So, here’s the scene: Jesus has risen up into heaven, the Holy Spirit has come down, thousands people are converting to “The Way,” selling all that they own to help support each other and the ministry.
Enter Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). They show up with a huge bag of money, having just sold a plot of land and claiming to have donated every cent to the ministry.
Only Peter isn’t buying it. He knows that they have pocketed some of the cash for themselves. He asked them both about it individually. They stick to their story.
Next thing you know, both of them drop dead. Major buzz-kill to the movement, right?!
It’s the same idea as when David is on his way to Jerusalem with the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6). God tells him no one is allowed to touch the ark during the trip. Everyone is having a good time, entering into Jerusalem in a massive parade, when the ark slips and this guy, Uzzah, touches the ark. He instantly falls dead.
In both cases, you almost want to think, God, aren’t You being a little harsh here?
But it’s important to note that these moments both come in key times in history for God’s followers. In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, this comes at the beginning of what we know today as Christianity. The Spirit has come, the Gentiles are being welcomed into the family of God.
In the case of the ark, this comes at the establishment of David’s kingdom and the blessing of God upon his royal line (culminating up to our LORD Jesus).
It’s also important to note that both of these situations could have easily been avoided. All Ananias and Sapphira had to do was be honest about their giving. Peter is perfectly clear with them: they could have done anything with the land and the money. Both were theirs to use as they willed. But they chose to make a great show of it, claiming to have giving an extravagant amount that they didn’t actually give. Think about charities now. Once word gets out that moneys are not being used as promised, it undermines the integrity of the entire organization and makes people not want to give anymore. God does not want muddy waters, no lukewarm Laodiceans (Revelation 3:16). He wants people that come to Him honestly. He can work with us as we are, but He cannot work with us if we want to pretend we’re something we’re not. He’s God. He knows. That’s the wonderful thing about Him, we can just be ourselves and lay our pretensions down.
As for poor Uzzah, that wasn’t really his fault. David knew how he should have carried the ark. The Levites were to carry it on poles (1 Chronicles 15:15). Instead, David put it on a cart. Why? Who knows? Maybe it looked cooler. But his reckless choice caused the ark to fall and someone to get killed.
So what looks first like God blowing His top is God setting a precedent. We need to be mindful about our ministry. We need to be honest and humble. Christ did not flaunt His Kingship. He was born in the equivalent of a truck stop. He did not make fancy entrances. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey.
Let our ministry be the same: unassuming, yet radiating the sufficiency and glory of God.