In the last five years that I have been serving in the preschool classroom on Sundays, I haven’t come across the story of Ananias and Sapphira in our lesson plans. It’s one of those stories that if a kid were to hear it, they would be afraid to do just about anything for fear of being struck down dead. As adults, we understand God’s grace better and realize that it’s unlikely that God would strike us down immediately after we sin. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have a healthy fear of the Lord and his power, or that we shouldn’t avoid sin at all costs.
In this story, we see that Ananias and Sapphira are surrounded by a community of believers who are very generous. They take everyone’s needs into account and make sure that everyone is provided for. It’s clear from the picture of their community in Acts 4:32-37 that they understood their possessions were not their own but from God to be used for his purposes.
I could imagine that if you were Ananias or Sapphira, you would want to fit in and be a part of this community. They saw an opportunity to appear as generous as those around them; they would sell their land, giving some of it to the apostles but keeping a cut for themselves. Their intention wasn’t to give as much as they could because they knew the apostles would put the money to good use, but their intention was to look like generous people.
God requires not only our actions to be right but our intentions to be pure. Peter knows what the couple has done and calls out Ananias’ lie. Peter talks to Sapphira later, though she does not know what has happened to her husband, and gives her the chance to make things right and tell the truth. She maintains the lie and is also stuck down.
Just like Peter gave Sapphira the opportunity to change and tell the truth, God gives us the opportunity to repent and turn away from our sin. When we are reminded of God’s grace and forgiveness, we need to respond and allow God to transform both our actions and intentions.
Pastor Scott pointed out three ways that we can take advantage of the opportunity God gives us to change. First, we should follow the example of Barnabas, whose name means “son of encouragement,” and other people who are like him. We should seek to lift up and embolden those around us to walk in the ways of the Lord. Second, we need to make sure not to let Satan fill our hearts. He wants us to think about ourselves and what we want, rather than putting others first. We need to make an intentional effort to combat the voice that tells us that our needs are more important and we don’t need to worry about the needs of others.
Lastly, we need to repent and return to God. Day by day and moment by moment we need to return to God. We aren’t struck down the moment we sin, which means we need to recognize our wrongdoing then ask God to forgive us, transform us and help us to be genuinely concerned for and focused on others.