The temptation to look good in front of others has always been present in religious circles. Jesus criticized the religious leaders as being “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27). They looked good on the outside. They did pious things like fast, pray and give alms. Inside, though, they were self-centered, hateful, deceitful and hypocritical. Ananias and Sapphira had fallen into the same trap. They wanted to look good before their fellow Christians. Their punishment, which we might deem a tad harsh, was not because they didn’t give all of the proceeds of the sale to the Christian community, but rather because they lied to God.
We certainly know people in our Christian fellowships who look good on Sunday mornings but their behavior during the week leaves the level of their commitment to Jesus in question. If the truth be told, there are times in our lives when we’ve put on a good religious show. Our words and actions haven’t come from a change of heart, though, but rather from a desire to impress.
Instead of covering up our shortcomings, God invites us to be open and honest. After all, God knows our inward parts (Psalm 139). The Lord assures us that God will never turn us away nor judge us harshly. God will meet our confessions with unconditional forgiveness. Such action on our part also opens up our hearts and lives to be changed from the inside out by the Holy Spirit.
But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him. After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” 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 buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.