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Acts 5:1-11 – Ananias and Sapphira

Summary

Ananias and Sapphira are a married couple who are part of the faithful, baptized followers of Jesus. After lying to the community about the proceeds from the sale of some land, both die suddenly as they persist in their conspiratorial deceit.

Analysis

This is the first story of serious difficulty within the community that held "all things in common" (2:44; see also 4:32). In this story Ananias and Sapphira, husband and wife, conspire to hold back a portion of the money they had received from a sale of some land. They both die at Peter's feet, although no curse is spoken, no violence done by him. The exposure of their hearts' secrets is too much to bear. The terrible sin that these two commit is not the holding back of some of their proceeds from the land sale but their conspiratorial lying. When people lie, they are unable to have all things in common. When people lie, the precious community is fractured by the creation of a subcommunity, just as Ananias and Sapphira become isolated in their conspiracy. Because the community is created and sustained by the Spirit, the couple also lie to the Spirit.

Acts 5:1-11

Ananias and Sapphira

5But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; 2with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3‘Ananias,’ Peter asked, ‘why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us* but to God!’ 5Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. 6The young men came and wrapped up his body,* then carried him out and buried him.

7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter said to her, ‘Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.’ And she said, ‘Yes, that was the price.’ 9Then Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’ 10Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.

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10 February 2011

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