The last time I was working my way through the book of Acts, I came across the story about Ananias and Sapphira.
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spiritand have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.6 Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
What a weird story. It’s harsh. It’s the kind of story that I think, if we’re honest, most of wish was not in the Bible, because it is downright hard to explain. Two people tell a small lie and they just. drop. dead. One after the other. A husband and a wife. I feel as though I want to add more sin to their story. I want to say, “Oh, yeah, they lied, BUT they also…” Lying isn’t enough to justify such a harsh punishment, right? I want to know, “What else?”
As I read the story this last time, though, I wasn’t thinking much about honesty, pride, or greed. I wasn’t thinking about generosity or selflessness. Instead, I found myself thinking about Ananias and Sapphira’s relationship as husband and wife. How long were they married? Did they have children? Who’s idea was this? Did they both want to hold back the money? Did they both love their church community?
I wonder how long Ananias and Sapphira had been lying to the community around them. I wonder how often, when someone asked them how they were doing, they said, “Oh, fine! A little busy.” I wonder if Sapphira was embarrassed to admit how many times she ran through the Starbucks drive-through that week, or if Ananias was afraid to admit his failures at work.
As husbands and wives, we have the opportunity and responsibility to hold one another up. It is up to us to say, “I believe in you. You can do this.” We have the freedom to say, “Here is where I messed up today.” It is our job to push one another towards looking and loving more like Jesus. I think that at some point, Ananias and Sapphira must have stopped doing that for one another. The truth is, it’s easy to take the path of least resistance in marriage. It’s easy to submit to one another not out of love, but out of passivity. Sometimes, it’s easier to tell someone what they want to hear than to remind them of who God has made them to be, but I am learning that marriage requires a fierce and passionate honesty.
As I’ve gone through the reGroup process, I’ve realized that lying is one of the ways I cope with uncomfortable situations, my fear of failure, and my desperate desire for the approval of others. It’s been a hard reality for me to face.
These days, I don’t always tell lies, but I stop just short of complete honesty. I say, “I understand how you feel,” but leave out, “but have you considered…” I temper my thoughts; water the down my ideas; and add disclaimers like “maybe,” or “I thought,” and “I don’t really know.”
Perhaps Ananias and Sapphira had stopped speaking the truth in love to one another. Perhaps they had too many nights up with the babies, too many budget categories disagreed upon, too many needs not recognized by the other. Perhaps they were tired. Perhaps they felt ashamed. And so, when an opportunity presented itself to say, “Wait a minute. Are you sure about that? I think we can trust God to provide for us,” they chose passivity. Instead of choosing passionate honesty, they chose, “Well, I don’t really know. Sure.”
Let’s not choose passivity in our marriages. Let’s spur one another on towards love and good deeds, by taking a deep breath, speaking from a place of freedom rather than fear, and saying, “God is within us. We will not fall.”