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1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet.
Ananias and Sapphira, at a time when the peculiar situation of the truth led believers to dispose of their property and place the proceeds at the disposal of the apostles, "sold a possession and kept back part of the price." In this
Peter accused them of having committed a great crime. The crime did not consist in withholding part, but in professing to give the whole. They were under no obligation to part with the property or to hand over the price. As Peter said,
"While it remained was it not thine own; and after it was sold, was it (the price) not in thine own power?"
But in the general enthusiasm of generosity that prevailed, Ananias and Sapphira did not wish to appear to be behind others, nor did they want to clean out every penny, so they took the middle and dangerous course of misrepresentation-alias lying.
The heinousness of the offence was increased by the fact that it was an attempt to deceive God. "Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God." Ananias and Sapphira were both struck dead on the spot, one after the other, which naturally made a deep impression on the believing community, at the time very numerous in Jerusalem.
"Great fear came upon all the ecclesia, and upon as many as heard these things."
If it be said there can be no "learning" for us in circumstances so out of the run of our experience, the answer has to be made that the lesson is not limited to the particular circumstances nor to any circumstances. It is a lesson affecting all characters and all time. It may be expressed in the simple words:
"Never try to appear to be more than you are. Be simple and modest and true."
Ananias and Sapphira would have come out all right if they had said, "We cannot afford to give more than half." The mistake was to attempt to gain the credit that did not belong to them. This mistake may be made, and is made, in many, many matters besides giving; and it is here where what is written is fruitful for "our learning," in this sad case.
Let us avoid with scorn all attempts to seem wiser than we are, to know more than we know, to be better than we are, to be more generous, or to be of more consequence than we are.
"He that giveth, let him give with simplicity"
and truth, guarding in the main against letting our left hand know what our right hand is doing.
Bro Roberts - Sunday morning No. 260