The sin of Ananias and Sapphira did not consist in the withholding of part of the money but in their deception of the community. Their deaths are ascribed to a lie to the holy Spirit (⇒ Acts 5:3, 9), i.e., they accepted the honor accorded them by the community for their generosity, but in reality they were not deserving of it.
Above is the NAB’s explination of the events in our reading … for some reason, I still feel pretty disturbed. I’m not the only one … the lectionary for the Catholic Church leaves out this reading … it’s never used in Mass. As I read at the American Catholic site …
Interestingly, while the Easter season readings emphasize this ideal picture of the early Church, Acts hints at times that all was not perfect. The framers of the Lectionary left out the curious story of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). This married couple withheld from the common pot proceeds from the sale of some property. Peter confronts them and denounces their selfishness. Their punishment seems rather severe, for upon Peter’s interrogation about their evil deception, they both drop dead! Little wonder that this reading did not make it into the Lectionary! The message of instilled fear in the Church (Acts 5:11) goes counter to the hope-filled, joyful message of the Easter season. Yet perhaps the reading interjects a note of realism, namely, that it is not easy to fulfill the idealized vision of Church life presented by Acts.
It’s a sad commentary on human nature that this reading ends with a line that’s meant, I think, to reinforce our faith …. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. I prefer the line from 1 John 4:18 …. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.
– The Death of Ananias by Raphael