Saturday, February 27, 2016

Lessons from Sapphira (Advice for Wives)

I recently made a few observations about Sapphira in Acts 5.

Sapphira was married to Ananias.
Together, they owned  a possession. (Some Bible versions identify the possession later.)
They sold that possession.
However, Ananias held back part of the profit, Sapphira being fully aware of it.
Ananias presented the gift as though it was all the profit.
Upon presenting his portion, Ananias was caught in his lie and immediately died.
Young men wrapped him up and took him out and buried him.
Three hours later, his wife, Sapphira, came to where her husband had been.
She did not know what had happened to her husband.
The possession was identified as land.
Peter asked her about the profits from the sale of their land.
She lied.
She died suddenly.
She was carried off and buried.
All the people feared.

What strikes me as I read this again and again is that Sapphira was responsible for her own decision to deceive. She, herself, was asked to give an account of the profit from the sale of their land. She could have told the truth. She could have told them the plot her husband had planned and said that she knew about it but wasn't going to go along with it. Apparently, she had her own separate portion of the profits.

This goes against all the teachings that a husband is spiritually responsible for his wife. Ananias was clearly not responsible for Sapphira's decision in this. She was responsible and she paid the price. Scripture noted that she was fully aware of the plan, indicating that she made a separate, conscience decision of her own. She was part of the planning and part of the lie. I wonder how it would have ended if Sapphira had not agreed to the plan.

If Ananias was responsible for his wife, she would have died, too, even though she wasn't there, or they would have never asked her, letting it slide because her husband had already paid the price.

Sapphira's voice mattered. 
Her answer mattered. 
She got to give her own answer. 
She answered for herself.

Some could argue that by the time she was questioned, Ananias was already dead, thus freeing her from his  supposed headship. But, Sapphira didn't know he was dead. As far as she knew, she was still married to him and he was alive and well in another location. She acted independently. She was treated independently, expected to answer for her own actions and not able to hide behind her husband's choices for her.

Message to wives:
Gals, make your own choices.
Take responsibility for your own choices.
Married? You're allowed to disagree with your husband.

Recently, I watched Bringing Up Bates, a TV show on the UP Network which features Gus and Kelly Jo Bates and their 19 children. Their daughter, Michaela, had gotten married and some of the family traveled to Chicago to visit her and her new husband and deliver wedding presents. While there, they were rearranging the furniture in her small apartment and one of her sisters asked her if she liked the new arrangement. She said to ask her husband. The sister persisted in asking her what SHE liked. Her reply disturbed me. She said, "We're married now, so I like what he likes."

No. No, no, no, no, no. That is not what marriage means. That is not acceptable. That is not Biblical.
Look at Sapphira. She had the opportunity to make a choice that was different from what her husband chose. Had she made that choice....the right choice....the choice to tell the truth....she would not have died that day for that sin.

While there's no sin in how the furniture is arranged so it's not an even comparison, Michaela's response effectively took away her option to be herself. What her husband likes is what she'll like now. If it's hideous? If it's wrong? If it's stupid? If it's impractical? If she really, really hates it? Oh, my. I fear for their marriage because that will get old real fast, but when it does get old, Michaela will likely chide herself, feel guilty and effectively become a martyr in her own marriage.

How can her husband tolerate that? If I said that about my husband (I like what he likes because we're married), he'd tell me to grow an opinion and stick to it. Her husband would be wise to encourage her to keep her personality and not allow it to be buried under the marriage heading. Getting married does not negate one person's preferences. It does not raise one person's opinion or preferences over the other. Maybe Michaela thinks she's being submissive, but that is not what submission means and her mom should have told her that on the spot. I want to tell Michaela that she's allowed to hate it even if her husband likes it.

The saddest part of that last paragraph is thinking that her husband would have to encourage her to keep her personality. This is indicative of how harmful the patriarchal teachings of western evangelical churches is. I see this all the time....the wife in these marriages becomes a secondary person in the marriage, unable to answer for herself, think for herself or have confidence when she does make a decision. The evangelical men in these marriages are being the opposite of Jesus Christ. They are not sacrificing anything; they are using their wives as a tool for their own advancement. I find this sickening.

Parents, teach your daughters to be strong, independent thinkers who can make good decisions with or without a husband or father to lend approval or disapproval. Sapphira had the opportunity to think for herself and make a better choice. While she still made the wrong choice, it was hers, all hers. She, unfortunately, made the same bad choice her husband had made a few hours earlier.

A woman who is an independent thinker will make a better wife than one who is not.
A woman who can think for herself is better suited to raise a family than a woman who can't or won't.

A few snippets of advice for new brides:

Don't be afraid to have and voice an opinion that differs from your husband's.
Don't feel guilty if you disagree with your husband. You're allowed to disagree with him.
Always be you, not a shadow of him.
Don't allow your husband's opinions, family and personal preferences become the preferred by default. The default ditch is very hard to climb out of once you allow yourself to go there. (And I guarantee you will want to climb out of it one day, even if you're in it now and think it's just fine. It will not remain fine; it really isn't fine at all.)


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