In the early church of the first century in Jerusalem, the believers shared all their possessions with one another because of the love they had for one another. They were even selling lands and houses and bringing that money into the church so that those in need could be provided for.
A married couple, Ananias and Sapphira, sold a field and duly brought part of the proceeds to the apostles for distribution (Acts 5). So far, all was well and good.
However, both had listened to the voice of the devil whispering in their minds. Both lied on separate occasions that they had brought in ALL the proceeds of the sale. In so doing they had set out “to test the Spirit of the Lord” (Acts 5:9). One fell down dead and then the other.
People lie (and worse) to God, and to each other, every day so why were these 2 particularly singled out? The result of these sudden, dramatic deaths on the early church is really the key as to why God struck these 2 sinners. We read that “great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things” (Acts 5:11).
The resounding message of the Gospel is to deny yourself and follow Jesus: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me’” (Matt. 16:24). Jesus taught giving up your own self-centredness and being God centred in everything.
The cross we are called upon to carry is this: it is where your will crosses with God’s will. We are called to surrender everything that draws us away from God and yield our whole lives to the control of God. “And they (the saints of God) overcame him (the devil) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Rev. 12:11).
So getting back to Ananias and Sapphira. God was establishing the church that would go forward for centuries and right at the beginning God wanted to clearly establish the rule that self-centredness was anathema to the Gospel. Whatever the devil said to prompt the couple to retain the money and lie about it, you can be sure it was inciting their self-centredness, and God wanted to make it very clear that selfishness was NOT a part of the Gospel.
If we want to change from having a selfish heart we can ask God to deal with that. Help us Lord to take up our cross, die to self and single-mindedly live for Christ. "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him" (Rom. 6:8).
NKJV used throughout.