This morning as I was stewing over a particular issue I have recently encountered, the Holy Spirit brought a particular account from the scripture to mind. You see a child I had a particular penchant for spinning yarns in order to play another day or avoid punishment. I conjectured early in young adult days I did not deserve the title of “Liar”. In my view I was lying out of self preservation as a child, being that Mom and Dad were fairly strict and had higher expectations for me than my own lazy mind could machinate. When Jesus saved my soul, pulling me from the fire, I saw how black my deceptive heart truly was. I told “little white” lies to avoid discomfort, “big whopper” lies to impress people and “Bold faced “lies when people knew the truth and I stubbornly wanted to not admit it. Rest assured dear brothers and sisters I have not regressed. By God’s grace and transformation in my life, I want to always be a man of truth, which brings me to my point. For many years my family and I have been privileged to love Jesus and His redeemed children, yet believers in America as a group, bare a very strong mark of immaturity; we are often very dishonest. We are given the Holy Spirit who is the Spirit of Truth and saved by a God who demands “truth in our inward parts” yet we often are dishonest with one another without thinking or having a tinge of conviction. More often we are dishonest about the real state of our heart and the areas of our redeemed souls which are still untouched by God. After reading the scripture I will resume our discourse.
Acts 5:1-11 (NKJV) 1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. 7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband. 11 So great fear came upon all the church and upon all who heard these things.
This account is very well known yet, not often preached on. When most approach this story, it is not uncommon to scratch your head from a natural perspective. How is it that what this husband and wife did was so sinful as to merit such a definite and final response? There are several reasons for this, not the least of which that God demands truth in the heart of the redeemed. below are four other reasons….
THE CHURCH WAS AT ITS MOST BEAUTIFUL STATE
When not looking at this account in context it is easy to miss the reason for God’s severe response, so a little context is in order. When looking back at the first four chapters of Acts we find some phenomenal events indeed: The miracles of Pentecost (Holy Spirit Baptism, speaking in tongues, 3000 new believers), Acts 3 (healing of the lame beggar, power preaching, 5000 believers) Acts 3 and 4 (jail, warning not to preach in Jesus name). In Acts chapter 4 we see the church praying after the release of the apostles from confinement. In this powerful prayer they did not ask for removal of persecution or the destruction of their enemies but boldness and powerful miracles in Jesus name. As a result the place where they were meeting was shaken and all were filled with the Holy Spirit again. Read with me the results of that event.
Acts 4:32-37 (NKJV) 32 Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. 33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. 36 And Joses, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, 37 having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
Can you imagine a church of believers like this in America? This blessed state of fellowship must have made the heart of God sing out with great rejoicing. I don’t know if the kingdom on earth has had a more pure time of self-effacing love. This unity and life giving was instituted by God and revealed His heart to the lost around them like nothing else could, so Ananias and Sapphira’s actions inflamed the anger of God. In essence their selfishness was a threat to God’s love in Christ through each believer.
NONE OF WHAT WAS GIVEN WAS A REQUIREMENT FROM GOD
As we read the above passages we see that none of the giving was a requirement of God. These believers gave in the New Testament way, which is to give cheerfully (meaning hilariously, so generous as to cause laughing) giving that puts the hand in the pocket and desires to give all it can pull out. This of course is the heart of God Himself, who gave His only begotten Son for those who were His enemies at birth (This is why the gospel is foolishness to the perishing), and illustrates why the behavior of the husband and wife in question was so awful. The early believers were showing the very heart of God. Ananias and His wife were thinking of themselves and selfishness is the motive for all dishonesty.
WHAT THEY GAVE WAS ONLY TO MAINTAIN A RIGHTEOUS FACADE
It is obvious that the generosity affected the slain parties because they gave some of it, which displays another reason for the serious response from God to their sin. In their offering they were trying to deceive others into believig they were just like everyone else who had money to give. Therefore the amount they gave was to keep up an appearance of right, which is the height of hypocrisy. As followers of Christ we are not given a standard by which we are to give. I realize many will claim the tithe as our requirement and site Malachi 3:8-10, as a proof for this continuance as a New Testament practice, but your barking up the wrong tree. Using Malachi 3:8 to ply Christians into giving more is the opposite of the New Testament standard, which is cheerfully, which is usually more than 10 %. In all honesty we in America pronounce our offering proudly and testify to how blessed we are because of it while benefiting further through our tax returns (funny, that don’t sound like not letting your right hand know what you left hand is doing, kind of sounds like a great horn blast!). To do something to keep up appearances is to be dishonest in the area of motive. Freely you receive freely you are to give.
THEY THOUGHT THEY WERE GETTING AWAY WITH IT
The final reason God judged their dishonesty so severely is they thought they were getting away with sin, and did not care how it affected the rest of the body of Christ. Make no mistake about it we apply degrees to our sin, and we do so to our own detriment. When God sees sin, it is sin. For us as Christians there is provision already made for our failure to walk in perfect righteousness (I John 1:9) praise God for the cross, but to willfully sin is heinous in God’s sight, because it is premeditated (Hebrews 10:25-26), or thought out ahead. When we know what we are doing is not honest it is particularly egregious, in fact Revelation 22:15 clearly speaks of those not inheriting the kingdom of God, and among the more vile sins is one labeled those practicing lying. Ananias ans Sapphira willfully thought out there act of fraud and sadly they were slain by the Spirit of God. Peter’s Word should ring in our ears loudly… “You have not lied to men, but God”
Here is the point; we must be careful not to be dishonest people. To not strive for truth at all cost and in all areas of our lives is to dishonor God and deny the Spirit which abides in the believer. Sadly we often don’t think what we do or say as being dishonest and in situations where it is advantageous we will fib a little to avoid discomfort or “keep the peace”. This is the scourge of what we call situational ethics, and it grieves the Holy Spirit. We Christians must let the death of Ananias and Sapphira serve as a lamp in the dark revealing; God does not trifle with willful sin, any willful sin, as He desires truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6). Let us remember God sees all, even what humans cannot see, and while we sin by lying or being deceptive or holding back the full truth, He sees it and it grieves His heart.
I challenge you to defy gravity this week, prayerfully consider if you have been telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If you have been dishonest, not fully forth right or just outright lying… Confess it to God and go make it right with whomever you were intending to fool. When we practice dishonesty we hinder the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives and others around us. May God bless you as you mind the word of God on this matter.
Ephesians 4:25 (ESV) 25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.