Before starting in chapter 5 of Acts, it would be good to go back to the end of chapter 4, and just take a look at how the early believers were living by the power of the Holy Spirit. It says in Acts 4:32 "All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had." And from verse 34-35 it says "...those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need."
Just reading these verses at the end of Acts 4 really shows the work of the Holy Spirit among these believers. There was a real unity and fellowship. Nothing was considered their own, but was there to be distributed so that everyone's needs were met!
However, in contrast, look at how Acts 5 then starts. "Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife's full knowledge, he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles feet." Ananias and Sapphira would have seen the great generosity of Barnabas (Acts 4:36-37) and how well he was respected, and no doubt decided that they wanted some of the same respect. And so they sold their possession, however gave only a portion to the church, whilst implying they had given it all!
The word for 'kept back' is 'nosphizomai' and means to 'misappropriate'. The same word is also used of Achan's theft in the Greek translation of the Old Testament. And look at how Peter approaches Ananias. He says to him "How is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit..." Peter doesn't accuse Ananias of lying to the church or the apostles, but rather lying to the Holy Spirit Himself. As a result of their lying and deception, God deals with Ananias and Sapphira ever so severely, and they both die on the spot.
What is it that we can learn from this tragic story? Let's be those that desire to maintain and build the unity of the Spirit within the fellowship of believers. Let's be those that are on the lookout for those in need and share all that we have with those in need. And let's make sure that we give our all to God, in the same way that He has given his all for us, and not seek to hold anything back from Him!