But when Ananias heard this, he fell down and died.
John looked at me, and I looked back at him, both of us stunned. I then looked down at Ananias’ dead body, and then again back at John. We were both in sort of a trance. The Spirit’s presence was still heavy in the room, and the aftershock was palpable. Matthew, ever the sensible one, motioned to some of the younger men to come forward, so they wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
I was uneasy, and my spirit was restless and agitated, so I did the only thing I knew to do: I knelt down and prayed. All of us did. We asked the Lord to forgive Ananias, and to show us what to do about Sapphira. I needed the Spirit’s guidance, and I was not going to get up off my knees until I was sure of what he wanted me to do.
I was learning to wait on the Holy Spirit’s clarity and his guidance.
About three hours later Sapphira came in, not knowing what had happened. Without thinking in advance, relying solely on the direction of the Holy Spirit, I showed her the money and asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
“How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord?” I cried out, exasperated at this point by her stubborn heart. “Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
At that moment she fell down at my feet and died. Then the young men came in, and finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. In the days following this a great fear seized our family of brothers and sisters, and all who heard about these events. Can you imagine? I struggled to understand what seemed to me to be an unnecessarily brute harshness on the part of the Lord.
My words were meant to convict Ananias and Sapphira, and hopefully to direct them back to Jesus, not to condemn them. I didn’t care about the money; I cared about their hearts, and their ultimate eternal damnation. Yes, they had lied to the Holy Spirit, but he could take care of himself. I had hoped this public embarrassment might be the thing to wake Ananias and Sapphira up, so they could see the hole in their heart, and turn back to salvation.
Why would he take the life of these two people? What they had done was not that bad, was it? I just couldn’t reconcile a death sentence for someone being greedy. As I prayed and pondered this, the Holy Spirit took me back to our Hebrew scriptures, and the story of our emerging Israelite nation.
Back during those early days, as God’s people struggled to establish themselves in the Promised Land, God told them to wipe out their enemies, every man, woman and child. They did not follow his command, and ultimately the sinful people from the surrounding nations who were spared infiltrated the Israelite community and saturated it with their sin.
God told Solomon to stay away from foreign wives, but he didn’t do it. And it cost him dearly. Sin is like yeast in dough: a little will work its way through until it infiltrates and affects every fiber of the dough – and every fiber of you.
I believe the Spirit was telling us that like the emerging Israelites, our new community of Believers could not tolerate such greedy sin among us. As with the sinful nations in the Promised Land, Ananias and Sapphira had to be removed. It was a harsh lesson about the dark side of the greedy heart, and the sin that so often emanates from within such a heart.
It was also a harsh lesson in the power of the Holy Spirit, to be so intimately involved in the details of our lives. Ananias and Sapphira would have been a dark yeast among our new family of Believers, and the Spirit would not allow this to happen, at least not at this early time.
This Holy Spirit is active, involved in the details, personable, and boy is he powerful. I wonder if you are starting to see him this way, and if you are starting to involve him in your details?