Luke’s presentation of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1–11) is haunting. This couple sold property and kept half of the proceeds, but they presented the remaining money to the apostles as if it were the totality. After a confrontation with Peter, Ananias was struck dead! Later Sapphira carried out the same deceit and suffered the same consequence.
I’m thankful the Lord doesn’t make that a practice. If so, every church would need a morgue in its basement. However, the point is made. Their deceit brought destruction, not the fact that they kept funds for their own use. They were posing as proper stewards while seeking self-glory—they sought a spiritual success story to place on their shelf for public display.
My good friend Dr. James Dobson tells a fitting story in his book Coming Home about a time when his family first played Monopoly.
“It didn’t take the kids long to figure out that old Dad had played this game before. I soon owned all the best properties.… My kids were squirming, and I was loving every minute of it.
About midnight I foreclosed on the last property and did a little victory dance. My family wasn’t impressed. They went to bed and made me put the game away. As I began putting all of my money back in the box, a very empty feeling came over me. And then it occurred to me, Hey, this isn’t just the game of Monopoly that has caught my attention; this is the game of life. You sweat and strain to get ahead, but then one day, after a little chest pain or a wrong change of lanes on the freeway, the game ends.”
Is it possible for us to fall into a similar trap spiritually? Do we attempt to stockpile “spiritual acts” like Ananias and Sapphira—deceitfully hiding our pride while parading false piety? Can we pose as proper stewards? The question is not what we have on our shelves but how we’ve used what He’s granted. When the game is over, everything goes back in the same box. Our stewardship of their use and the truth of our motive are what matter most to our all-seeing God. David’s prayer is worth frequent repeating: “Search me, O God, and know my heart … and see if there be any hurtful way in me” (Ps. 139: 23–24, NASB).