Imagine “the full number of those who believe” being “of one heart and soul” with “not a needy person among them.” (Acts 4:32,34; ESV) No one among them says “that any of the things that belong to him is his own.” Instead “they have everything in common.” (Acts 4:32) If any one of them is an owner of land or house, he “sells them and brings the proceeds of what is sold and lays it at the apostles’ feet, and it is distributed to each as any has need.” (Acts 4:34,35)
God loves the cheerful giver; not that the one giving should then find himself in need, but that each person is able to meet his obligations.
Within this context of sharing one’s personal property among the body of believers, Ananias and his wife, Sapphira sell a piece of property and rather than give the entire purchase price to the apostles for distribution, they secretly withhold a portion for themselves. In doing this, Ananias and Sapphira “lie to the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 5:3) They are free to not sell the property, and even to keep part of the proceeds; what they are not free to do is lie to God.
When Peter confronts Ananias, Ananias “falls down and breathes his last.” (Acts 5:5) Three hours later, Sapphira comes to the apostles, “not knowing what has happened.” (Acts 5:7) When Peter asks her about the purchase price, she also “tests the Spirit of the Lord” by lying. (Acts 5:9) Sapphira joins her husband in death.
“And great fear comes upon the whole church and upon all who hear of these things.” (Acts 5:11)
Father God, thank You for Your enormous generosity. Help us to be willing to give to one another above and beyond. Keep us honest, Lord with You, with ourselves and with one another. In Jesus’ Name, amen.