A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Sapphira and Abigail: Part 2

Now, we switch to a woman who is the antithesis of Abigail in many ways. Sapphira lived in a completely different time and culture than Abigail and, yet, Sapphira was faced with the same question:

Do I tell the truth and reveal sin for what it is? Or do I cover for my husband?  Do I submit to my husband?

He wants to conceal and deny his sin. He wants me to help him conceal it. Shall I cooperate? Shall I enable him? Shall I go along with it? If I don’t lie for him, I won’t be submitting to him, and I know what he might do then. But … maybe we really do need that money – and we sold the land for such a good price, there’s no harm keeping a little back for ourselves, is there?  I wish there was a way I could squirm out of this without facing trouble. What shall I do?

As we mentioned earlier, Abigail made a quick decision and moved directly forward, eventually resulting in freedom from her abusive husband. Sapphira, as well, made a quick decision. Sadly, her decision brought her own death.

Now, this post is not intended to bring about a false guilt for covering or concealing the sin of one’s spouse. When you are in an abusive marriage, covering for your abuser is often a matter of survival and God understands this need for self-preservation. God also understands that because abusers are full of guile and such good manipulators, it can take years for victims to become aware that they are being abused: that their partner’s behaviour is in fact serious sin, not ‘some other problem’.

This post is intended to cancel out the false belief that we must cover for our abuser, as a matter of respect. The commandment to relate respectfully and honorably to one’s spouse does not extend to concealing a spouse’s grave sins from public view.  Some secrets should not be kept secret. Serious sin against another person is one of those secrets. Serious lying is another, especially when the liar is a professing Christian and thus is knowingly lying to God and to God’s people, as did Ananias.

Sapphira

Sapphira and her husband, Ananias,  sold their property to give to the church and yet Ananias “kept back” some for himself. (The Greek word for “kept back” literally means to “pilfer” or “embezzle”). This monetary gift seemed a great deed for their church body . . . they even made a show about it. Acts 5 says that he “brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet” (vs. 37). (Hello, drama!)

Scripture records Sapphira had “full knowledge” that Ananias kept back part of the money for himself (vs. 2). I find this interesting. He kept it for himself (it doesn’t say he kept it for his wife and him, his family, a charity, perhaps? Not likely. It only says he kept it . . . .  for himself). Then he kept it a secret; it was deceitful.

One of the similarities between Abigail and Sapphira is their audience. Abigail speaks to the greatest man alive in her day, in her world (David). Sapphira speaks with the greatest man alive in her day, in her world (Peter). Both men know God intimately. They are safe men. However, Abigail rushes with intentionality toward David to speak truth, honor and wisdom while Sapphira is “caught” in the questioning of Peter.

Sapphira had a chance. There she was . . . in the presence of the apostles . . . Peter asks her point BLANK:

“Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” (vs. 7)

Listen . . . the apostle, Peter, was holding Sapphira accountable to be truthful. They did not see Sapphira as an extension of her husband! They saw her as a whole person. Furthermore, they did not expect her to cover for her husband. There is no mention of this. Covering is not the same as respect. 

In many churches today, it would be considered highly disrespectful for a woman to speak of her husband’s sin issues. I daresay many churches today would applaud Sapphira for “standing by her man.” This keeps us women silent, isolated and afraid. We become master-coverers. We begin to feel the effects of our different methods of covering as we delve into the unnatural world of being two-faced . . . unsure what is right and what is wrong anymore. This is a very dark place to be.

Now, I understand full well what it is to finally, bravely confide in a pastor about the abuse and sin in my marriage, only to have him scold me for not being more submissive or respectful. This happened to me several times, throwing me back into the private hell that was my marriage. However, when I finally confided in a man of God who was a REAL man of God . . . oh, the relief. My heart aches for men and women to safely be able to tell the truth – to stop covering. But, I recognize it absolutely has to be the right person. This might take one or more tries. Don’t give up.

Sapphira did have a safe haven. Men and women of God were crawling all over the place. The Holy Spirit saturated the Church body. She chose to be complicit and enable her husband’s sin. And she was condemned to immediate death. This means that God does not expect us to lie for our husbands, no matter WHAT we might hear in pulpits or from different Christian counselors. This means that lying for our husbands is not actually respect. Be not afraid, fellow survivors. Tell someone safe. God wants you to be protected. If you need to talk about what is going on in your marriage, be assured you are not sinning by telling the truth about what your spouse is doing to you.

13 Comments

  1. ticking the box so I can see the comments as they come up. Great post, Megan.

  2. Yes!!!!!

    Yes yes yes!!!!!!!

    Listen . . . the apostle, Peter, was holding Sapphira accountable to be truthful. They did not see Sapphira as an extension of her husband! They saw her as a whole person. Furthermore, they did not expect her to cover for her husband. There is no mention of this. Covering is not the same as respect.

    Exactly!

    • Laurie

      I had a difficult time with the mandatory “submission” that I was being taught was the only thing that was godly–hide his sins (Love covers…). I could not equate this: if my husband was under the domination of satan (the behavior told me who was in control of him) and I submitted to a man who was under the domination of satan, in the end result, was I not submitting to the domination of satan myself? The enemy used God’s word to cause me to submit to him (enemy). I am grateful that God has delivered me of the guilt…but I cannot say I always walk in that. Sometimes I look at my feet and where they have gone.

      • Laurie — I understand this conflict. My counselor told me this: “Even if your husband is not following Christ [who is he following then????], YOU are still in obedience to God if you submit to your husband in all things. It is to CHRIST you submit, even if your husband does NOT.” This does not make any sense! Covering for a husband is not the same as submission. If it were — Sapphira would not have been guilty.

  3. This is brilliantly written and very insightful! There is so much to take away from it that is rrevealing & helpful! I believe it will help set free so many women who are trapped in trying to cover & don’t know that there may be a safe outlet nearby. Excellent work, Megan, once again!!! Thank you!

  4. Even if we recognize that Sapphira was in on the crime from the very beginning, which she was, and thus was punished for her own sin equally with her husband as co-conspirators, we can still see that the Lord would not have her “submit” to Ananias in this crime, but to say “no way” to him right from the very beginning. By not submitting and refusing to go along with this evil plan, she could have done good to her husband as Abigail did. Maybe Ananias would have said “ok, you’re right,” and either kept the land or given the full sales price to the Lord. Either way you look at it, there is no way that anyone can successfully argue that the Bible commands a wife to submit literally “in all things” to her husband. The qualifier “as the church submits to Christ” or “as is proper in the Lord” and other similar phrases always reminds us that submission to authority presumes that such authority is itself in submission to Christ.

    • Or she could have said to Ananias “It’s okay to keep some of the money for ourselves, but we mustn’t lie about it! Not only would that be lying to God and our fellow brothers and sisters, it would be showing off. Come on, husband, do the right thing! Don’t you want to be a man of integrity?”

    • Ah! These words are so true! She could have been GOOD to her husband had she NOT “submitted”. Thank you both!!

  5. Martin

    Megan;

    What a powerful call out of bondage:

    “Be not afraid, fellow survivors. Tell someone safe. God wants you to be protected. If you need to talk about what is going on in your marriage, be assured you are not sinning by telling the truth about what your spouse is doing to you”

    Awesome!

  6. Still scared

    Home run again. Thank you everyone who posts and comments, such encouragement!!

  7. Belle

    Writing down some thoughts whirling around my mind as I read this thought provoking piece on Sapphira.

    Obeying God first and not submitting to sinful authority figures like Sapphira did really glorifies God. It shows who is Boss! God is unlike any other. He is God after all. He wants full and complete obedience. We are not God, and we all have sin. No other creature has God’s character or person and so no other person is worthy to receive full blind submission. I’m thinking that in an authority chain of command here on earth like in a business, the boss at the top of the ladder wouldn’t be too happy if the boss under him contradicted him or set himself up as more important than the boss on the ladder above him. In the same way, I don’t think God likes people taking His spot. He calls Himself a jealous God, so we are allowed (Praise God!) to obey him first!

    God commands us to love him with ALL our hearts, soul, and strength. That is different than what he commands us with each other – to love our neighbor as ourselves. NO, we are not commanded to love our neighbor with ALL our heart, soul and strength. That is reserved for God alone, and to do that is to worship our neighbor.

    So that teaching that teaches that you obey God by obeying and submitting to your husband without question or thought in everything really takes God out of the picture. For the woman, God is replaced by a man! Praise God, He is good and we can love and trust Him with all our hearts. We have direct access to Him. We all will stand before the judgement seat of Christ. So, we must all obey the boss at the top of the ladder, God, first!

    • Belle, Thank you for this very well-thought out response. I love all of it but I especially love this:

      *God commands us to love him with ALL our hearts, soul, and strength. That is different than what he commands us with each other – to love our neighbor as ourselves. NO, we are not commanded to love our neighbor with ALL our heart, soul and strength. That is reserved for God alone, and to do that is to worship our neighbor.*

      I have never thought of it that way! Thinking all day on what you have written up there . . . .

    • God commands us to love him with ALL our hearts, soul, and strength. That is different than what he commands us with each other – to love our neighbor as ourselves. NO, we are not commanded to love our neighbor with ALL our heart, soul and strength. That is reserved for God alone, and to do that is to worship our neighbor.

      I never thought of that before! Good point.

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