The first real problem in the early church is caused by a couple whose marriage ultimately ends in tragedy. The dilemma Ananias and Sapphira face can help answer the financial challenges facing many families.
The story in Acts begins after Barnabas set a wonderful example. He sells some land and brings the proceeds to the disciples for distribution to the poor (Acts 4:36-37). An atmosphere of faith and honesty prevails in the early church. Ananias and Sapphira also sell some land. They donate part of the proceeds of the sale to the Church, but not all of it. They conspire together to say they have given it all, when in fact they have not. Both Ananias and Sapphira meet separately with Peter. They are each confronted about the proceeds from the land. Note that “they agree together” in their lie (5:9). Had this couple simply been selfish, they would have given nothing. Their sin is not in refusing to give, for they are under no obligation to give anything. Apparently, they do not want to be regarded as cheapskates. Their sin is not a question of the amount they gave: their sin was their pretentiousness. Upon this couple God’s judgment comes swiftly and severely. They are not struck dead for being stingy, but for refusing to admit the truth. As a result, an awesome fear of God comes upon the entire church (5:11).
God demands honesty in all our dealings with Him. Just as the snake lied to Adam and Eve, so Satan seeks to ruin marriages today through lies and deception. As couples, we must perpetually examine ourselves to see if our motives for serving God are pure. Ananias and Sapphira could have enjoyed the blessings of God, but they cannot enjoy their marriage while living a lie. They want to keep part of the money, but in the end they lose everything. Dishonesty in any area of marriage can rip a couple apart.
In stark contrast, Priscilla and Aquila are a husband and wife ministry team. Every time Priscilla and Aquila are named in the Bible, they are together. The book of Acts informs us they leave Rome when Claudius expels the Jews from Asia Minor (Acts 18:2). After arriving in Corinth, they live with Paul for a year and a half. Like Paul, they are tentmakers (v. 3). We can only imagine the great truths these three share during their eighteen months together. Although we have no record of what they say, the results show they are further empowered to minister to others. Paul entrusts the ministry in Ephesus to them when he departs for Syria.
After listening to Apollos preach, Priscilla and Aquila minister to him and teach him the Word of God (Acts 18:24-26). As Paul’s fellow laborers, they risk their very lives for his sake (Rom. 16:3-4). From Ephesus, Paul sends greetings to the Corinthian church from the church that meets in their home (I Cor. 16:19). The last we hear of Priscilla and Aquila, they are ministering together in Ephesus. In Paul’s final epistle, he sends them greetings (II Tim. 4:19). As he faces martyrdom, he looks back and sees this faithful couple continuing to serve God. Although this marital team works hard to earn their living, they still find time to study and teach God’s Word. Church tradition tells us they die together for the sake of the Gospel.
As Believers, let us strive to exemplify the selflessness of Priscilla and Aquila rather than the selfishness of Ananias and Sapphira. The choices every couple makes ultimately determines their marital destiny.