Ananias and Saphirra were “posers”.The urban dictionary defines a poser as someone who pretends to be someone that they are not. When we come to the opening verses of Acts 5 we are introduced to two early church posers, a husband and wife team. Chapter 4 had ended with the incredible generosity of a man named Barnabus who had sold a tract of land and given all of the proceeds to the church. This husband-wife team decide to sell a piece of land, keep some of the money, give the rest to the church, but tell the church they gave all of the proceeds from the sale to the church.
You may remember the story. The husband, Ananias, comes in and lays their gift at the feet of the church leaders. The spokesman for the group, Simon Peter, says, “Why have you determined to lie to the Holy Spirit?” The man drops dead and his body is carried away. A significant amount of time elapses (hours) and the wife comes in. Simon Peter asks if they sold the land for a certain amount of money that the husband had claimed, and she says, “Yes, indeed, for that amount.” So Peter then asks her, “Why have you conspired together with your husband to lie to the Holy Spirit? The feet of those that carried your husband away are at the door and will carry you away.” And she drops dead. Then the Scripture says, “And great fear came upon the entire church, and upon all who heard about this.”
What is it that Ananias and Sapphira do? They pretend something that is not true. Whatever selfish desire they had for acclaim and credit for generosity greater than they demonstrated, whatever pride motivated them to attempt to hide the truth, destroyed them. Apparently God saw it as a great enough threat to this church in its infancy that He would not allow it to go unpunished. The text does not tell us whether they were true believers or not, and it isn’t all that significant to our story. What is clear is that God sees pretense to be something we are not as a very serious matter. What might happen this Sunday at Any Church, USA, if the Holy Spirit struck dead all of the “posers”? And if you are tempted to think, “Wow, that is really telling THEM,” you might miss the whole point.
Who is there among us that doesn’t out of pride pretend in some form or fashion? Are we transparent? What about that fight with your spouse on the way to church, and then walking in the door and smiling as though everything is OK? What about that slightly unethical business deal this past week, while sitting across the aisle from someone on the other end of the deal and smiling as though you genuinely loved them? Again, what might happen in church if the Holy Spirit struck dead anyone and everyone that is guilty of the sin of Ananias and Sapphira?
Let me ask one other question for you to ponder today. What is there in what this married couple do that leads Peter to call it “lying to the Holy Spirit?” Do they not in all actuality lie to the church and the church leaders? Can we see in this question some equation on Peter’s part of the church and the Holy Spirit? No I am not saying they are the same. But God had fashioned Adam as a man physically, but He breathed into him life, and the text says that Adam became a living soul. The “body” structure of the church was in place, but it is on the day of Pentecost that God breathes life into that group of believers and the church becomes a living organism. Can we come away from this passage with some form of awareness that perhaps God sees lying to the church as tantamount to lying to the Holy Spirit? Something to think about this week.