warren Wiersbe says, “We must keep in mind that their sin was not in robbing God of money but in lying to Him and robbing Him of glory. They were not required to sell the property, and, having sold it, they were not required to give any of the money to the church (Acts 5:4). Their lust for recognition conceived sin in their hearts (Acts 5:4, 9), and that sin eventually produced death (James 1:15)” (The Wiersbe Bible Commentary).
The MacArthur Study Bible (ESV) (Crossway Publishing)
The Wiersbe Bible Commentary (Warren Wiersbe)
Life Application New Testament Commentary (Tyndale House Publishers)