Slowly the couple walk through the centre of the room. Together they approach the leaders' council, and pause in respectful silence before these towering pillars of the church. Then they present their case, bringing forth positive arguments and deftly avoiding the down-sides. Then, filled with hopeful anticipation, they await the response.
One word. That is all it takes. Hopes dashed, expectations perished, plans rendered useless.
“What?” The wife asks incredulously. Then, catching herself, she carefully rephrases the question.
“I mean, why, leader, do you reject our case? As far as I can see everything is perf...”
“We do not have time to consider this, woman. As you know, we are currently bogged down with this problem of evenly distributing funds. So for now your plea that we accept your nomination into the church council cannot be considered. By the way, Ananias. We all know you're well off. I don't suppose you'd care to help out those starving widows?”
“I can't believe he said that!” Sapphira screeches, pacing around the room. “What is wrong with those people?”
“Yes, dear. I understand.” Ananias skilfully dodges a wildly flapping arm. “Calm down, Saph. It's nothing very important.”
“Nothing important? Don't you understand, husband? Our entire plan hinges on your getting a place on that council. Nothing important? Bah!”
“Well then maybe we could just sell some of our land. A less valuable piece. Peter does seem to have a good point. We should respect his opinion, don't you think?”
“Respect his opinion? Bah! A little bit will not be enough. We'd have to sell our lovely field for them to think that we'd made enough of a sacrifice. Which we can't do. It would set up back seven stages! Seven stages, husband!” Sapphira starts pacing again, muttering under her breath. Suddenly she stops. A sly grin creeps across her face. “Yes, of course! We shall sell our field, husband. We shall do just as you have suggested.”
“Well, I don't know Saph. You seem to think the field is rather important, and I'd hate to upset you.”
“Silence!” Sapphira thunders. “Don't worry, Ananias. This will all work out. Trust me.”
Three weeks later, a fat man dressed in a shabby garment leaves the house. Inside Sapphira weighs a money pouch in her hand, her appearance speculative. She empties the gold coins on the table and begins to count then. “Thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty! There. That's enough.”
Perplexed, Ananias surveys the table. Something doesn't look quite right. “But dear, didn't we get more for the field?. Oughtn't we give all of it to...”
“Hush, husband. Don't worry about it. Do you understand the plan?”
“Yes, Saph. I remember. I go in and place this money at Peter's feet, tell him it's the money from our field, and then I slip my nomination into the conversation. Right?”
“Correct, husband. Off you go now. I shall expect you home in an hour's time as a deacon Goodbye!”
The moment her husband is out of earshot Sapphira leaps into the air. “Yes!” she cries exultantly. “At last!”
Three hours later Sapphira storms up to the church headquarters. She pauses at the doorway to control her raging emotions and then, with a deep breath, she pushes open the door. Why is everybody looking at me strangely? she wonders. What's that idiot Ananias done now?
“Sapphira. We've been expecting you,” Peter rumbles.
Expecting me? Why?
“Tell me, Sapphira. Is this the full price you and Ananias received for your land?” He gestures towards a small table with forty gold coins stacked on it.
No time to concoct a clever lie, girl. “Yes, sir. It is indeed the full price.”
Peter sighs, wearily shaking his head. “Foolish woman. You would test the Spirit of the Lord? Look there!”
Sapphira turns and sees three men coming in, their clothes and hands filthy.
“The men who buried your husband are at the door, ready to bury you also.”
Sapphira stares at Peter unbelievingly. He's dead. How? They've killed him? Then they'll kill me too!
“No, wait! It's the truth. Please!” Then she screams. A white light enfolds her.
“No! Make it stop. Aaaaaiiiiiiiii!!” The light vanishes. Saphira sways. She crumples to the floor. From the folds of her dress a small pouch tumbles loose and scatters out its contents; 60 gleaming gold coins.
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