Acts 5:1-11 Just or Merciful God?


Acts 5:1-11
This is skipped during the lectionary. Anyone know why? I asked Catholic Answers and I’m waiting for the answer. But until then I’m curious about what you think about God’s Justice and Mercy and how this fits in the Church Teachings. If you have BCV and Catechisim/Canon applicable information please expound.

If you’re Protestant, name your faith and what you think.

If your a convert to Catholicism, how did you deal with a Merciful God over the hellfire and brimstones God of Justice?

I can tell you the Baptist and especially the Church of Christ views. But my Catholic mindset is stumped a little on how this effects my belief and why this is skipped. Is it ever covered, when is it covered and why or why not?


I’m almost positive I’ve heard this before in daily Mass, or maybe it was weekly Mass (I’m not sure).

I’ll take a closer look.


Because God is absolutely simple, all his attributes are identical. Thus, his Mercy is identical to his Justice.


Have you seriously never heard this story before? I’m pretty certain it is read sometimes in Mass. Remember weekday Mass readings have a two-year cycle and Sunday Masses a three-year cycle, so it probably wouldn’t be heard every year.

God’s mercy isn’t ‘over’ his justice, neither is his justice ‘over’ his mercy. Both are perfect and infinite, both in a fine balance, and ultimately what we receive depends both on what we ask for and how much of each we show to others.

But this story to me is more about the pointlessness of trying either to deceive God or ‘hoodwink’ him in any way. If Ananias and Sapphira had been honest and admitted that what they gave was not the full price of their property rather than claiming it was, they would’ve been fine.

This kind of needless deception and lying is, obviously, particularly offensive to God, and to most people too. Why did they do it? Who knows, most likely they wanted to impress everyone with the fact that they supposedly gave everything they owned.


I tend to think about this passage in regards to the Holy Spirit. First you hear the “lie to the Holy Spirit” and then later “lie not to men but to God”. See how this might be useful for thinking about the person of the HS?

I suppose a person could find evidence of “signs and wonders” in this passage as well, like how when Peter went about, even his shadow passing over a person might heal. Hence how the passage ends with fear/awe.

I wonder if it matters that this passage has the first appearance of “church” in Luke-Acts? Obviously someone might take this passage to be about the authority of Peter. Also, someone might think about what lying and blasphemy have to do with eachother, especially concerning the HS. This thought would relate back to that passage in Mark 3:29. Anyway, God knows what you do, no matter what. If you want to hide from God, well, where could you possibly go? (rhetorical)

Just my initial random thoughts on this passage. They are not really thoughts about justice and mercy, though.:o


D-R Bible Haydock Commentary:

Ver. 1. It is believed by many of the Fathers, that the resolution which the faithful made of selling their property, and laying the price at the feet of the apostles, implied a vow of reserving nothing for themselves, but giving all to the community; and that the crime of Ananias and Saphira consisted in the violation of this vow; on which account they regarded them as sacrilegious, and plunderers of sacred things. See St. Basil, Serm. i. de instit. Monac.; St. Cyprian, lib. i. ad Quir. &c. —For, without this supposition, we cannot, as Menochius justly remarks, account for the sudden and severe punishment inflicted on the offending parties.

Ver. 2. By fraud kept part.[1] Ananias, and his wife Saphira, had make a promise or vow, to put into the common stock the price of what they had to sell. When they had sold the field, they resolved by mutual consent to keep for their private use part of the money, and to bring in the rest, as if they had received no more. The whole price being promised, and by that means consecrated to God, St. Augustine calls it a sacrilegious fraud, and St. Chrysostom, a theft of what was already made sacred to God. (Witham)

Ver. 3. Why hath Satan tempted thy heart?[2] The present Greek copies, filled thy heart. (Witham)

Ver. 4. Did it not remain to thee? That is, no one forced thee to make such a promise. — And being sold, was it not in thy power, and at thy free disposal, before such a promise? but promises and vows must be kept. Thou hast not lied to men, but to God, by lying to the Holy Ghost. (Witham) — Thou hast not lied to men, only and principally, but to God also; for he had also lied to Peter, and the other apostles. (Menochius) — “If it displeased God,” says St. Augustine, “to withdraw part of the money they had vowed to God, how is he angry, when chastity is vowed and not performed! … let not such persons think to be condemned to corporal death, but to everlasting fire.” (Serm. x. de diversis.) — St. Gregory, on t his same subject, says: “Ananias had vowed money to God, which afterwards, overcome by diabolical persuasion, he withdrew; but with what death he was punished, thou knowest. See, then, what judgment thou art to expect, for withdrawing, not money, but thyself, from Almighty God.” (lib. i. ep. 33.)

Ver. 5. Ananias … fell down and gave up the ghost. St. Augustine says,[3] this severe judgment was to strike a terror of such dissembling fraudulent dealings into the new Church. It was also to shew that St. Peter, and the apostles, had the gift of prophecy. (Witham) — Origen thinks his death was occasioned by the sudden fright and shame, with which he was seized. Pliny relates a similar accident in the sudden death of Diodorus Dialecticus, lib. vii. cap. 53. — Menochius and Cornelius a Lapide think, that God struck him interiorly, as Peter spoke. … There are likewise different opinions among the Fathers, respecting the salvation of Ananias and Saphira. Some are of opinion, that as their fault was great, they died, and perished in their sin. but the ideas we are fond to cherish of the infinite mercy of God, would rather incline us to say, with St. Augustine, “I can believe that God spared them after this life, for his mercy is great. … They were stricken with the scourge of death, that they might not be subject to eternal punishment.” (St. Augustine, Serm. cxlviii. olim. 10. et in Parmen.) — St. Benedict also, in the 57th chapter of his rule, insinuates, that their death was only corporal. (Haydock) — It is not unreasonable, that the first violators of laws, should be punished with severity. It was thus that the Almighty treated Adam, the adorers of the golden calf, the first who broke the sabbath-day, &c. to prevent the effects of bad example. (Calmet)

Ver. 7. Not knowing. Because no one durst tell her; so much did they honour, fear, and obey St. Peter. (St. Chrysostom, hom. xii.) — She came in; Peter did not call her, but waited, to afford her an opportunity of repenting. (Œcumenius)

Ver. 8. Yea, for so much. That is, for the same sum as Ananias mentioned. This the wife said, not knowing what had happened to her husband. (Witham)


Thanks everyone. But especially thanks to thistle for a better way to answer. Use official teaching documents. I want the official teaching/application of how to fit this in our Catholic faith. My wife in particularly wants to know. She was never a cradle Catholic. I was just a very confused and angry one.:blush:

I realize that I avoided giving you background on me. However, dumb this sounds, I went to the seminary my first year of college. Read/Studied the Bible completely through 2 times before that and by the time I was 27 I had studied the bible at least completely through 3 or 4 times, not to mention the New Testament alone about 8 to 10 times. And that was before I ventured into a solo scriptura group called the Church of Christ, established 33 A.D. on the day of Pentacost by Jesus.:rolleyes: Just thought I’d throw that in there.

Now let me ask you this, do you still think I didn’t know this scripture? Of course I did - that was just a rhetorical question. I carefully worded my questions fishing for not only what “cafateria” Catholics say, but Protestants and “orthodox” Catholics. Our priest couldn’t give me a direct answer. That bothers me. So far the only answer that rings true and correct is thistle’s response. I’m a 17 year bible only veteran, of course I know these passages. I just never really remember reading this in Mass, but it’s been a long time. I just came HOME this past November. I’ve missed a few Masses.:frowning: But FYI I really defected by getting submerged totally under water for the same as Catholics. At that point I truly believed that Catholics were goiong to Hell and thus followed the Bible Only dogma that turned out to be a major nightmare as thr truth about solo scriptura opened up to me. EWTN miracles and other converts finally got to me and changed my heart. You had to be there and know why. I had an SPXS dad, anti-Catholic mon, mixed up Cafateria Catholic family and friends and lots of bad experiences with spiritual directors, priests and future priests -very embarrassing stuff for them, they crushed my faith in the Church. They were difficult times. It looked like the Catholic Church didn’t know what it believed. I addressed this kindly to priests and all I got is I could never understand. Of the priests that I consulted none of the led me to good apologetics books or bothered to help me along like many Protestants do. Thank God for all the Protestants like Scott Hahn and Marcus Grodi who recognized the same issues I ran into, only they knew their scriptures and had time to cross over. They even had family support on some levels that I didn’t have. I was stationed stateside in the Army away from any kind of good adult faith formation classes and my family said that I did the right thing when I converted. So what do you think now? It’s hard and embarrassing. The the Protestant Church of Christ gave me a foundation that didn’t sink -at least not at first. My father-in-law was an Elder/Bishop and 2 of my brother in laws are veteran preachers and the other 3 sister-in-laws husbands are 2 Deacons or 1 Deacon rising to Elder. They helped me work through all the messed up teachings I was incorrectly taught. By honing my skills in the Bible, I kept coming across all the Catholic stuff. And eventually one Church of Christ openly studied the Nicen Creed and asked us all to recite it while we studied it out loud and standing in the sanctuary. Humorously I turned to my wife and said “HERESY” and continued without looking at the screen while stairing at her. She didn’t know how I knew the Creed. Funny huh? That was the beginning of our coming home to the Catholic Church. Much reading of the Early Church Fathers. Best way to stump bible only Christians is to get them to study the real Church fathers. Just an opinion. You have to meet them where they’re at. Some will never read it without BCV.

Well, I’m still waiting for one of the Apologetics Staff with Catholic Answers to address this. I’m sencerely asking, I gave them a little more info about where we are coming from.

In the mean time, how do I find out when this passage will be read next in the Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office and/or the Mass (weekly or daily)?


If you are looking for standard Catholic commentary, you might try the Navarre bible. They would have a book with just Acts and commentary in it. The commentary includes the Fathers, Councils, saints (especially Josemaria). I don’t own it, but I have read many parts of it, but not that part of Acts. It is orthodox, unlike some of the other possible choices.

I think they have an abbreviated version of it, but you would want the full version. To give you a flavor, this Sat we will read from Acts 6 and here is a cut from the many paragraphs they have there:

[quote=Navarre]2-4. The Twelve establish a principle which they consider basic: their apostolic ministry is so absorbing that they have no time to do other things. In this particular case an honorable and useful function – distribution of food–cannot be allowed to get in the way of another even more important task essential to the life of the Church and of each of its members. “They speak of it `not being right’ in order to show that the two duties cannot in this case be made compatible” (Chrysostom, “Hom. on Acts”, 14).


Navarre Bible Commentaries. I saw those today for the first time at a new Catholic Supplies, Books and Gift Store. I used to own a few thousand dollars worth of Protestant Bible Commentaries, Atlases, Greek and Hebrew Lexicons, Concordances and more. I donated them to another Church along with some of my valuable Catholic books, Liturgy of the Hours, etc., which I’ve replaced.


OP is right, it should be proclaimed and preached, preferably on stewardship Sunday, aimed at those who have not kept their building fund pledges up. The crime was not withholding the money, it was making a solemn vow, taking credit for the gift in public, and then dishonoring the pledge and breaking the vow, and the conspiracy involved in their actions. Like pharoah in Exodus their punishment was the direct result of crime, their own evil intent being turned against them, like a man who tries to shoot somebody who ends up in the struggle twisting the gun against himself.


ACTS 5:1-11 Ananias and Saphira

Poorly written & formatted
Fr. Miguel gave a very interesting homily today during the EWTN Mass this morning. See homily for the day Monday May 21, 2007. I also attached it in a Real Media format.] He elaborated on the role of the Holy Spirit by saying that many of us forget that the Holy Spirit, commonly known as the “Comforter” or “Consoler”, also has another role. That role is to, for lack of memory, punishes the wicked. I believe that we all need to be grateful for our merciful God, but He is also a just God. I fail to see how God could be merciful without first being a just God. Mercy would not have any meaning if there wasn’t something to save us from, His justice for our offenses.

Ananias and Saphira are 2 perfect examples of how God the Holy Spirit can “take care of” those that gravely sin against Him. This seems to be an example of the Peter’s authority, and it shows how the Holy Spirit worked through Peter in the early Church. But this also seems to get down to the business of God, that He is just against the wicked. One has to imagine that for a moment of pause there may have existed during Peter’s speech to Ananias and Sapharia, separate of course. But you have to wonder if they had a moment to repent, but God knew their hearts and expedited justice up front so that all would come to “fear the Lord” and realize the Power of the Holy Spirit which seemed to be fairly new to them in their understanding. The scriptures strongly scorn a hypocrite and Ananias and Saphira were absolutely the epidemy of a hypocrite seeking recognition for something they did not earn/deserve.

Although it is not mentioned, one has to wonder if the Holy Spirit was telling Ananias and Saphira not to lie. I have come to a temporal conclusion that the Holy Spirit must have pricked Ananias’ and Saphira’s hearts/spirit to tell the truth about their wrong doing, maybe even realizing that they would die. They exhibited the sin of pride if this is the case and is a grave sin against the spirit. That is to say it wasn’t the money it was the direct lie to the Holy Spirit after the Spirit probably brought on by Peter that resulted in their death. However I’m just conjecturing, but this explanation seems to make a bit more sense than just to ignore it and say don’t worry about it, think of God’s mercy. Yes, we should think of God’s mercy because it’s a wonderful thing. I submit to the presbyters on this but I feel like we’re due an explanation when seeking answers. But I see Acts 5:1-11 as a warning to those that may fall into this trap of knowingly trying to deceive God. Modern day examples would be all of the scandals that we see on television and in the news with Protestant and Catholic attempted “cover ups

The Holy Spirit bestows multiple graces upon us, but he also judges us.
I’m sure someone else can explain this better than me. But since no one has stepped up to the plate to even attempt it or point me in the right direction from an authority, I’ve taken it upon myself to offer what I’ve discovered so far hoping that I got it right and further hoping that our fearless leaders will step up and correct this feeble and fallible man. I think it’s sad when we can’t get a straight answer from Catholics on such a profound subject that could direct us to a better understanding of God and His ways - God being just is a good thing. Why are we afraid of acknowledging this point? We ought to FEAR Him as the Novena I’m doing indicates. Fear of the Lord is one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. It’s almost like we all ran away from the reality that is the merciful and just. We dare not walk away from the truth that God is Merciful and Just. How can He be merciful without being just? What is the need for mercy without His justice that would have hurled us into the fire of hell (reminds me of the Fatima Prayer). YES! We should focus on His mercy and His forgiveness, His guidance, etc. But we should never forget that because of God’s Justice, he sent His only Begotten Son, Jesus, to save us and by the Power of the Holy Spirit, He became man. Upon Jesus’ resurrection, He sent the Holy Spirit to help us. The Holy Spirit guides us if we’re open to Him. But look out if you spurn Him. Maybe this is a one time thing to show His purpose, power and authority. I am not one to say. But I know that through this example I will know to be as respectful at all times, just as a child learns to be respectful to parents that takes the time to discipline - even when it hurts.

Given the above, it seems that it would really be a good thing to include these readings in the Liturgy at least between the Ascension and Pentecost. I’m open to your comment?


I have often heard speculation that God may bring about a person’s death precisely to stop them from descending into such a life of sin that will end in eternal death. So even death can be merciful.


Checked thru the readings on this site and was unable to find the Acts passage. Unfortunately the site doesn’t have a search engine.

If I read the following site correctly, it appears other faiths omit this passage in their readings also.



I doubt Catholic Answers would know why the passage wasn’t included. Anyone know who establishes the readings for the lectionary? (I think it’s the Congregation for Divine Worship.)



I’m not trying to slam anyone. Yes I’m politely criticizing the lack of information on such a simple question. We should always try to come to know the scriptures, but of course it needs to follow the teaching of the Church. There doesn’t seem to be a teaching on this. I guess it’s a free for all;). The church I came from used this to scare the bageebeez out of you to make you follow the scriptures only in the order of worship, no instramental music, leadership names, no use of titles like bishop, reverend or father and other things solo scriptura, giving, the “Lord’s Supper”. To do other than the “word” is apostate.

The Lectionary answer given to me is that it doesn’t fit in with the theme of Easter, when the surrounding scriptures are read. But this would be a good time for this passage. The eastern Church uses them. But we don’t:shrug:? That confuses me. And shoots down the original answer given me. I think people are using “hip pocket training”, and army term. In other words, they don’t know but are insistent on giving a fallible answer. I’ve checked the lectionaries since Vatican Council II and the one right before, but no reading is on this. I found a site that supposedly had search capability and no such scripture came up.


:thumbsup: :clapping:


Acts 5:1-11 is in the lectionary of the Ruthenian Catholic Church and I expect other Eastern Catholic Churches as well. I did not know that it is not in the Roman Catholic lectionary. Having said that, I found this on Ewtn’s library web page:


Yes. The 38th chapter of Genesis tells the story of Judah, his sons, and Tamar. One of the sons, Onan, practiced the sin of contraception–withdrawal in this case–with Tamar, and the Bible tells us that God slew him because he had done an abominable thing (Gen. 38:10).

It is recognized today that Judah, Onan, and another brother were all guilty of violating an ancient Eastern brotherhood law called the law of the Levirate. However, the punishment for violating that law was very mild and is spelled out in Deuteronomy 25:5- 10. Judah himself admitted his guilt (Gen. 38:26). It is therefore clear that the special punishment meted out to Onan was not just for the violation of the Levirate but rather for the way in which only he had sinned–his contraceptive behavior of going through the motions of the covenantal act and then “spilling his
seed” (Gen. 38:9).

This interpretation is backed up by the only incident in the New Testament where immediate death is the punishment for sin–the deaths of Ananias and Saphira who went through the motions of a giving act but defrauded it of its meaning (Acts 5:1-11).


Micky, that’s interesting, but sounds a bit like where I’m coming from. I would love to hear a scholarly answer that actually makes complete sense.

I take issue with seeing God as “simple” though. I would say that he is infinitely complex (though you could argue that in his infinite complexity he become simple, but that’s out there for my pea brain), knows the essence of everything, exists perfect in every way, and therefore his mercy is infinitly perfect as is his justice.

But so far the underlying answer is that God is Just and God is Merciful. But we emphasize the Merciful in Catholicism and the Justice in Fundamental Protestantism. Interesting. I choose to seek mercy for all of us and on the whole world. HMM. Sounds familiar. :wink:


Simple is applied to God in its philisophical meaning. (God is not composed of parts.)

From Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

God is absolutely simple. (De fide.)
The 4th Lateran Council and the Vatican Council teach that God is an absolutely simple substance or nature (…). The expression simplex omnino asserts that with regard to God any kind of composition, whether physical or metaphysical, is out of the question. From this it follows that:

  1. God is a pure spirit, that is, God is neither a body nor a composition of body and spirit. …

  2. God is an absolutely simple spirit, that is in God there is no composition of any kind, of substance or accidents, of essence and existence, of nature and person, of power and activity, of passivity and activity, of genus and specific difference. Holy Writ indicates the absolute simplicity of God when it equates the Essence of God with His Attributes. Cf. 1 John 4:8 “God is charity.” John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life.” …



I.E. God is Simple, not simplistic :thumbsup:

Peace and God bless!

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