Acts 5:1-11 – Ananias and Sapphira


Acts 5:1-11


Ananias and Sapphira are a married couple in the fellowship of faithful, baptized followers of Jesus. After lying to the community about financial matters, both die suddenly as they persist in their conspiratorial deceit.


This is the first story of serious difficulty within the community that held “all things in common” (2:44; see also 4:32). Ananias and Sapphira, husband and wife, conspire to hold back a portion of the money they received from a sale of some land, while pretending to donate the full amount to the common purse. They both die at Peter’s feet, although no explicit curse is spoken, no violence done by him. The exposure of their hearts’ secrets is too much to bear. 

The pooling of funds and resources in the early Jerusalem congregation was voluntary, not a strict requirement for membership, though most complied, following the example of Barnabas (see 4:36-37). Peter makes clear that Ananias and Sapphira’s property was theirs to manage as they chose: “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal?” (5:4). The problem was their conspiratorial lying: pretending to give the entire proceeds while privately retaining a portion for themselves.  When people lie, they break the trust of the “commonwealth.” When people lie, the precious community is fractured, just as Ananias and Sapphira become isolated in their conspiracy. Because the community is created and sustained by the Spirit, the couple also lie to the Spirit.