In the beginning of Acts 5, a married couple, Ananias and Sapphira, decide to sell a piece of property that they owned. They wanted to give that money to the apostles, however, they agreed together to hold back part of the money for themselves. Ananias brings the money, and Peter knows he is lying about the price of the land, and asks him why Satan filled his heart to lie about it, and that he has lied to God. Then Ananias falls over dead.
Three hours later, his wife, Sapphira, comes and Peter asks her what they sold the land for, and she tells him the same price her husband did. Peter asks her why she and her husband agreed to lie about it, and she too falls down dead.
There are details to this story that we do not know, but what I am most confused about is the fate of this couple. Jesus interacted with sinners, thieves, adulterers, liars, etc. and he showed mercy and compassion on them. Ananias and Sapphira are giving to the apostles from that which they own. Yes, they did lie about what it sold for, but compared to so many other people Jesus and the apostles encounter, this seems relatively minor.
So then, why death? Why no mercy? Why not teach a lesson here about not lying to God, and a lesson on forgiveness? What does this tell us here, that we must be perfect and never lie or we could die? Acts 5:11 says that a “great fear came over the whole church” – is that how people in the church should feel? I am confused about this event, as it seems much more extreme than it should have been. What do you think about this?