The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment.
II Peter 2:9
I love the book of Acts in the New Testament. As a disclaimer, I love every book in the Bible, but I am especially encouraged by the book of Acts as I read how the Holy Spirit was moving in the early church and how its numbers were increasing day by day. And the people were generous! They were sharing with each other and giving sacrificially to the Lord's work.
For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles' feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need. Now Joseph, a Levite of Cyprian birth, who was also called Barnabas by the apostles (which translated means Son of Encouragement), and who owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. Acts 4:34-37
Well, almost everyone was. Immediately after this encouraging story in chapter 4, we hear what happened to some other folks who didn't give as righteously.
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife's full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God." And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. The young men got up and covered him up, and after carrying him out, they buried him. Acts 5:1-6
It's not clear from the text WHY Ananias and Sapphira didn't turn over all the money except that Satan had filled his (Ananias') heart to lie. It's possible that they knew Barnabas, and knew that he had sold land and given the money to the Lord's work, and that while they wanted to be in the "in crowd" they also wanted to keep some of the money for themselves. If their desire was to get rich, they definitely personify the people that Paul write to Timothy about:
But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. I Timothy 6:9
Ruin and destruction was certainly what happened here, and it didn't take long. But it wasn't only Ananias who paid the penalty for this deception; look what happens to Sapphira.
Now there elapsed an interval of about three hours, and his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter responded to her, "Tell me whether you sold the land for such and such a price?" And she said, "Yes, that was the price." Then Peter said to her, "Why is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out as well." And immediately she fell at his feet and breathed her last, and the young men came in and found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Acts 5:7-10
What is clear is that Ananias and Sapphira had purposed in their heart to deceive the apostles. Satan had done his work in leading them to believe that their plan was acceptable, and profitable. Perhaps James was thinking of this story when he wrote that it is our own sinful desires that tempt us and lead us to act on temptation, giving in to sin and leading to death.
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am being tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. James 1:13-16
When we are tempted, we can lose our ability to discern what is right and what is God's will. We often don't see the consequences - surely Ananias and Sapphira never imagined they would end up dead in this scenario! - and in fact, the devil often persuades us that will be become better, richer, wiser, happier etc. It is so important that we heed James' advice to submit to God and resist the devil, who is the ultimate tempter.
Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7
Don't let yourself fall into temptation - be alert and on the offensive. God is your redeemer, and will rescue you when you call on His strong and mighty name.
So He saved them from the hand of the one who hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. Psalm 106:10
I'll Sing my Temptations Away
Words by Mary McLean
I’ll sing my temptations away,
For tho’ they be artful and strong,
I’ll sing of One stronger than they,
And sing till they flee from my song.
I’ll sing of my Savior, I’ll sing of my Savior,
I’ll sing of my Savior all day, all day.
I’ll sing my temptations, I’ll sing my temptations,
I’ll sing my temptations away, away.
When worldly allurements are strong,
To Christ in my weakness I’ll flee.
And find in His presence a song,
And sing the temptations from me.
When tempests within and without
Suggest that my faith is all wrong,
I’ll sing till grim shadows of doubt
Are lost in the sunlight of song.
And when all temptations are o’er,
A song of redemption I’ll sing,
And swell on the heavenly shore
The praises of Jesus my King.