At that moment Ananias fell down dead in front of Peter. Apparently there was a Young Men's activity taking place that evening because several young men there took Ananias outside and buried him. About three hours later his wife arrived, not knowing what had happened. She was probably out shopping with the extra tithing money they had held back. Her husband never showed up, so she decided to look for him.
The moment she entered, Peter asked if it was true that they had sold their property for the price Ananias had quoted. She said yes, lying to Peter just as her husband had done. Then Peter looked her in the eye and said, "How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out" (Acts 5:9).
The young men, who apparently had returned, may have sensed that Sapphira was about to meet the same fate as her husband. At that moment Sapphira fell down dead at the prophet's feet. The young men again entered, picked up the body, and buried her by her husband. Back then the young men had all kinds of interesting service projects!
You may be wondering why this story is so important. Well, it deals with the importance of paying tithingnot just paying it but honestly paying it. Ananias and Sapphira flunked the tithing test. They weren't honest with the Lord or the prophet. They thought they could pay just a portion and keep the rest for themselves. What a selfish way to think. But there's more to the story.
What happens to us today when we don't pay an honest tithe? We don't see young men waiting around the bishop's office so they can have the opportunity to bury someone. But something serious does happen. President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "In our time those found in dishonesty do not die as did Ananias and Sapphira, but something within them dies. Conscience chokes, character withers, self-respect vanishes, integrity dies" ("`An Honest ManGod's Noblest Work,'" Ensign, May 1976, 61).
Paying an honest tithe is an important part of expressing how we feel about the Lord. When we're honest, the Lord recognizes our sacrifice and blesses us with his Spirit. Withholding all or part of our tithing deprives us of that blessing and other blessings the Lord desires to give us.
President Heber J. Grant said: "I appeal to the Latter-day Saints to be honest with the Lord and I promise them that peace, prosperity and financial success will attend those who are honest with our Heavenly Father. . . . When we set our heart upon the things of this world and fail to be strictly honest with the Lord we do not grow in the light and power and strength of the gospel as we otherwise would do" (in Conference Report, October 1929, 4-5).
As you can see, part of preparing for the Second Coming is being honest with the Lord regarding our tithes. But even more important than receiving spiritual strength and financial success, being honest in our tithes gives us protection.
I once heard of a family who had a beautiful home. They had lived there several years and enjoyed having a place of their own. One day they were driving home and saw smoke billowing in the sky. It was coming from their home. As they drove around the corner, they could see that their home was in flames. The fire department was desperately trying to put it out but with no success. Within a few hours, their home was nothing but a pile of smoking ash.
The family was devastated. They had lost everything, and although no one was hurt, all of their possessions were gone. The most frightening part of this story is that the couple didn't have fire insurance. They had no way to rebuild their home or recover financially from the fire.
I love this statement by Elder Marion G. Romney. He said, "The payment of tithing is also worthwhile as fire insurance" ("First Presidency Message Concerning Tithing," Ensign, June 1980, 3). The Lord has said, "He that is tithed shall not be burned at his coming" (D&C 64:23). Paying an honest tithing shows the Lord that we are willing to fill our lamps with oil and do what he asks of us. When the Lord comes again in his power and glory, those who have been honest with him will be spared.
The Old Testament prophet Malachi said, "Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Malachi 3:10). But what about now? Does God bless us now for paying our tithing?
My wife and I had the opportunity to speak with Elder Jay Jensen of the Seventy when I was hired to work for the Church Educational System. We were quite nervous as we waited for our meeting, but our fears quickly dissolved when we met him. He was kind and friendly, and he put us at ease. He asked us many questions about our family and future, but he said one thing I will never forget. He told us that if we were faithful the Lord would pour out his blessings upon us.
Then he quoted Malachi 3:10 and asked us what blessings the Lord pours out upon faithful tithe payers. "Faith and wisdom," we answered. He then told us that when the Lord pours out blessings, he does miracles. He said the Lord would make the tires on our car last longer, the soles of our shoes travel farther, the food in our pantry go further, and many other simple things we might not notice.
I know that's what the Lord will do for you too. Not only will paying an honest tithe be good fire insurance, but it will also allow the Lord to bless you in ways you probably may not see. He will bless you with increased understanding as you study in school, he will give you courage when you are fearful, and he will guide you to make wise decisions.
What a blessing it is to pay tithing! Let's not become like Ananias and Sapphira. Let's be honest with the Lord as we give him his one-tenth and then watch as the windows of heaven open wide.