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Ananais and Achan
By David A. DePra
FIRSTS are usually quite important in the Bible. Usually, the FIRST time an issue is recorded, it contains fundamental principles. Or to put it another way, FIRSTS often reveal the mind of God Ė not that other examples of an issue do not Ė but FIRSTS especially do.
The FIRST recorded sin Ė after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost Ė was the sin of Ananias and Sapphira. But there is an OT parallel, which is also a FIRST. The sin of Achan was the FIRST sin committed after Israel crossed the Jordan and entered the promised land. What makes these two FIRSTS so important are their relationship to one another: They are essentially the SAME SIN against God.
This really ought to perk up our ears. Apparently this issue is so important, and this sin so fundamental to Godís people, that God records it first in both cases. We cannot afford to ignore this. God is saying something in it for each of us.
Ananais and Sapphira
And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, And laid them down at the apostles' feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need. (Acts 4:33-35)
The day of Pentecost had fully come in Acts 2, as the disciples tarried in the upper room. For the first time ever, the Holy Spirit had come to dwell in people. Prior to that day, according to Jesus, the Holy Spirit had only been WITH people. Now, He would be IN people. (John 14:17) This, of course, was equal to CHRIST IN THEM. For it is by the Holy Spirit that Christ Himself dwells in each one of us.
This coming of the Comforter had much impact and many ramifications. The first thing that happened was the Peter preached a sermon and three thousand were that day saved. Next, a great miracle of healing took place in Acts 3. There were many other signs and wonders. In Acts 4, we have recorded the first opposition and threats against the apostles, which results in an even greater commitment and strength. At the end of Acts 4, however, we begin to see the first example given of the impact that the Holy Spirit was having upon the new church. Luke records that those who believed, "were of one heart and one soul." One of the results of this was that many sold property and possessions and gave the proceeds to the apostles. The apostles then distributed the money to those in need.
I said FIRSTS tell us much about the mind of God. What does this thing that was happening in the Body of Christ tell us? First, it tells us when you see the Truth, and are impacted with the Holy Spirit, you no longer care about this world the way you did before. You canít, because you have SEEN something, indeed, received something that alters your perspective, and changes your spiritual center of gravity. Read the end of Acts 4. There were not orders issued to these people commanding them to GIVE. There was NO mandate to give. They did it because, "great grace was upon them." There is never anything compulsive about grace. These people gave because they WANTED TO GIVE.
Now isnít it interesting that the very first example of giving by Christian people, right here in Acts 4, is a free, voluntary giving? Just like Paul teaches later in his epistles to the Corinthians. There is no mention of tithing, or of giving to get. There is no thought of, "planting a seed," because you have been promised a harvest of blessing in return. No. There is free and voluntary giving, out of love, and out of the realization that there were people in need. Now, why would we suppose that God puts this front and center as the FIRST example of giving? Could it be because it is His mind on the matter? You bet it is.
Aside from the many passages we could cite to show that tithing is not for today, and aside from the other passages that teach that God loves a cheerful giver, here we have the mind of God expressed to the brand new Body of Christ. Great grace was upon them. They were carried away with Jesus. And the result was giving.
Some Christians have even tried to make this, "great grace," into a law Ė and have mandated that Christians have everything in common. That is not the point of the passage. These Christians realized that everything they had belonged Ė not to each other Ė but to God. And in this case, in THIS move of God, they GAVE. This is not a law or pattern to set up. Sure, we ought to be willing to give. But it should be because of, "great grace upon us," and not because we are trying to BE what they WERE.
So we see the first thing taught by the passage: Godís mind of giving in the Body of Christ. Free, and voluntary. Nothing more and nothing less. People are to give, not because of a law they are under, and not because they want to GET, but they are to give because of their relationship to GOD HIMSELF.
Ok. Here we have a wonderful move of the Holy Spirit. It was evidently Godís way of providing for the needs of many people. And certainly a way to work His grace and fellowship into His new church. People sold lands and possessions and gave the money to the apostles, and the apostles, in turn, gave to those in need.
But now we come to Ananais and his wife:
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it, at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. (Acts 5:1-5)
Now, letís be careful here. Often it has been stated that the sin of Ananais was that he kept back some money, and then lied about it. This is NOT correct. Again Ė there was NO mandate that he sell his property and give the money to Peter. And if you read the above passage, that is clearly stated. Peter told him that, "while the land remained, it was yours." And Peter also said, "After it was sold, the money was in your power." Ananais was under no command of God to sell his land, or to give any money. In fact, had Ananais sold the land and gave exactly the amount he did give, he would have been guiltless had he told the Truth. Indeed, it is reasonable to assume that there were other people who did not sell all they had, and some others who sold possessions, but gave to Peter only part of the price. This would have been fine with God. Peter said so.
Peter stated to Ananais that the sin was that HE LIED TO THE HOLY SPIRIT. Letís examine what that means, and why Ananais did it. In doing so, it will get to the root of what God is trying to reveal to us about His mind.
First of all, ask: Why would Ananais go to all this trouble to sell his land, conspire with his wife, and then lie to Peter about the money he got for the land? What did he have to gain? Think about it. He could have kept the land. Or kept the money. He didnít need to give either. But instead, he comes to Peter and gives part of the money. Letís say he sold the land for $10,000, and gave Peter $6,000. At the end of the day, he still gave $6,000 Ė that is what this whole deal cost him. Why lie and give $6,000, when you could be truthful and give NOTHING? What is the motive here?
Can we see that the motive could not have been money? No. Again Ė Ananais did not have to sell the land or give anything. Peter said so. If the motive was money, he would have just kept either. But instead, he sells the land and presents $6,000 to Peter Ė saying that it was the entire price. What is the motive for lying that way?
Once we see it isnít money, our options narrow down fast. Ananais entered into a wonderful move of the Holy Spirit Ė a pure and honest move Ė and he polluted it. He lied. But why? Well, there really can be only one reason: He wanted to LOOK SPIRITUAL. That had to be why because there was nothing else to gain by lying. Ananais PAID $6,000 to Peter for a reason. I believe that was the price he was willing to pay to look spiritual, and seem to be part of what God was doing in the Body of Christ.
You see, the lie of Ananais Ė in the outward Ė was about the price of the land. But there was a deeper lie: Ananais was pretending to be something he was not. He and his wife and entered into the purpose of God and were trying to use it for their own purposes and agenda. They were taking the things of God and using them for themselves. In short, they did what they did, NOT TO GIVE, but to GET. They gave of themselves in order to get the approval, and admiration, of others.
Now, in case you arenít yet getting the point here, notice that on the surface, Ananais did nothing wrong. No. In fact, the man GAVE money Ė the $6,000 Iím using as an example. He DID give that. So the sin isnít that he stole money, or held back money. No. The sin is that he lied by playing the part of someone he was not. The truth is, Ananais would not have given a red cent unless the pay back he got was admiration, and the appearance that he was part of this great move of God.
Can we see the fundamental lesson God is trying to give us? Again Ė it is a FIRST Ė the FIRST sin. It is the sin of using the things of God, or a move of God, to glorify myself. It is the sin of appearing to GIVE ALL, when in fact, Iím just giving what is necessary for me to get what I want out of the deal. This, in the words of Peter, is a LIE against the Holy Spirit.
How many of us pretend to be someone we are not among Godís people? We give and serve, but it is not because of great grace, or because of our relationship with the Lord. No. We appear to GIVE ALL, but in fact, we are giving of ourselves only to the extent that we will get back what we are really after. Our, "giving," might be money, or something else. But if we are doing it only for what it will get us, we are living a lie. That is wrong and that is sin.
The root of the problem here is really our relationship with God. Ananais obviously had no reverence for God. Not only did He lie, but he conspired ahead of time to lie Ė it was premeditated and planned. No one could do that unless they lacked reverence for God. It would be impossible.
God wants us to love Him and revere Him. This, in turn, will result in conduct towards others. But if we are not right with Him, we might try to fake the conduct in order to be religious, or to impress others, but it will be a lie. Only if we are right with God Himself will our motives in the Body of Christ be right.
God is not giving us this example to condemn us. He is giving it to wake us up. This is a sin which is possible for all of us.
There are many ways in which we could apply this lesson from the Word of God. The first principle we see is that we must not use the things of God for ourselves. We must not pretend to give our all, while secretly withholding ourselves from God. We must be honest, not because we are under the law Ė but honest because it is the result of being open and honest with God Himself.
In the final analysis, who I am to people will be the result of who I am to God, and who God is to me. It comes down to that in the end. If I have never comes to terms with my sin, unbelief, and dishonest heart before the Lord, that will eventually show in my ministry, and in my relationships. Ananais lied to Peter because he first lied to God. Peter said that. And this will not do in the Body of Christ.
In case you havenít noticed, most people today donít die because they lie to the Holy Spirit. Thank God they donít. But in this example in Acts, they did. Why did God permit this to happen? I think it was to show us how utterly serious this is to God. It shows us His mind. It shows us that the damage done by such things is far greater than we imagine.
If there is one sin the church has been guilty of for two thousand years, it has been the sin of Ananais. We have used the things of God for our personal profit. We have pretended to be holy and faithful to God so that others would admire us. We have made whatever sacrifices we thought necessary to get the biggest return. This applies to money, or pride. This sin is recorded FIRST for a reason.
And the city (Jericho) shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD. (Josh 6:17-19)
But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel. (Josh 7:1)
Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. (Josh 7:11)
Shortly after Israel crossed the Jordan, God destroyed Jericho. They were commanded NOT to take to themselves any, "accursed thing," which were mostly those things used by that pagan society to worship false, demonic gods. They were also told not to keep for themselves any silver or gold Ė this was to be brought to the treasury of God.
Immediately we begin to see a correspondence between Godís commands to Israel, and what began to unfold in Acts. In Acts, those people realized that everything they had belonged to God. This freed them up to give of it, as the Lord led, without any pretense or expectation of payback. Here, in Joshua, God tells them upfront that everything of value belonged to Him, and they were not to use it for themselves. Likewise, all the pagan items were to be destroyed. But Achan took of both for himself.
When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. (Josh 7:21)
Here we have Achan being part of a great victory of God, but using it for his own profit. He pretends to give what was taken in battle to God, but actually keeps it for himself, under the ground in his tent.
Can we see that this is a similar lie to the one told by Ananais? Both were part of what God was doing for the people. But both pretended to have Godís interests in mind, and both pretended to give their all. Yet both were really in it for what they could get out of it. Both gave only to the extent that it paid them to give. In both cases, this was a lie, and it brought corruption to what God wanted among His people.
God is most generous being that exists. He wants only good for us. I do not believe that there is reluctance in God to bless us. I actually believe that God longs and desires to bless us with both material and spiritual blessings. But God is not pleased when we try to work angles with Him. He sees right through our posturing with Him, and our attempts to be to Him what we think we need to be, in order to get Him to do what we want. God knows us better than we know ourselves. His response to such motives is not to condemn us, but to do what is necessary to expose us and set us free. The result, if we yield, will be that we become honest, transparent, and REAL.
However, it is always possible to resist Godís attempts to set us free, and bring us to the place where He really can freely bless us. If we do resist, we may become a person who is along for the ride in Godís purposes, just as long as they suit our purposes. We may even GIVE of our money, our time, and our energy, to the point where we think it will GET us what we want, in the say of blessing, admiration, and pride. But this will be a lie. God has better intentions for us.
There is only one solution for, "an Ananais spirit." We have to be open and honest with God. And if we are not Ė and how many of us really ARE, to begin with? Ė we need to yield to God when He brings to us the Truth about ourselves. If we will be open and honest to God, then we arenít going to live a lie in the Body of Christ. We wonít have a secret life, a secret agenda, or be a person who uses the things of God for his own profit, pride, or advancement.
Notice what Paul said:
Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. (2 Cor 4:1-2)
Paul puts this necessity of being honest with God front and center in the matter of MINISTRY. He says that he has renounced, "the hidden things of dishonesty." We all have those, donít we? To an extent that we are so used to them that we donít even realize they are there! But God will show us. Paul says that he does not walk in craftiness, nor handle the Word of God deceitfully. Can we see that the failure to renounce these will leave me to use the things of God for myself? For my personal profit and advancement? That is why people have always used the Word of God deceitfully, and what people have always walked in craftiness. There is personal gain involved.
Again we see the vital necessity that God first deal with the minister before there can be true ministry. Ministers are stewards of the mysteries of God Ė and must never use those things of God to work angles and build themselves up. We must trust God to take care of us, and minister Christ for His glory and the benefit of others.
The sin of Achan and Ananais are quite similar. They are both FIRSTS in the Bible. God is trying to tell us something about His mind in His church.
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