If the judgment of Ananias and Saphira seems harsh to us, either we are misunderstanding it entirely, or we need to see the sinfulness of sin and the holiness of God.
We might say, "Ananias and Saphira gave a decent amount of money to the church! Why should they be punished? Is it so wrong that they didn't give the full amount?" But Ananias and Saphira's sin was not giving a lesser percentage of money. In fact, Peter affirms that they were not obligated to give any money at all (Acts 5:4). We must understand the crime. Their sin is very clearly stated: "You have not lied to men but to God" (Acts 5:4), and again, "you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test" (5:9). God was dealing with their secret willful deception, which was so prideful as to attempt to deceive God!
From what I have seen in my own life and the lives of others, unconverted people are often proud about refusing to lie in some situations to some people, but will lie habitually in the seemingly “harmless” things. The goal is usually maintaining a good appearance and the rationalization is, “I’m not hurting anyone.” This was the essence of Ananias and Saphira's sin: not that they used some money for their own purpose, but that they gave the appearance of giving all. The Holy Spirit had moved authentically upon the hearts of other Christians, prompting them to sincere and total sacrifice. But then, this couple steps in, concocting the outward appearance of the same sacrificial spirit, yet secretly holding back from God and making a profit for themselves.
Unrepentant lying reveals severe unbelief. Such people are saying, "I do not believe in an all-knowing God who is present and active in my life or the life of the church." They are saying, "I do not believe there is a Holy Spirit who knows the depths of my own soul. If I keep my sin hidden in darkness, there is no God who will drag it into the light." As we know, this unbelief was literally a fatal mistake for Ananias and Saphira.
Do you and I believe that lying is the devil's native language (John 8:44)? Our children lie, and we want to communicate grace and forgiveness. Yet, as we seek to "bring [our children] up in the training and admonition of the Lord," we should not hide that "all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone" (Revelation 21:8)? We should explain it carefully and tactfully, and even more so with the younger ones, but hiding the threat of hell from our children is doing them a disservice, not "protecting them" as we are tempted to think. Spirit-filled Peter told Ananias it was "satan" who "filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit" (5:3). If this lie does not seem so horrific to us, Lord, increase our vision!
If we are still uneasy about this, perhaps we have not comprehended the holiness of God. Certainly, it is a sin when we as fallen people lie to each other. But what about lying to the Spirit of Truth? He is not like us. There is no shadow or sin or imperfection in Him! He dwells in unapproachable light! Think of it: the Fire of the Holy Spirit had just broken forth in the believers. If we tend to any fire according to the right parameters, we cultivate something that brings warmth and light and is able to cook food, etc. When we approach fire carelessly, burns and death can occur. Once again, we are being taught how to live with our God, who is a consuming fire. Let's give our whole selves in worship to Him today.
The Rock Church