If the NT God is a God of Love, How Do You Explain God Killing This Couple?

Jason Micheli —  November 21, 2013 — 4 Comments

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We’re nearing the end of our annual commitment campaign as well as a sermon series on Generosity and Simplicity.

There’s nothing that will tighten the sphincters and of people in the pews like preaching on $$$.

Here’s a little-known gem of a bible story sure to raise the collective blood pressure; it shows, in economic fashion, money’s tendency to lure us into deceit:

Acts 5

But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; 2with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.3‘Ananias,’ Peter asked, ‘why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? 4While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us* but to God!’ 5Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. 6The young men came and wrapped up his body,* then carried him out and buried him.

7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8Peter said to her, ‘Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.’ And she said, ‘Yes, that was the price.’ 9Then Peter said to her, ‘How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.’ 10Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. 11And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.

In case you skipped past the scripture, here’s the married couple, Ananias and Sapphira sell some property, hold back some of the proceeds for themselves instead of giving it to the Church, lie about it and then they’re struck dead, presumably by God.

The Lord may love a cheerful giver, but Acts 5 suggests God may kill stingy givers. Or deceitful ones.

And there’s my question to you.

As a pastor I hear a lot of folks repeating the ancient heresy: that the God of the Old Testament is angry, violent and full of wrath while the God of the New Testament is loving, gracious and forgiving.

I usually respond by pointing out some of freaky scary things Jesus says in the Gospels, but Acts 5 may be the best example of all.

Ananias and his Mrs being struck down instantly with no offer or opportunity for repentance and forgiveness seems like a story we’re more likely to find in the Old Testament not the New.

NT Wright says we can’t have the awesome deeds of power, miracles and mass conversions in Acts without also taking the more ominous displays of the Spirit like here in Acts 5. I don’t know how persuasive that view is even if it is logical.

So….

What do we do with a story like this?

How do we explain justify God killing them?

What are we to take away from this story other than our reflexive fear and distaste?

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Jason Micheli

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4 responses to If the NT God is a God of Love, How Do You Explain God Killing This Couple?

  1. It’s a difficult passage when read in isolation. But when read it in contrast to the story of Joseph Barnabas in Chapter 4 just before this story and see that these two stories are sandwiched between two narratives on community living in 4:33-35 & 5:12-16 that it begins to make sense.

    The entire narrative is about communal living. Joseph stands out as a good example whereas poor old Ananias and Sapphira suck at it, giving only a half-hearted commitment.

    Did God really strike them down dead for this? I doubt it sincerely. Here Luke is clearly using parable.

  2. I think that we forget that the Bible is inspired by God but written by people. People interpreted that God would punish if they did not do what was right. We have come to the realization that the acts cause the outcome and not God. I think we have to look at the Bible as a learning tool.

  3. –We are hard wired to want to live. We see loss of life as a tragedy. But all are alive to God. No one is dead. The author of life can claim our lives at any time.
    — The Church was like a newborn back then. Later it could sustain infections in core leaders that perhaps back then would have been detrimental.
    — We cannot presume to know what God knows. Sometimes a loving parent must do things that children can make no sense of.

    It is a scary story because we are all guilty of not having the integrity that we should. But all we know is that this story stands out because it is unusual, not normal, behavior for God, especially after the resurrection.

    Hope this was jof use,

    Tom

  4. Plus, they were living against Acts 4:32 (context is critical). Unfortunately, the couple is much more normative for us than Acts 4. Perhaps that’s one reason it stands out to us so.

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