Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sapphira



"Death of Sapphira" by Musée du Louvre, 1652
Acts 5:1-11

Background:

After the death of Christ the Apostles began to boldly teach the gospel and perform miracles in Jerusalem. The rulers in Jerusalem conspired against them but were unable to stop their work. After the miracle of the Pentecost many were converted and were filled with the Holy Ghost to such a degree that they were "of one heart and one soul" and they began to live with all things in common (the United Order). Those who had lands or houses sold them and laid the money at the apostles' feet to be distributed to those who were in need.

Facts About Her:
  • She was the wife of Ananias;
  • She was a member of the church in Jerusalem and had covenanted to live the United Order, in which all church members had things in common;
  • Her husband sold a possession (land) and kept part of the money for himself, instead of giving it all to the church, and she was aware that he had done this;
  • Peter perceived that Ananias was lying to him and withholding the money and confronted him about it. As soon as Ananias heard Peter speak he fell down dead;
  • Three hours later Sapphira, not knowing what had happened to her husband, came in to speak with Peter;
  • Peter confronted her about the money that had been held back asking her, "How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. " When she heard these words she immediately fell dead;
  • The young men came and took her to be buried next to her husband;
  • When the story of Ananias and Sapphira reached the rest of the church they were very afraid.

" Death of Sapphira, Wife of Ananias" by Giclee

Speculations About Her:

  • Some think that Peter had Ananias and Sapphira killed but the Hebrew phrase "...fell down and gave up the ghost" used in Acts 5:5 the same phrase used when Jael drove a tent peg through Sisera's head—"and he died" (Judges 4:21)—a verb reserved in Scripture for someone struck dead by divine judgment.
Quotes About Her Given by Prophets of God:
"... these comments are for the essentially “honorable” members who are skimming over the surface instead of deepening their discipleship and who are casually engaged rather than “anxiously engaged.” (D&C 76:75; D&C 58:27.) Though nominal in their participation, their reservations and hesitations inevitably show through. They may even pass through our holy temples, but, alas, they do not let the holy temples pass through them... Likewise it is only fair to warn that any determination to seek greater consecration will soon expose what we yet lack, a painful but necessary thing. Remember the rich, righteous young man who was told by Jesus, “One thing thou lackest”? (Mark 10:21.) Ananias and Sapphira, otherwise good members of the Church, “kept back” a portion instead of consecrating their all. (Acts 5:1–11.) Some would never sell Jesus for thirty pieces, but they would not give Him their all either!

- Neal A. Maxwell, “‘Settle This in Your Hearts’,” Ensign, Nov 1992, 65
"Spiritual submissiveness is not accomplished in an instant, but by the incremental improvements and by the successive use of stepping-stones. Stepping-stones are meant to be taken one at a time anyway. Eventually our wills can be “swallowed up in the will of the Father” as we are “willing to submit … even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 15:7; 3:19). Otherwise, though striving, we will continue to feel the world’s prop wash and be partially diverted.

Illustrations involving economic consecration are relevant. When Ananias and Sapphira sold their possessions, they “kept back part of the price” (see Acts 5:1–11). So many of us cling tenaciously to a particular “part,” even treating our obsessions like possessions. Thus, whatever else we may have already given, the last portion is the hardest to yield. Granted, partial surrender is still commendable, but it resembles, more than faintly, the excuse, “I gave at the office” (see James 1:7–8).
- Neal A. Maxwell, “Consecrate Thy Performance,” Ensign, Dec 2008, 26–30

"In our time, those found in dishonesty do not die as did Ananias and Sapphira, but something within them dies. Conscience chokes, character withers, self-respect vanishes, integrity dies."


- Gordon B. Hinckley, “‘An Honest Man—God’s Noblest Work’,” New Era, Oct 1976, 46

"The fourth and fifth chapters of Acts give an account of the unusual fate of two liars—Ananias and Sapphira...Not every lie brings such swift and final physical retribution. In the end, however, every unrepentant liar suffers spiritual death. According to the scriptures, he is doomed to dwell with some rather slimy associates... Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Sin has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits them all.” (The Autocrat at the Breakfast Table.) "A lie will bring you quick results but no premiums. A lie will look well for an hour but show shabby for a year. A lie will bring you cash but cut your credit. A lie will bring you velvet for a moment but hard circumstances for a decade. A lie is a commercial fake, a social fraud, an intellectual makeshift, a theological blunder, and a universal failure. Don’t lie.” (Anon.) Tell the truth."
- Marion G. Romney, “Don’t Lie. Tell the Truth,Ensign, Aug 1975, 3
What We Can Learn From Her:
  • Whenever you are tempted to tell a "little white" lie or to withhold part of the truth, remember her story and that God can see into your heart;
  • Consecration is an "all or nothing" covenant and God requires our hearts, minds, and bodies to be fully His in order for Him to give us the immense blessings that come by taking upon oneself the covenant of consecration;
  • Men and women make joint decisions and covenants before God and both are held accountable for them;
  • Just because a husband makes the final decision doesn't mean that a woman isn't held accountable before God for her participation in it-- or her silence about it.
Questions to Think About:
  • Why do you think Sapphira lied? Why did she allow her husband to hold back part of what she knew was for the Lord?
  • Do you think Sapphira's punishment was too harsh? How do you reconcile her of judgment with your understanding of a forgiving God?
  • What things are you holding on to in your life that you know should be consecrated unto the Lord?

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