Free To GiveSapphira
Just before our wedding, Karen and I removed the word ‘obey’ from our vows as we determined mutual, self-giving, other-centered love would be the foundation of our marriage. We decided our surrender would always be voluntary, that consent would be the high watermark of our love and the path to intimacy; we resolved to submit one to another, to freely give and freely receive. That’s how love works, that’s how trust works, that’s how intimacy works.
Freely is a powerful word.
Love can’t be coerced, controlled, pressured, compelled, manipulated, or forced. There is no arm twisting, crowbars, compulsion, shaming, or condemning, no fear of retribution. Our marriage isn’t built upon the letter of the law; its foundation is grace. Our marriage isn’t transactional, but relational and intimate.
And so, obey was taken out of our vows.
But obey was most definitely in Sapphira’s.
During Sapphira’s day, women had few rights, equality wasn’t a thing, and husbands often saw their wives as little more than possessions. The consequences of not obeying your husband could be severe, even unto death.
Scripture implies Sapphira agreed with her husband’s deception. Who knows, it may have even been her idea. But let’s recognize the cultural context of the day. She was expected to obey her husband. And let’s also recognize Peter, a man, the leader, the top of the power dynamic, and the fella who’d just presided over her husband’s death, knew this.
Was Peter surprised by Ananias’ death? I don’t know. But I imagine he was heartbroken; at least, I hope he was… cause that’s what a Good Shepherd would be when one of his flock is lost to a prowling lion.
Just years earlier, after Jesus’ disciples asked Him to call down fire on a city, He corrected them with the Gospel. “You know not what spirit you are of,” He said, “For the Son of Man has not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (See Luke 9:56)
Peter knew this good news. And so, I imagine that immediately after the death of Ananias, he turned his attention to saving Sapphira. Like his Good Shepherd, I imagine he modeled His heart to leave the ninety-nine “in the open country and go after the one.” (See Luke 15:5)
I imagine Peter set about lighting lamps and sweeping his metaphorical house, carefully searching “every nook and cranny” for the lost coin. (Luke 15:8-10)
I imagine he positioned his motives with the good father’s heart of forgiveness and reconciliation toward his lost and striving sons, both prodigal and older. (See Luke 15:11-32)
You see, Peter intimately knew this New Covenant gospel. He knew God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not counting Sapphira’s sins against her. (2 Corinthians 5:19)
And so, I imagine, especially after the death of Ananias, that Peter would remind himself how Jesus had made him “competent as a minister of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6)
However, it appears once again that Peter went old school.
“About three hours later, Ananias’ wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
The difference between an honest question and entrapment is the spirit in which it’s asked. When Grace is the spirit, the question confronts for the purpose of repentance, transformation, and restoration. When Law is the spirit, the question condemns for the purpose of separation and retribution.
This does not appear to be an honest question. It reminds me of the query once hurled at Jesus by religious rock-holding Pharisees who stood ready to participate in the punishing death of a guilty woman; a story in which Jesus disarmed the men and the spirit of accusation so the woman might be set free from sin. (See John 8:1-11)
I would like to suggest this interaction with Sapphira was religious entrapment—Peter seemed to ask an Old Covenant question in the context of the wages of sin with no thought for eternal life.
Why do I suggest this? Because Sapphira died.
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
Then Peter responded with grace, “Why are you slaving? Everything I have is yours.” (See John 17:10)
Then Peter responded with a kindness that leads to repentance (See Romans 2:4) “Father, forgive her; she knows not what she does.” (See Luke 23:24)
Then Peter responded with a heart of reconciliation, “Jesus did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” (See Luke 9:56)
Peter spoke to her in the spirit of the Old Covenant, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord?” he said.
Look, I’m all for leaders bringing correction, but the Truth is supposed to set us free. (See John 8:32) If your pastor corrects you with the letter of the law—in the spirit of separation and retribution—if he literally speaks death over you—run!
“Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also,” Peter said, swinging his verbal sword. Like many years earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter seemed to partner with the wages of sin by declaring death—something Jesus NEVER did. Not once.
Jesus only ever spoke reconciling love and resurrection life.
But after Peter spoke, “… she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband…”
FREE TO GIVE: ABOUNDING IN THE GRACE OF GIVING
CO-AUTHORED BY MALCOLM SMITH, FRANCOIS DU TOIT, WM, PAUL YOUNG, STEVE MCVEY, LISA WENTWORTH COUTRE, PAUL GOLF, JASON CLARK, DON KEATHLEY, TOMMY MILLER, MATT PANDEL, LOGAN BARONE, ROBIN SMIT, CORY RICE
In a world where the act of giving is often burdened by expectations and legalistic constraints, “Free to Give” emerges as a guiding light of grace and liberation. If you’ve ever been shackled by the weight of ritualistic and obligatory giving or the oppressive thoughts of giving to meet performance standards, this book is your path to freedom.
Within the pages of “Free to Give,” twelve co-authors extend a heartfelt invitation to experience the transformational power of giving in its purest and most unrestrained form. Drawing from a wellspring of wisdom and personal experiences, these co-voices offer you the opportunity to discover the joy of giving without the constraints of obligation.
Within these pages, you’ll discover:
- A Christ-centered, grace-infused exploration of the account of Ananias and Sapphira.
- Wm. Paul Young’s masterful narrative of the widow’s mite, bringing new depth to this beautiful story.
- A reinvigorated perspective on the classic tale of the Prodigal Son.
- New Testament insights that deconstruct traditional Old Testament ideas about giving, including tithing.
- And an abundance of other revelations and wisdom waiting to be unveiled as these extraordinary authors bring new language, insights, and revelation to the grace of giving.
Let this book be your invitation to a transformed perspective on giving.