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 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.