Pride is monstrous, evil trait that comes on us in an instant when we feel threatened or fearful of being recognized. If we allow and don’t stop this attitude, it will spread in us in ways that destroy all that God has done in us in certain seasons of growth. Jealousy is another devil characteristic that rises up in believers when we think someone else looks better than us in God’s work. Envy follows closely behind when we want to do good exactly like others are doing good without consulting God about what HE wants from us.
This trifecta of pride, jealousy and envy drove a couple in the work of the early church to lie about their donation to the early church. Their giving was good, their hearts were not. But the Holy Spirit knew. Peter, therefore knew. Most of all, God knew. And God acted.
ACTS—God’s Acts Through His Disciples
Acts 5:1-11, The Message
Ananias and Sapphira
1-2 But a man named Ananias—his wife, Sapphira, conniving in this with him—sold a piece of land, secretly kept part of the price for himself, and then brought the rest to the apostles and made an offering of it.
3-4 Peter said, “Ananias, how did Satan get you to lie to the Holy Spirit and secretly keep back part of the price of the field? Before you sold it, it was all yours, and after you sold it, the money was yours to do with as you wished. So what got into you to pull a trick like this? You didn’t lie to men but to God.”
5-6 Ananias, when he heard those words, fell down dead. That put the fear of God into everyone who heard of it. The younger men went right to work and wrapped him up, then carried him out and buried him.
7-8 Not more than three hours later, his wife, knowing nothing of what had happened, came in. Peter said, “Tell me, were you given this price for your field?”
“Yes,” she said, “that price.”
9-10 Peter responded, “What’s going on here that you connived to conspire against the Spirit of the Master? The men who buried your husband are at the door, and you’re next.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than she also fell down, dead. When the young men returned they found her body. They carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11 By this time the whole church and, in fact, everyone who heard of these things had a healthy respect for God. They knew God was not to be trifled with.
SEEM HARSH? WHAT DO WE LEARN?
All the traits of evil are opposite those of God. Evil took the offensive against the church built on the foundation of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. God dealt with evil swiftly that day so that evil could not take root in this new growing church build on four principles we read earlier in Acts 2:42-46:
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity.”
What Ananias and his wife, Sapphira did was not in character with God–just the opposite. They gave to be noticed—Pride. They gave to look as if they were just like everyone else—Envy. They gave as much as they thought others had given while holding back—Jealousy with dishonesty thrown in. God sees hearts. God responds quickly in sadness for these two people bent on following evil.
The Holy Spirit grows God’s character in us as a gift of God’s love. God knows we cannot do this awesome work all by ourselves. Jesus told his disciples before He left earth about The Helper and Counselor who would guides and correct their course, always show them what to do, what to say and how to think in God’s ways and character. The Holy Spirit dwelling in Peter alerted him to what had happened.
THE HOLY SPIRIT TEACHES
Paul summarizes the gift and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives in Galatians 5. Here are portions of that letter to the early church;
“So, I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other…”
“When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures,idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.” Galatians 5, NLT
Read all of Galatians 5, it’s worth a read to understand the heart of God a bit better in dealing with evil attacking His church built on the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son.
Thank you for teaching me about how to be holy instead of following my old sinful ways that lead me to places I really don’t want to go. Turn my repentant messes into messages of truthful testimonies about you. Grow me in Your Holy Spirit. Enlarge the work of your salvation in me. Keep me from harm or causing harm. Keep me focused on You in Holy Communion with you today for I need you every hour.
In Jesus Name, Amen