Ananias, Sapphira, and Barnabas

The desire to match or one-up another person is a quality best left in sports. After all, that’s kind of the point of sports. But occasionally the desire to set records and be known for our accomplishments bleeds through into our church life. Maybe we give ourselves over to physical displays of worship so we don’t appear weak in faith next to the extravagant displays happening around us. Maybe we tell a crazy story of something God did for us in attempts to one-up someone else’s story. Maybe we over-exaggerate a life situation in attempts to garner the prayerful attention of those around us. And at our worst, maybe we lie about our spiritual accomplishments in attempts to gain the praise of others. It was this kind of deceit that laid at the heart of Ananias and Sapphira’s sin.

The early church had become a utopia where everyone lived in harmony for the mission of Christ. This growing society of Christians was unified and focused, doing whatever they could to provide for one another by their own means. Out of the overflow of these Spirit-infused Christians came stories like that of Barnabas’, who sold a field and gave all the proceeds to the church.

After this moment, a married couple named Ananias and Sapphira decided to do the same thing as Barnabas. But somewhere along the way, they gave into a grave temptation: They decided they would lie about how much the field sold for. They would tell the church that they gave them the price of the whole field, when in fact, the field actually cost more. They would hide the full amount so that they could keep some cash for themselves, while keeping the facade of their spiritual generosity.

This couple didn’t have to give the church their field. They didn’t owe it to them. They could have kept some money if they wanted. But instead of being honest, they decided to lie to keep up a spiritual facade and match Barnabas’ giving. But the Holy Spirit knew what they were doing and their disruption in this new Christian utopia did not bode well for them. They had lied not only to their brothers and sisters in Christ, but they had also lied directly to God.

We do not need to fake who we are or try to impress others with our spiritual life. Yes, we want to grow in faith, but faith is not a competition. God sees where we’re at and he knows when we’re acting, as well as when we’re deceiving others, or even ourselves. We are not working our way up the church-corporate ladder. We are making our way down it to the depths of servanthood.

*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 4:32-5:11 found in today’s reading at

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