The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a very solemn one because it is an example of divine judgement. They were struck dead by the Lord for their sin. Why was this?
To begin with, we can notice that they did not live up to the meaning of their names. Ananias means ‘God is gracious’ in Hebrew and Sapphira means ‘beautiful’ in Aramaic. This was in contrast with Barnabas who was always living up to his name. I don’t know if Luke expects his readers to notice this feature. Yet it is the case that believers face potential trouble if they do not live up to their names. I don’t mean their personal names, but the titles that the word of God gives to them. There are many such names: saints stresses that they belong to God and are separated to him; Christians indicates that they are connected to Jesus Christ and to followers of his teachings; redeemed points out that they have been bought by Jesus Christ by the price he paid on the cross and they are now his possession. There are many such names that believers have to live up to, and when they begin not to, then they face spiritual danger.
Secondly, Ananias and Sapphira allowed themselves to fall into the snare of the devil. I think it is safe to say that the problem began when they took part in a situation in which their heart was not involved. They only sold property because others in the church were doing so. Perhaps they felt a bit under pressure. Yet Peter’s analysis makes clear that the state of their hearts allowed the devil access with a temptation. If they had wanted to give all the money to God, the devil would not have been able to tempt them. If they had decided not to give any of the proceeds to the church, then the devil would not have been able to tempt them on the issue. The problem was that they wanted to give the impression that they had given everything when they had not. Once the devil knew their desire, he was able to tempt them with a plan.
Thirdly, they were reneging on a commitment that they had made to God. Many people have distressed themselves unnecessarily from this passage. They have wanted to give a certain amount to God but then discovered that they could not for a variety of reasons. What has happened to them is that God in his providence has prevented them fulfilling their desire. For example, a man may decide to give a certain amount to God each week, but then discovers that he can no longer do so because he has been become unemployed. Such situations are totally different from what took place in the affairs of Ananias and Sapphira. They had made a promise to God, and then attempted to pretend that they were keeping it. God did not want such an offering because it came from a deceitful heart. Indeed, he was exceedingly angry about it.
Because this warning has other aspects, we will think about them tomorrow. Our obvious response should be to ask God to keep us from the sins that took control of Ananias and Sapphira.