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.
That it was simply the sin of lying, is impossible to believe. He who calmly told them of their instant fate had himself lied most foully, and been forgiven. It is more plausible to maintain that their sin was something far worse than mere falsehood — that it was hypocrisy of the lowest type — that they could not endure to lack the praise of the noblest Christian conduct, or to make the necessary sacrifices — that they schemed to be considered the best, whilst they were, and knew that they were, very far below the best. All this is true and terrible, but does not satisfy us as an explanation of their awful end. I venture to suggest that Ananias and Sapphira suffered the extreme penalty, not as sinners, but as criminals; not in revenge for a flagrant insult offered to the Almighty, but as the due reward for a frightful wrong inflicted upon their fellowmen; not to accentuate the hideousness of a sin (for which purpose it had been unneeded and ineffective), but to mark the enormity of a crime which blasted the fairest prospect ever opened before the sons of men. It seems to me that they suffered death just as the dynamitards ought to suffer death, because in the recklessness of political hatred they destroy the lives of innocent people. Their crime was beyond all possible reach of human justice, therefore God Himself intervened to mark for once and all how great a crime, how vast a wrong they had committed in the sight of Heaven. Of what, then, were they guilty? What did they do? Before the deceit of Ananias and Sapphira communism was the rule within the Christian fold. It was practised freely as a natural, nay, a necessary part of a whole-hearted following after Christ. After the deceit of Ananias and Sapphira communism ceased to be the rule — apparently it ceased to exist. In the very next chapter we find, not communism, but "charity," with all its paltry greeds and grudges. Why was this? What became of the communism? I say that Ananias and his wife killed it. Such a state of things depends essentially upon mutual confidence, and they killed that confidence. The fatal blow had been given: and what had been an actual working system, perfect in its principle, and boundless in its promise, faded at once into a beautiful dream Co-operation in the labours of life does very well for beavers, for they do not deceive one another, nor does one desire to grow fat at his neighbour's expense, neither does another wish to take credit for having done what he has not really done. Why cannot Christian men he as true to one another, and to the society of which they form a part, as beavers? Ask Ananias and Sapphira. Before they began, there were no suspicions, no grudgings, no wealth, and no poverty, "neither was there any among them that lacked." When they had ended there were rich and poor, there was "a murmuring" of one class against another, there was the foretaste of those monstrous evils which we deplore to-day. They only "told a lie," but that lie gave a mortal blow to the mutual confidence on which any system of communism has to rest. If it is only to-day that we are beginning to face the social problems of advanced civilisation in their naked ugliness, if it is only to-day that we are in a position to estimate the results of unlimited competition, and the reign of universal greed; if it is only to-day that we are becoming thoroughly frightened at the hideous contrast between the professed principles and the existing facts of Christian society; it is for this very reason only to-day that we are able to appreciate the true moral of that tremendous and unexampled judgment. The socialism of the first believers was the fairest work of the Holy Ghost — it was the truest following after Christ — it was the loftiest faith and the broadest charity translated into that simple language of everyday life, which must be read and loved of all men. The "Magnificat" is the inspired hymn of gospel communism, it is the Marseillaise of the Christian socialist. Striking at once to the heart of the matter, rising at once to the principle of the new order, forestalling (like all inspired strains) the end from the beginning, it pronounces without mitigation, it exults without qualification, that "He hath put down the mighty," etc.
(R. Winterbotham, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.