Monday, December 3, 2012

Leading Ladies: Sapphira

Sapphira probably isn't at the top of your 'leading ladies' list, namely because she doesn't set a positive example. And, if we're being honest, we probably never take the time to separate her name from her husband's...kind of like the Aquila and Priscilla team. However, I think we can learn a lot from Sapphira, which is why I'm dedicating a leading ladies post to her.

We are introduced to this women in Acts 5. Prior to this, a well known Bible character (and I don't mean character in a fictitious way--we know people who are mentioned in the Bible are real people) named Barnabas. After he sold his land and gave the money to the poor, the entire church was encouraged and thus his name was changed to 'son of encouragement'. It is on the heels of this story that we meet Sapphira and her husband, Ananias.

Ananias and Sapphira had this great idea: they were going to sell the land that they had, just like Barnabas had, and give the money to the church. The only problem was that instead of giving all of the money to the church, they would simply give part of it. Now, this story isn't saying that you cannot keep anything back for yourself but that you must give every ounce of everything you have to the church. Not saying that at all. What it is saying is that you cannot lie about it. Had Ananias and Sapphira sold their land and given a portion to the apostles and told them such, the church would have been encouraged by this, as would the apostles. Instead, Ananias and Sapphira conspired together to make it seem like they had done some great and charitable deed, when really they had kept part back--only wanting the accolades for their contribution.

So why focus on Sapphira?

Recently, as I was rereading this story, something new stuck out to me. You see, Ananias comes before the apostles first, and they rebuke him and before he can even speak--he is struck dead. Ouch. But then, a few hours later, Sapphira comes in.

As I was reading this, I thought to myself--why didn't they go in together? Surely they could have. But they didn't. Instead, Sapphira was given the chance to own up to her sin. Peter asked her how much she had sold the land for, she says 'such and such' a price (not the full amount, though, mind you) and then she is also struck dead.

It's a sad story, sure, but I think there are some valuable lessons we can learn from ol' Sapphira.

1: Submission to your husband does not mean covering for him. So often women believe that they must be in submission to their husbands in all things. Yes, the Bible does tell us that we have been given the role of submission to our husbands, but the Bible never encourages sin. Sapphira did not have to go along with what Ananias had said. When Peter asked her, she could have confessed and said, no, we actually kept some back. I fully believe that Sapphira would have been saved had she confessed her sin to Peter. Instead, she didn't. She continued in her sin--not knowing her husband was dead already.

If you are in a marriage where your husband continues to sin against God, the church, and others--you do not have to continue with him in this sin. God does not expect you to sin with him so as to remain in subjection to him. On the contrary! In 1 Peter 3:1-2, the Bible tells women whose husbands aren't faithful to "likewise be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the world, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear."

The only way to win over an unbelieving or unfaithful husband is to show him that you respect God first and foremost. If you are compromising your relationship with God because of an earthly relationship, are you being a good example to your husband? Will he be won over by your conduct?

Please hear me when I say that this does, in no way, mean that you should defy your husband. God set up the home exactly how He wanted it to be, and as women, we have particular roles to fill---roles by which we will be judged. But, we will also be judged by how we behave toward our husbands. If you are a spouse, you have an obligation to the one to whom you married, and that obligation is to help them get to heaven. Do not take part in nor encourage their sins. Help them out of them. Promote peace and purity.

2: Do not seek worldly pleasures and treasures. It seems Ananias and Sapphira had a bad case of worldly-itis. They loved the world more than they loved God. They wanted earthly riches more than they wanted true, heavenly riches. Jesus told the multitudes in Matthew 6:2, "Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly I say to you, they have their reward." This pitiable pair needed this reminder. Wanting the world to see your good works and give you a standing ovation for it...that won't get you anywhere. Well, it will get you somewhere, but not the somewhere you want to be for eternity.

Paul told the Colossians in Col. 3:1-2 "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth."

James said, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." (James 4:4)

You cannot be a Christian and love this world. You cannot be a true follower of Christ and put worldly riches and pleasures above Him. If you have a job that takes you away from doing the things that God wants you to do -- that God will judge you for if you do not do (ie keeping your home) -- then get rid of the job. God doesn't judge us based on what our occupation is. He doesn't judge us based on our income. So you make less money and you have less stuff. Life isn't made up of possessions. Life is characterized by one thing: obedience to God. Get rid of the earthly things that stand in the way of your full obedience to God. I feel that if Sapphira were given the opportunity to do it all again, she would place her priorities on God and following Him, not getting rich. Paul told Timothy that loving money was the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). We must put riches and earthly treasures in their proper place, and that is nowhere near the top of our priorities list.

3: You will be judged for your own life. When the Judgment comes, each man will be judged according to his own works (Rev. 20:13). You will only be judged for your own soul and your own actions. Yes, you have been given the command to spread the gospel and encourage the lost to be saved (Mk 16:15), but ultimately the decision to obey Jesus comes down to the individual.

Should you be in a marriage relationship where your spouse does not adhere to God's laws, be it outright unbelief or perhaps by living a hypocritical life, you are not condemned to the same fate. Now, you do have to do as Peter said and be an example to them, but if they don't choose to obey God, that is on them. You have to decide, for yourself, to follow Him and trust in Him and obey His every command. It is only for your thoughts and actions and opportunities that you will be judged, not the actions or thoughts or someone else--not even your spouse.

As previously mentioned, Sapphira could have gone to Peter and confessed. She didn't have to suffer the same fate that her husband did. However, it seems she had the same sin-ridden heart that her husband did. We cannot know whose heart was defiled first, but we do know that God doesn't put on us more than we can bear (1 Cor. 10:13). One of them could have stood up to the other; one of them could have stood up for what was right. Sapphira was given the opportunity. She had to stand in front of Peter herself, tell the lie herself, and will ultimately face the judgment herself. Know that whatever situation you find yourself in, you will be judged based on what you do, not what those around you do--not even those closest to you (including parents, children, grandchildren, etc).

4: You are an example. In verse 11 of chapter 5, the Bible tell us, "So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things." People heard about Ananias and Sapphira. People heard about what they did and what happened to them because of it. In the same way, people hear about us. I have learned this lesson quite well in the last year and a half after moving to a small town. It seems everybody knows something about everyone in town. And guess what they know? The good and the bad.

The Bible tells us that a good reputation is to be chosen over great riches (Prov. 22:1). We know full well that people hear things about us. Make it your aim for people to only think good things about you when they hear something. Make it your aim that people only think of godly things when they think about you. Make your life an example to those around you, so that they may see your good works and glorify God (Matt. 5:16).

Paul told Timothy to be an example to the believers in word, conduct, love, spirit, faith, and purity. Make it your daily goal to be the same--not only to the believers, but to everyone you come into contact with. The old adage is true: you may be the only Bible some people ever read. Be sure your life is pointing them to God.

1 comment:

  1. I absolutely love this post. I seriously think you need to write a Leading Ladies book, because you already have so much good material you have written! I can see women's classrooms throughout the Lord's church studying your books already! :) Great work as usual!!