The bible tells a story in Acts of a man and his wife who are slain by the Holy Spirit for deceiving God. In the story a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira sell a property but instead of giving the full amount to Peter they keep a portion for themselves. Peter confronts the man, enquiring of him why Satan had put this deed in his heart. The man confesses that he kept a portion of the money for himself, and Peter tells the man that he has not lied to him (Peter) but to God. Poor Ananias just dropped dead. The same fate befalls the man’s wife Sapphira later when she admits that she knew they had kept a portion of the money for themselves.
According to scripture great fear came upon the church and all those who had heard about it.
The intent of this story is to make sure that members of the church know what a great sin it is to attempt to deceive God and not give the proper amount to the church. If I am to take this story with a literal value it is curious to me why people committing this sin, and we all know many are committing it, are not meeting the same fate today. If this is really a punishment from God for an offense against the offering then why are televangelists not dropping dead on stages all over the world, especially the likes of Jim Bakker and Benny Hinn?
An atheist friend of mine refers to this story as “the time greedy Peter killed poor Ananias and his wife for not coughing up enough money.” I laugh every time I hear him refer to it, because he often elaborates, “The bible makes it clear he was a hothead, even Jesus thought he was Satan.” Without the spin of church doctrines and the belief in holy infallible scripture, it is not unreasonable to read the story and consider that Peter could have lost his temper and killed the man. That he later had remained so enraged and killed the man’s wife doesn’t seem as likely. The point I take from his interpretation is to remain mindful that this is a story of human nature, presented as a holy scripture.
Yet, behind this story is the assertion from the church that Ananias and his wife died because of cheating and lying to God, dispatched vengefully by the Holy Ghost. But, were they really murdered by the Holy Ghost? Or could it be that they were indeed killed by an angry Peter, or perhaps it didn’t happen at all and some scribe added it to scripture to make sure the masses anteed up their fair share of tithes to the church faithfully, even when they may have needed the money for their families. I tend to think the last one is the most probable.