Day 15: Word Wary
Monday, April 16, 2018
Adapted from Acts 5 (from The Message): Dear Lord, As we read this story, I think few of us will remember ever hearing a sermon on this. “But a man named Ananias—his wife, Sapphira, conniving in this with him—sold a piece of land, secretly kept part of the price for himself, and then brought the rest to the apostles and made an offering of it. Peter said, ‘Ananias, how did Satan get you to lie to the Holy Spirit and secretly keep back part of the price of the field? Before you sold it, it was all yours, and after you sold it, the money was yours to do with as you wished. So what got into you to pull a trick like this? You didn’t lie to men but to God.’ Ananias, when he heard those words, fell down dead. That put the fear of God into everyone who heard of it. The younger men went right to work and wrapped him up, then carried him out and buried him.”
You have to LOL at this one. I mean, does this sound like the Good News of the New Testament? Even my trusted Will Willimon doesn’t touch this story in his commentary. However, when I reread it one thing stands out—Ananias was free to keep his money—all of it or part of it. In fact, if he just told the apostles, “I sold my land and here is a portion of what I got,” he would have been fine. However, the Scripture at the end of Acts 4 describes how everyone else, “who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it.” The scripture goes on to say—everyone had all that they needed. However, it seems that Ananias wants to hold back some of the cash and “just in case.” In the meantime, Ananias wants the apostles to think better of him.
Now we may ask, is this an offense worth being killed over? I honestly do not think so. So we need to read carefully what actually happens when Peter confronts him. “Ananias, when he heard those words, fell down dead.” I see no evidence that anyone “killed” Ananias. I cannot even put the blame on God. It was Ananias himself who, “when he heard those words, fell down dead.” (My mother would have said, “Ananias was mortified or embarrassed to death.”) It seems to me, that Ananias cared too much about what other people thought of him. Rather than admit to the apostles he was not sure they would provide enough for him if he gave them everything—he tried to deceive them into thinking he had the same confidence in them as everyone else did. He could not humble himself to admit the truth. His own deception took him down.
What convinces us that deception is ever better than truth?
Prayer recap: Dear Lord, Help us to be humble. Help us to understand when we deceive we are forgetting that we can never deceive you. Amen.