Sapphira’s story is a sudden and a sad one. She can be found, along with her husband and partner-in-crime, Ananias, in Acts chapter 5. They lived during early A. D. days when the Christian church was getting started in Jerusalem. The resurrection of Jesus the Christ had just taken place, the apostles had been filled with the Holy Spirit and were practically on fire for God, many signs and wonders were done, and people were getting saved and being added to the church daily.
At the end of Acts chapter 4, we are told of a man named Barnabas who sold his land and gave all of the money to the apostles so that it could be given to those in need. Switching to Acts chapter 5, we read that Ananias and Sapphira also sold a piece of land. Apparently, they had heard of Barnabas’ generous deed and decided to copycat. The difference was that Barnabas was genuine and gave all the money away, while Ananias and Sapphira pretended to give away all the money but secretly kept some back for themselves.
When they were asked about it by the apostle Peter, both of them lied and were immediately judged by God. They died instantly. Sapphira gives us some sobering lessons to consider.
1. Sapphira thought she could deceive God. Sapphira (and Ananias, but we’re just going to highlight the lady here) did not do anything wrong by keeping some of the money for herself. However, she was wrong in lying about how much they had sold the land for, and she was not only wrong in lying to Peter, but to God. In 5:3, Peter says, “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
Sapphira failed to remember that nothing can be hidden from God. Every moment of every day, God knows our thoughts, and He knows our hearts. We may be able to lie to some people and trick others, but nothing we say can deceive God.
In the first Lord of the Rings movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, the wizard Saruman describes the eye of Sauron as such: “The Lord of Mordor sees all – his gaze pierces cloud, shadow, earth, and flesh.” God is like the lidless great Eye – always watching, never sleeping. Nothing escapes His gaze. Nothing takes place without Him knowing about it.
Sapphira forgot that God had His eye on her. She lied to Him, and for that she was swiftly punished. God has an eye on us too. He isn’t looking for us to be perfect, but when we mess up there is no need to lie about it. If we confess our sins, we will always be forgiven by Him.
2. Sapphira was punished by God. Some may think that God acted rashly in dealing with Sapphira and her husband. All they did was lie? Why did they have to die? These are not the questions we should be asking. We are often told the God is loving, gracious, merciful, forgiving, patient, and kind. All of these things are true, because He is. But God is also holy and righteous. God cannot stand sin. Psalm 5:4 says, “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You.”
God saw the heart of Sapphira. She loved money and gave to receive the praise of people. She was not giving because she truly loved God. If we are not right with God, He shows us mercy in order for us to repent. But if we persist in our sin, He will have to punish us too. God would not be God if He let what is wrong go unpunished for He is also fair and just. Harry Reeder reminds us that, “In the exercise of His common grace, God displays patience and forbearance with the world. But patience and forbearance ought to lead men and women to repentance.”
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