Ellen G. White Writings

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The Review and Herald

May 23, 1893

The Sin of Ananias

By Mrs. E. G. White

“A certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira, his wife, sold a possession and kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? While it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? Why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias, hearing these words, fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.”

“And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto 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. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and found her dead, and, carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.”

Ananias and Sapphira had listened to the words of the apostles when, after “they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness. And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul: neither said any of them that aught of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.”

The heart of Ananias and his wife were moved by the Holy Spirit to devote their possessions to God as their brethren had done. But after they had made the pledge, they drew back, and determined not to fulfill it. While professing to give all, they kept back part of the price. They had practiced fraud toward God, they had lied to the Holy Spirit, and their sin was visited with swift and terrible judgment. They lost not only the present life, but eternal life.

The Lord saw that this signal manifestation of his justice was needed to guard others against incurring the same guilt. It testified that men cannot deceive God, that he detects the hidden sin of the heart, and that he will not be mocked. It was designed as a warning to the young church, to lead them to examine their motives, to beware of indulging selfishness and vain glory, to beware of robbing God.

In the case of Ananias, the sin of fraud against God was speedily detected and punished. This example of God's judgment was designed to be a danger signal to all future generations. The same sin was often repeated in the after history of the church, and it is committed by many in our time; but though not attended with the visible manifestation of God's displeasure, it is no less heinous in his sight now than in the apostles’ time. The warning has been given, God has clearly manifested his abhorrence of this sin, and all who pursue a similar course of action may be sure that they are destroying their own souls.

The Lord has made the proclamation of the gospel dependent upon the labors and voluntary gifts of his people. The one who proclaims the message of mercy to fallen men has another work also, to set before the people the duty of sustaining the work of God with their means. He must teach them that a portion of their income belongs to God, and is to be sacredly devoted to his work. This lesson he should present both by precept and example. And he should beware that he does not by his own course lessen the force of his teaching.

That which has been set apart according to the Scripture as belonging to the Lord, constitutes the revenue of the gospel, and it is no longer ours. We are to treat it as wholly the Lord's. It is no better than sacrilege for any man to take one dollar from God's treasury to serve himself or to serve others in their secular business. This has been done, and some ministers are at fault in diverting from the altar of God that which has been especially dedicated to him. Ministers should regard this matter in a right light. Let them not, when brought into a strait place, take money consecrated to religious purposes, and use it for their own advantage, soothing their conscience by saying that they will repay it at some future time. Far better cut down your expenses to your income, restrict your wants, and live within your means, than use the Lord's money for secular purposes. This subject is not regarded as it should be. Under no pretext is the money paid into the treasury of God to be used for the benefit of any one in temporal affairs. It must be kept for the object for which it was given.

The minister or the steward who receives the funds for the Lord's treasury should give the donor a written receipt for the same, with the date. Then, without waiting to be tempted by financial pressure, to use this means for himself, let him deposit it, where, when called for, every penny will be forthcoming, to be used where it was designed.

The people need to be impressed with the sacredness of their vows and pledges to the cause of God. Such pledges are not generally held to be as obligatory as a promissory note from man to man. But is a promise less sacred and binding because it is made to God? Because it lacks some technical terms, and cannot be enforced by law, will the Christian disregard the obligation to which he has given his word? No legal note or bond is more obligatory than a pledge made to the cause of God. The members of our churches should be educated to regard their pledges in this light.

It is only when Christian motives are fully acknowledged, and the conscience is awake to duty, when divine light makes impressions upon the heart and character, that selfishness is overcome, and the mind of Christ is exemplified. The Holy Spirit, working upon human hearts and characters, will expel all tendency to covetousness, to deceptive dealing. When the Lord's messenger bears a message to the church, God is speaking to the people, awakening the conscience to see that they have not been rendering an honest tithe to the Lord, and that when it was not convenient to give, they have failed to present their offerings to him. They have used the Lord's own money for themselves, in building houses, in purchasing horses, carriages, or lands. They do this in the hope of large returns, and every year they have the same excuse. “Will a man rob God?” O yes, he has done this many times, because he has not been spiritual, to discern the spiritual things.

On some occasions the Lord has moved decidedly upon worldly, selfish men. Their minds were illuminated by the Holy Spirit, their hearts felt its softening, subduing influence. Under a sense of the abundant mercy and grace of God, they felt it their duty to promote his cause, to build up his kingdom. They remember the requirement, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.” They felt a desire to have a share in the kingdom of God, and they pledged to give of their means to some of the various enterprises of the Lord's cause. That pledge was not made to man, but to God in the presence of his angels, who were moving upon the hearts of these selfish, money-loving men.

In making the pledge, they were greatly blessed; but how quickly the feelings change when they stand on common ground. As the immediate impression of the Holy Spirit becomes dim, as the mind and heart become absorbed again in worldly business, it is most difficult for them to maintain the consecration of themselves and their property to the Lord. Satan assails them with his temptation, “You were foolish to pledge that money, you need it to invest in your business, and you will meet with loss if you pay the pledge.”

Now they draw back, they murmur, they complain of the Lord's message and his messengers. They say things that are not true, claiming that they pledged under excitement, that they did not fully understand the matter, the case was overstated, their feelings were moved, and this led them to make the pledge. They talked as though the precious blessing they received was the result of a deception practiced upon them by the minister to secure money. They change their minds, and feel under no obligation to pay their vows to God. There is most fearful robbery of God, and flimsy excuses are made for resisting and denying the Holy Spirit. Some plead inconvenience; they say they need their money—to do what? To bury in houses and lands, in some money-making scheme. Because the pledge was made for a religious object, they think it cannot be enforced by law, and the love of money is so strong upon them that they deceive their own souls, and presume to rob God. To many it might be said, “You treat no other friend so ill.”

The number of those who commit the sin of Ananias and Sapphira is increasing. Men do not lie to man, but to God in their disregard of the pledges which his Spirit moved upon them to make. Because sentence against an evil work is not, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira, executed speedily, the hearts of the sons of men are fully set in them to do evil, to strive against the Spirit of God. How will these men stand in the judgment? Dare you abide the final issue of this question? How will you stand in the scenes described in the Revelation? “I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God: and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.”

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