A few weeks ago when Dave Gawler preached, he quoted Mark Twain as saying that it is not the parts of the Bible that we can’t understand that give us problems but the bits we understand all too clearly. The story of Ananias and Sapphira is just such a passage, we can try to spiritualise it all we like but very clearly two healthy believers are struck dead by the hand of God. The stereotypical view is that God is somewhat grumpy in the Old Testament and goes around smiting people but in the New Testament comes gentle Jesus meek and mild and God is suddenly much gentler and kinder. This story therefore comes as a shock. Just like with Uzzah trying to steady the Ark of the Covenant and Achan taking a few war trophies, seemingly minor acts of disobedience result in extreme consequences. Just like with Uzzah and Achan, Ananias and Sapphira failed to understand the holiness of God and the exceptionally high value that God places on His Holiness and that of his people. The people of God are the representation of God on Earth and as He is Holy so he requires his people to display His holiness.
When I shared a room at University my room-mate had a poster entitled Be Careful What You Pray For. The text was something like “Be careful what you pray for, if you pray for God’s justice to flow like a river it might come rolling down your street and you might get wet.” In Acts 4:30 the believers pray together and ask that God will display his power with signs and wonders. God took them seriously and poured out His Spirit and the believers took God so seriously that they did not consider anything they owned to belong to them. Up to the end of Chapter 4 the church is doing well, growing, sharing the gospel boldly and praying together but with the start of Chapter 5 the first problem emerges and God steps in decisively to try to stamp out the problem. God had entrusted the Church with great power and, as all fans of Spiderman know, with great power comes great responsibility. Just like with Uzzah when the Ark was entering Jerusalem and Achan when the Israelites were entering the Promised Land, as God is beginning a new phase with His church He needs the church to take Him and His holiness seriously and not to let corruption and greed slip in. God did not need all (or any) of Ananias and Sapphira’s money but He did need all of their hearts and minds.
God wants to empower His church but it is not for fun. If we want God to use us we have to accept that it is on His terms and not ours. Sometimes God may do things that take us by surprise or do not fit into our ideas of who we want God to be but we need to remember that He is God and we are not. God knew that times were about to get much tougher for the church and if the church was not all in, it would not survive. Ananias and Sapphira were half-hearted at best and at worst were after praise for themselves. God needs people who are totally sold out and are only interested in His glory, otherwise like the seed that fell on rocks or amongst thorns they will never be fruitful.