The 15th-century German theologian and botanist Otto Brunfels once said, “Where a perverse disposition of the will begins to hold sway, there the door is open to the devil. He is constantly looking for a crack through which he can creep in. And this is what is meant when we say he enters, fills and possesses: during moments of joy or sadness he takes measure of our mind, and once it has been fully discerned and understood, he stirs it up and agitates it and drives it to evil, fueling the flames.”

Though a Christian cannot be ultimately overcome by Satan, he or she can be tempted by and fall to his temptations. The account of Ananias and Saphira reminds us of Satan’s slyness.

The church was booming. Much sharing was taking place. Wealthier members of the church were selling their property to supply the needs of poorer members. One can only begin to fathom how exciting it must have been to be part of the early church, such spiritual fervency, such devotion and such extraordinary generosity.

Yet, a fly entered the ointment. Ananias and Saphira, seeing how favorable an act giving became, sold some property. Instead of giving all the proceeds, they held back some. They were, of course, privy to do this. The money was theirs, and no one compelled them to give it all. Yet, they lied, presumably to increase their popularity, and said they were donating all the proceeds,

Peter, practicing the now-too-often lost art of church discipline, questioned Ananias, “Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart (Acts 5:4)?” Failing to fess up, Ananias fell face down dead. Hours later, his wife, Saphira, was asked similar questions. Without knowledge of her husband’s death, she too fails to tell the truth and shares his fate.

The story shows us how Satan can even use a relatively good deed – donating a large sum of money to help the poor – to do his dirty work. The story also gives us a rare glimpse into God’s holiness.

No sinner could look directly upon God’s holiness and live. God’s holiness would instantly expose our sin. The pain would be too great for us to bear. Without receiving Christ’s atoning death for our sin, none of us could see God’s holiness and live.

This rare glimpse into the consequence for even the smallest offense to God’s majestic holiness, shows us the greatness of God’s love. For though our sin is great, God’s loving kindness is more.

The Rev. Michael A. Birbeck is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church Wellsboro. Readers can contact him at pastor@fpcwellsboro.org.