Read Acts 5
Focus on verse 4
Why does it seem that corruption always seems to find its way into nearly every human endeavor? Most often these things start as an honest effort on the part of some well-meaning people to do something good for humanity. If it is an effective organization people get excited about supporting the cause and money starts to flow. If there is going to be a time when corruption finds its way in, this is probably it. We are warned of this in the later writings of the New Testament when Paul writes,
“For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.” (1 Timothy 6:10)
In today’s reading we find the account of Ananias and Sapphira, who sold a piece of land and donated some of the proceeds to the local church in Jerusalem. Many of the people were doing this sort of thing at the time it would seem, why would this account be different?
Apparently, they had agreed together that when they gave the money to the church they would present it as if it were the total amount they had received for the property they sold. Why exactly they had planned this, the text does not clearly inform us of, and if they had known the consequences, perhaps they would have chosen to be honest about it. But they both independently chose to go along with the lie for some reason, and both met instantaneous divine judgment as a result. Peter makes an interesting assessment as he explains why the judgment of God was coming their way.
While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? (v. 4)
What is the “deed” that Peter claims God found so reprehensible? It would seem that it was not really the holding back of the money that was so corrupt, but the lying about holding it back. Given that the enemy of God is the great deceiver himself, Satan also known as Lucifer or The Devil, perhaps it should not be surprising to us that God is not fond of deception and lies. Obviously God does not strike dead every person who tells a lie, or there would be precious few of us left alive.
I believe that in this case God was seeking exactly the response from the church that we find in verse eleven.
“And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.” (v. 11)
It would seem that God was seeking to establish a base line of respect for honesty and righteousness within the ranks of the church, because the church was to be different than the rest of the world. It was different in the way the people loved and respected one another, and it was different in the way truth was upheld and corruption was exposed.
Perhaps if the church in America today was a little more vigilant in upholding the truth and exposing corruption even just within its own ranks, there might be a greater level of healthy fear of God within the general population of the nation. It would seem from my observation that corruption is commonly accepted, and perhaps even expected in some of the highest levels of authority in the nation. It makes me wonder what kind of action God would have to take to shock us back into behaving honestly.