“Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. – Acts 5:4-5
Such a vivid scene in the Acts of the Apostles today. Ananias and Sapphira made a decision to sell some of their property and give proceeds to the Church. It seems they had discussed it together, about how much they would give. Then the early Church witnesses something fearful. When Ananias comes in and lays their tribute at the feet of Peter, he is struck by God on the spot. Indeed, a fearful scene. To understand this passage, we must consider the intention that led to their demise.
Did they die for keeping part of the profits for themselves? Were they really expected to lay their whole livelihood down for the use of the community? Coming to Peter, they let the community assume they were giving everything. There was no sin in withholding part of the money for themselves, but they intended to deceive the community in order to accept honor by the community for their generosity.
Peter, perhaps by the Holy Spirit, saw through the deception, and called the husband and wife out. Lies, greed, and deception are not the Christian Way. We see in today’s reading the couple’s intention to deceive, but oftentimes, we start out not even thinking along those lines, but then one assumes what is not fully true, and by our silence we can be liable to sin of deception; we allow the untruth (which maybe puts our actions in better light than reality) to be believed rather than correcting the misreading of our actions and intentions.
Let us be mindful, then, that our intentions behind our actions matter! Our intentions behind our words matter! God knows what is going on in our hearts, and wants us to be authentic in our thoughts and actions, as Jesus is.
May God bless you.