It appears that today our culture embraces a “victim” mentality. As Americans, we appear to take freedom to mean we are free from guilt, fault, and responsibility for our own actions. A comedian, Flip Wilson, in the early 1970’s made a career out of the saying, “The devil made me do it.” It became a household catch phrase that meant the person was not responsible for his actions. This statement came at a time in our history that consisted of pushing back against authority and rejecting personal responsibility, thereby becoming victims of “the system.”
This victim mentality is brought into one’s thinking about sin and how it effects our love and respect for our Heavenly Father. Those who feign being victims tend to blame others for their sinful actions and do not see personal sin as being unloving and disrespectful to Yahweh.
In the book of Acts, we are told of the Christians bringing their gifts to the disciples in order to help others in need. One such record tells us about Ananias and Sapphira who were a married couple that determined between themselves to lie and steal from Yahweh.
Acts 5:1, 2 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge [collusion], and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet.
What would prompt these two believers in the beginning of the early church to want to keep back some of the money that they received from selling the land? Most likely it was the natural man propensities for greed and for others to think well of them. These are very common frailties of humankind. Whatever it was, the idea was not born from love and respect for Yahweh. The treachery unfolds as Ananias brings his gift to Peter, and the ruse is made open to all that are present.
Acts 5:3, 4 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
Peter is being led by the holy spirit. There is no information that someone came in and told Peter what Ananias was going to do. He confronts Ananias about the gift and asks why he lied about it. The deed developed from Ananias’ heart. He had the choice to keep the land or to sell the land and keep what he needed. He could have sold the land and kept it all. No one was making him give the gift to the church. It was his sole responsibility to be honest and forthright about what he was giving to the church. His heart held onto greed, and so he lied to cover up his greed and the need to be praised for his gift.
Acts 5:5, 6 And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him.
“As he heard these words” and without saying anything, Ananias fell to the ground and was dead. What a quick and definite event! His wife, who colluded with her husband, came in later, and she was confronted by Peter also. Her fate was the same as her husband’s.
Acts 5:7-10 Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well.” And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
Peter gave her the opportunity to state the truth, but she lied. What a disrespectful thing to do to Yahweh. Peter was representing Yahweh, and lying to Peter was lying to Yahweh. Yahweh knows our hearts completely. There is no lying allowed. One outcome of this tragedy was that the believers learned respect for Yahweh. He expects that we will comply with His Word.
Acts 5:11 And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things.
I am imagining that today the cell phone video of Ananias and Sapphira bringing their “gift” would go viral. Media would exonerate them because they gave what they could for the poor. Peter would be vilified for his insensitivity to the couple and their needs. Everyone would blame Yahweh for being violent, mean, and unloving. The public would be encouraged to be sensitive to embrace each one’s own way of thinking and behaving. Ananias and Sapphira’s family would support that they were victimized by religious thinking and how could God allow such a tragedy and blame Peter.
No one would like to fall over and die on account of being dishonest or a liar. This action would “thin the herd” quite a bit! What we can learn from this is, as hard as it was for Peter to confront the couple for this sinful deed, it was necessary for the new Christian church to know that Yahweh is Almighty Yahweh and He will not tolerate sin and disrespectful behavior.
We tend to look for scapegoats – those who can take the blame for us, i.e. our parents, teachers, ministers or priests, the church, the government, and so on. We have to accept responsibility for our wrong actions, own up to them honestly, and repent (meaning not do them again). A wife cannot blame her husband for her becoming hard hearted. A son cannot blame his father for his failing in school. We all have to take responsibility at some point or another and accept that we alone decide what we are doing. If we say we love Yahweh, we need to honor and respect Him by our behaviors. If we love and honor what Jesus accomplished for us, we need to obey him.
Godly, healthy people learn from Scripture how to recognize our mistakes (sins) and admit them. We accept full responsibility before Yahweh for them which leads us to maturity in our walk with Yahweh. We all at times want to blame others when we become mired down in sin patterns. We are to turn from these ways and love and respect Yahweh by our chaste behavior.
Joshua 22:5 Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Jude 21:1 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life.
Ananias and Sapphira had little respect for Yahweh and put their greed ahead of loving Yahweh. For this they met a speedy judgment of death. When we love and respect Yahweh with all of our heart honestly and openly, we will receive great rewards now and in the Kingdom of God.
The difficulty many have with this record of Ananias and Sapphira is that they died right away for their sinful behavior. Yahweh well understands how it is that sin of one Christian has a devastating effect on others. The bar was set for the young Christians to love and respect Yahweh by living godly principles and being honest. Those caught in sin are deluded to think they are not hurting others and are a victim of life. The adulterer, alcoholic, gambler, fornicator, and liar, backbiter, tale bearer are all convinced that they are not really hurting anyone; they think they alone are the ones who are hurting. One could imagine that those crowded around Ananias and rejoicing due to his gift were devastated when they became aware of the grievous sin of their friend and the consequence of it. Most likely, all took note: do not lie to Yahweh! Lesson learned.
The greed and lie started in each of their hearts. Peter told Ananias right away that it was a heart problem.
Acts 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?
Keeping Yahweh at the center of our hearts and thinking will help us to keep away from evil thinking and actions.
Proverbs 4:23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.
This new year of 2020, let us relentlessly check our hearts that they are free from practicing sinful behaviors. It is good to take responsibility for our sinful actions and to replace them with godly ones. We can do this with the help of Yahweh. Ask for His help to lead and guide you in the paths of righteousness. We are not victims of this life but super conquerors through Christ (Romans 8:37-39).