I have always been uneasy about the traditional interpretation of the incident with Ananias and Sapphira recorded in Acts 5. Jesus rebuked James and John for wanting to call judgment down on people who rejected Jesus, yet this incident seems more like their behaviour than Jesus behaviour (Luke 9:52-55).

Peter accused Ananias of lying to the Holy Spirit. It is clear that Ananias lied to Peter, but why charge him with lying to the Holy Spirit. That would imply that anyone lying to a Christian is lying the Holy Spirit. That seems a bit strong.

Anyway, lying to the Holy Spirit does not justify death, or we would all be dead. There is no place in scripture that specifies death for lying to the Spirit.

The situation with Sapphira is even more strange. According to Acts 5:2, Ananias made the decision to keep some of the money. His wife knew about it and went along, but she was just submitting to her husband's decision. She was just doing what Sarah became a hero for doing; submitting to her husband when he cheated someone.

Sarah was not punished when Abraham lied to the kings that he was afraid of. I suppose some would say that Sapphira should have challenged Ananias, but Sarah did not challenge Abraham's lies. Therefore, Sapphira's failure does not seem to justify the death penalty. So why did Peter put a curse on her?

The other interesting question is why the couple were under such pressure to give all their money to the apostles. An examination of the relevant verses shows that an interesting transition had taken place. In the beginning, those giving away their possessions distributed their money themselves.

Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need (Acts 2:45).
Within a short period of time, the giving was all going through the apostles. The church had moved to centralised funding.
Those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need (Acts 4:34-35).
This was a significant change that increased the power of the apostles. The apostles had committed to feeding a lot of people who were hanging around in Jerusalem, rather than being sent out as Jesus had commanded. This put tremendous financial pressure on the apostles. Maybe this pressure caused them to begin putting pressure on the members of the church to give more money, which allowed sin to get in.

Centralised funding always leads to problems. The problems quickly became clear when some of the disciples became dissatisfied with the way the funding distributed, and evangelists like Stephen had to be diverting to giving out food (Acts 6:1-5). These problems would not have occurred if giving had remained relationship-based and local, where everybody knew each other, and understood who had real need.

Did Ananias just die of shock? Did Peter reinforce the fear this produced, by declaring that the same thing would happen to his wife? I wonder if Peter was abusing the power of the Spirit in the same way that Elisha did when he set bears on the smart boys and got them killed (2 Kings 2:23-25)? I suspect Peter may have been abusing his power in an effort to get more money for the church.

Prophetic power must be used carefully. It should never be abused.