This past sunday in our “Stories of the Spirit” lesson, we learned about Ananias and Sapphira, two characters notorious for the greed and attempted deceit against the apostles. Here’s the story; Ananias sold some of their property and brought some of the profits before Peter, while trying to keep some of money for himself and his wife, who knew of his plan. Peter calls him out on his lie saying “You lied to the Holy Spirit keeping some of the money for yourself… How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God.” (Acts 5: 3-4) Ananias drops dead as soon as he hears this and is carried to be buried. About two hours later Sapphira comes in. When she is questioned about the sales price of the property, she claims the same thing to Peter that Ananias did. Peter tells her “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” Sapphira drops dead and is buried beside her husband. The entire church become terrified because of the whole ordeal.
It’s quite an intense story, but why is it there? The occurrence itself is a bit odd, especially for a new testament occurrence. But the tale touches on more than it seems.
1. The first being that sincere community within the church is a very serious thing to God. The members of the early church are described as having “no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.” (Acts 4: 34-35) The people of the church depended on each other in a very real way, so trust, honesty and community were of the upmost importance. People couldn’t afford to go without community because that was the only thing they could rely and fall back on. The church body had to function together, because no part of it could function alone. Unity within the body of Christ is paramount. The hand cannot function without the wrist, the wrist cannot function without the arm, and the arm cannot function without the shoulder and elbow. Get the picture?
2. The second lesson to be learned when part of the church is struggling, the rest of the church struggles. When there is deceit, hurt, or sin that goes unaddressed within a church, the entire congregation is affected. Although the entire church was not involved in the sin of Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5: 11 says that a great fear gripped everybody who heard of what had happened. Whether we are guilty or innocent of the strife within our lives, we will be affected by it. But it is how we react with that turmoil that will either hurt or harm up. Taking our issues to God through prayer, worship and service is the proper way to heal our ailments. When we try to conceal or hide our issues, it infects everything within us, making everything sick and sluggish.
3. Healing is possible, but painful. Peter’s church was most likely not overjoyed and celebratory of the death of Ananias and Sapphira, but it did not slow them down. Churches of Jesus Christ do not sit still, and this is seen in the next sections of the chapter, which goes on to explain several of the signs and wonders the apostles preformed right after the Ananias and Sapphira ordeal. Ananias and Sapphira’s greed and deceit was making the body sick, and in order to heal, they had to be separated. When people get infections or cancer, sometimes certain parts of them have to be amputated. This is the same for the body of Christ. In the body, certain behaviors, beliefs, attitudes have to be stripped away in order for the body to be as it was meant to be, healthy and whole. In the Acts 5 case, entire people had to be removed. Although God does not want anybody removed from the body, this sometimes may occur to ensure the safety of the whole. Jesus talks about this same concept in John 15:1, which says “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.”
So basically, in order to function at our full potential within the body of Christ, we have to have genuine community. We must be open and honest with each other, and we must be willing to give up the parts of ourselves that do not advance the kingdom. In order to carry this out think about this; how can I engage more in depth community with those around me? How can I be more intentionally helpful to those who need me? What areas of my life are holding me back from this?