Updated: Mar 7
It is worthwhile to realize that selections from the Book of the Acts of the Apostles are basically only read during Easter: Easter week, Easter Sunday, the seven weeks of the Easter season, and Pentecost Sunday. In those selections, only once does anything from chapter five get read. That is on the Second Sunday of Easter (Year C - meaning just once every three years), when verses 27-32 are read aloud. [A story of the Apostles before the Sanhedrin.] Chances are, few will ever preach about that reading [since it is not the Gospel] and fewer will remember anything about something having been read aloud in church, but not openly discussed.
That is a good reason why Christianity is not supposed to be limited to openly discussing Scripture once or twice a week. Christianity should be like living: you do as much as humanly possible to stay alive. Why not do as much as humanly possible to try to stay alive eternally?
Chapter five begins with the story of Ananias and Sapphira. It is the story that I call "The All-In Church." For a refresher, to all who actually read the Holy Bible on their own, or for those who might remember a time in the distant past when this story was read aloud in church [before being removed], the NIV translates it to say this:
1. Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. 7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” 9 Peter said to 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.” 10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
Let me say a few words about this reading.
A lot can be written about this story and the depth coming from the words would make for another long, yet awe inspiring lesson sent by God, through His prophets (a.k.a. Apostles or Saints) for our hearts to burn with desire to know more. If your heart does not yearn for more, then you are just pretending to be Christian. That makes this story a good one for you to know.
The name Ananias means, "Yahweh Has Been Gracious." (Abarim publishing) The name Sapphira means "Beautiful or Precious." (Same source) As a couple, these two names speak most aptly of modern married couples of Christianity, especially post-World War II, after the United States had the atomic bomb and was able to become the world's greatest economy. So many who were dirt-poor children of Depression Era parents grew into adults (now well into their retirement years) who honestly say, "Thank you god for making me stinking rich, while others suffer."
Certainly, for every man of financial means, he deserves a wife that spends his well-stolen money on beauty parlors and fine dress shops, adorned with all the latest fingernail polishing styles, imported leather handbags and shoes, with all the necessary nips and tucks that keep a sagging face and ass nice and tight. The modern women calling themselves "Christians" are like their hubbies, thanking god for all that "Beautiful" and "Precious" power the exclusive country clubs demand in their 'ladies'.
In both cases above, the lower-case "g" is not a mistake in typing, because wealthy Christians today do not pray thanks that say "Yahweh Has Been Gracious," because they kneel at the altar before their little-g god - Mammon. They pretend to give credit to God (Yahweh), by putting on an expensive suit and tie and parading their wives into the finest cathedrals money can buy. These couples - ALL - represent Ananias and Sapphira over and over again.
In today's COVID19 pandemic times, when the elderly "Christians" are banned from going to a church (along with anyone else still going to Episcopal churches) or now have to sit far apart and wear masks [fearing mortality, not God] they are all just like this story told in Acts 5. They show up in expensive automobiles and drop a check into the offering plate.
If Peter were the priest running an Episcopal church today, looking at the checks deposited into the church's money basket, the story makes it seem he would point each parishioner out as having not given all that is possible. One would imagine that shock today might have some of the 'over-80' crowd drop dead in the pew, on the spot.
Certainly, with the way of rebelliousness in vogue these days, protests would be arranged and Apostle Peter would be arrested for murder and CNN would send twenty-year-old reporters (with a smartphone camera), to give the latest updates as to when Peter would be tried, convicted and crucified all over again. All would be because Peter stated the truth. The modern Ananias and Sapphira kept part of what they possessed [most actually, these days], while pretending to be 'All-In' servants of the Lord.
What has to be seen in this story is Peter (the man, the lead disciple of Jesus who always did the wrong things for good reasons) had no possible way of knowing that Ananias sold a piece of property, or how much the property was worth, or how much he got in payment for it. Whether or not Ananias told Peter sometime prior, "Hey. I got this property I am going to sell and give the money to the church to help fund the apostles … because, you know, I'm an apostle too. I just have this bad back, or I would be out there doing what you guys are doing." Peter the man still would not be knowing anything, other than what Ananias told him.
When Ananias put money at the feet of Peter and said, "This is everything from that sale. Aren't I guaranteed everlasting life in Heaven now?" is was not Peter the man who spoke back to Ananias. It was YAHWEH.
God knows everything. God knows all the little (and big) secrets people who claim to be "Christian" keep. God knows they lie about how "Christian" they are. God knows they put on airs and they volunteer for some menial charity work at their church (occasionally, when not too busy), giving a little here and a little there, which might seem big to those who have little-to-nothing, but it is a pittance to their net worth. God knows all this, regardless of what their parish priest knows. God knows there are no longer parish priests who are apostles that open their lips and God's words come forth.
To just about every wealthy male "Christian" today, Yahweh says:
"You! How is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”'
You have to realize that God (Yahweh) has no need for you to give anything in a material sense. Moses never led the Israelites out into the wilderness to train God's chosen people to go back to Egypt and teach them the value of giving. God never told Moses to make everyone in the world agree to His Covenant, meaning God never told the leaders of any nations in the world to write laws that coils like snakes in the grass around the Law of Moses. God never sent His Son to stand in the Temple courtyard and watch Jews give valuables to the treasury, asking him to say for Him, "Hey! You with the large golden goblets and lampstands! We need those out in Bethany, because we have some bills to pay to keep our church open for business!"
In verse five we read, "When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died." I know I have read this put as "he gave up the ghost." (In the King James Version.) The Greek text says, "exepsyxen," which means, "he breathed his last," as well as "he died, he expired." Prior to that word (separated by a comma mark) is written the single word "pesōn," which translates as "having fallen down, fallen under condemnation, fallen prostrate." These two words need to be understood as stating a sequence of events, on a higher level of awareness than "he dropped down dead."
The word "pesōn" means Ananias had risen to the level of true Christian, which was what motivated him to sell property and give the money away, to help in the Lord's work through apostles. By having held back a portion, purposefully, says that when he made his offering to Peter, as a gift made before Yahweh as all, that lie before God immediately took away that elevated status. When the elevation coming by being filled with the Holy Spirit means the reward of eternal life, "having fallen down" is a stand-alone statement of his returning to mere mortal status.
When that is understood, and when one reads the King James Version, of Ananias "having given up the ghost," that is the Holy Ghost or the Holy Spirit. That separate stand-alone word makes sure one realizes that "falling down" is relative to a Spiritual decline. It is not the Holy Spirit that gives life to a human body of flesh, as God's breath of life is the gift of birth from the womb, meaning the entrance of a soul (or one's ghost). Thus, to "expire" means to no longer have the power of that breath of life, so the soul departed from the body of flesh. However, the loss of the Holy Spirit means Ananias was kept alive by the Holy Spirit, meaning that had he not been so filled prior, his age and health would have killed him prior to that loss of God's Holy protection.
We can then see the same happening to the wife, Sapphira. She too must have been elderly and in poor health, only to have prolonged life through the grace of Yahweh and the union of her soul with that of Jesus Christ. Her having plotted with her husband to keep a portion of profits - when all proceeds were theirs to keep - means she sacrificed her protection from God and likewise breathed her last breath.
The part that is most overlooked, in my opinion, is when verses 5 and 11 state: "And great fear seized all who heard what had happened." and "Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events." We do not experience that fear of lying today. We are told to fear only God and nothing else; but the Church today (all versions) no longer fears God - it fears losing power, wealth, and influence - as it fears Mammon.
Somehow, back around 2007 to 2009, I attended a lectionary class at an Episcopal church and this lesson was discussed. It dawned on me that the "All-in" requirement no longer existed, as if somehow someone decided it was okay to be Ananias and Sapphira, without threat of "giving up the ghost." I asked the man leading the class, "What happened to that "All-in church?" His response was, "That did not work out very well."
The problem with that his response to my question [more than being flippant] is the church has been so dead, for so long, with no true apostles speaking the voice of the Lord to followers for so long that the Church (as all denominations in the classification of Christianity) has become as dead as was (is and will remain) Judaism. The religions under the heading of Christianity are no different that was the religion under the heading of Judaism, because all members gave up becoming Jesus reborn long ago. I calculate it as being right around the time Emperor Constantine saw the Roman Empire in a state of death, so he proposed pretending to make Apostles be posthumously deemed popes of Rome, transforming a dead empire into the so-called Holy Roman Empire.
At that point, the true church of Christ became small pockets of faithful who knew you are either all-in or you are all-out. Saints walked the face of Europe, passing on the Holy Spirit to individuals, who shared it with their families, who saw the only way to avoid giving up the ghost was to live in communes, much like the Jews stayed segregated from Gentiles. That worked until around 1,300 A.D., when the Roman Catholic Church began a series of purges that forced anyone not Catholic to give up the ghost by the slice of a Inquisitor's sword.
Since then, Saints have been like unicorns and Bigfoots (Bigfeet?) and hard to spot. We only know you certainly cannot find a Saint in a Christian Church - any denomination. That is because they are all too busy serving Mammon and allowing any paying customer in, with a promissory note that says, "One paid admission to Heaven."
Don't believe that lie, unless you are young and still vital enough to use a church membership card for great financial gains in the world that always rewards sinners. Notice how the reading says "the young men" were the ones who carried off the bodies and buried them? The young can lie to God and still have some time left to live in the flesh; but those young men were filled with a fear of God. All you old codgers still clinging to life, having made your profits and still sitting on pews, doing nothing to deserve eternal reward, you have sold your property already and it is too late to change your fates.
The positive thing about giving up the ghost now is it is like like failing the sixth grade. Failure does not mean they destroy schools all because of your ineptitude. Failure means you get to go back into the sixth grade, with a bunch of fifth graders who graduated to the sixth grade looking at you funny. Think of it like starting over with nothing but another chance, having to do it all over again, starting anew with a blank slate (or blank tablet of paper).
Make the most of that opportunity by remembering (if you can in the transition) your old life didn't work out very well.
Additional Note: Ananias and Sapphira represent the men and women of Christianity: those who go to church, those who run and manage the churches, and those who are priests. Suppose Ananias sold property for $100,000 and then took $80,000 and laid it at the feet of Paul. That is an 80% in percentage. That says one does just about everything that is humanly possible to do, so one certainly qualifies as able to say, "I am Christian." That is where the Church is today, only with a lot more being less in, percentage-wise. The lesson of Ananias and Sapphira is not that God will make us die for not giving everything to a church. Instead, the lesson is not giving everything to God means you still have not gained eternal life. We all are born mortal, which means we are bound to die. The reward of a human life is over in some number of years [the average lifespan may be seventy-two years?]. This means the lesson of the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira is 80% in is not enough to buy your way to Heaven. A priest who is not filled with the Holy Spirit, who does not [cannot] orate sermons that urge listeners to sacrifice their whole lives to God [with burning hearts to know more truth] is not guaranteed Heaven, even though he or she pretends to be holy [they are not]. A bishop who leads a diocese and panders to social change, which is not seeking to change the society to being all-in as servants of God [not a philosophy or human cause] is not guaranteed Heaven. A member of a Church who goes to great lengths to give and offer himself or herself to serve the Church, but then takes great pride in thinking he or she is better that another churchgoer who does less, is not guaranteed Heaven. All have been born to die. A everlasting soul cannot return to Heaven after letting a body of flesh not fully serve the Father, so an everlasting soul that has failed to be all-in for Yahweh comes back into a new body of flesh [we call that process reincarnation]. Then, the reward for not being all-in is always being recycled. All human life on earth is wayward. God's gift is not free will, but redemption from free will. To be redeemed you must be reborn as God's Son (regardless of human gender), which is Jesus Christ merged with your soul. That condition only comes when one is totally committed to God and serve God without question. A Saint never hears God ask, "How can life on earth be made better?" to which an intellectual dissertation is expected in reply. If God asks a mortal any question, it is a test of that mortal's percentage in as a servant to the Lord. The answers then are always, "You know, Lord" or "Here I am Lord, take me."