And great fear came upon all who heard of it. (v. 5)
What can we say about a story like this? One thing we can say is that it demonstrates Luke’s honesty as a historian. The English leader Oliver Cromwell supposedly instructed the artist who was about to make his portrait, “Paint me as I am, warts and all!” That’s exactly what Luke does in his picture of the early church. Here we see a glaring example of dishonesty and hypocrisy. Apparently, the Jerusalem church’s beautiful life of fellowship and mutual care was not as wonderful and complete as it seemed at first.
Another thing we can say is that God isn’t one to be trifled with. Narnia, C. S. Lewis’ magical land, is presided over by Aslan, the godlike lion. When the children whose adventures make up the Narnia stories are first told about Aslan, they are apprehensive about meeting this terrifying being. “Is he—quite safe?” asks one of the children. “Safe? . . . ’Course he isn’t safe,” comes the reply. “But he is good.”
What bothers us most about the story in Acts 5 is not so much the sin of Ananias and Sapphira as what happened to them as a result of it. Nowadays we tend to downplay both the holiness of God and the seriousness of sin. Who doesn’t want to concentrate on God’s mercy and love instead? So you’ll often hear that we shouldn’t be afraid of God. Really? Read verses 5 and 11 again.
God isn’t safe. But he is good. He is a Savior for repentant sinners. Be thankful for that! —David Bast
Prayer: God, be merciful to me.