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The truth about lying

OPINION by Pastor Chuck DeVane, guest column | May 28, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

A man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet.

-- Acts 5:1-2, ESV

Few stories in Holy Scripture as shocking as the death of Ananias and Sapphira (read Acts 4:32-5:11 to get the full story). The truth is they lied. Almost immediately, God struck them dead. If this were normative, we'd all be in big trouble. But the context of redemptive history grants us a little reprieve.

Consider the connection between instantaneous miracles and spontaneous death. Only during three biblical periods did God grant certain persons the power to perform miracles on demand. This was during the time of Moses and Aaron, Elijah and Elisha, and Jesus and the Apostles. Interestingly, during those same three periods God killed certain persons who defied the Lord's anointed.

To get to the truth about Ananias' and Sapphira's lie requires a little digging. On the surface, it appears God killed the couple for not giving all the proceeds of their land sale to the church. This is not the truth.

Jesus encouraged secret giving, but gifts to the church can be made public when they motivate other Christians to give. Barnabas became a notable figure in the early church because of a great and total gift he gave. Ananias and Sapphira wanted some of this celebrity. They sold some of their own God-given land, for a price God gave them full stewardship over, kept some of the money, which would have been their God-ordained right, then gave a chunk of it to the church, which could have been a God-honoring gift. But they lied about it, claiming they were giving all, when they only gave some.

Remember this lie. They pretended to give all, but they only gave some. That's the truth about lying, and not just in the case of Ananias and Sapphira.

Hypocrites have abounded in the church for 2,000 years. You can go to church with them, or go to hell with them, take your pick. But I do not think Ananias and Sapphira were two of them.

To call them lukewarm would be closer to the truth about their lies. Those who pretend to give all but only give some do make Jesus sick (ref. Revelation 3:16). They blow off Sunday worship for something they think is more fun (worship is not supposed to fun nor entertaining, it is supposed to be serious, God-centered, and mandatory). They withhold offerings for more pleasurable personal purchases. They try to hide sin from God and God's people, like Ananias and Sapphira.

What should we learn from the truth about lying? Don't give in to guilt, do yield to the Holy Spirit. Guilt comes from Satan, conviction from the Holy Spirit. Everyone was giving offerings, Barnabas gave everything. Ananias was motivated by guilt, they listened to Satan, they were not in a position to give all the proceeds of that land sale, and did not have to, but lied about it anyway. They should have listed to God and given, or not, according to God's word and will.

Don't give in to jealousy, do love your brothers and sisters in Christ. Ananias and Sapphira were jealous of Barnabas. They should have loved him, appreciated him, applauded him instead. But they wanted the attention, they wanted nicknames, they wanted to be leaders when God had called them to be mere followers. By the way, there is a nickname for mere followers of Christ, it is "Christian."

Don't give in to sin, confess them right away. Sin is like snakebite. Hide it and it can kill you. Remedy it right away, and you'll be fine. Granted, God did not give Ananias and Sapphira much time for repentance and confession. When you do something wrong, make it right, with God and whomever you may have sinned against. Who knows what clock is ticking in the timing of the Lord?

Don't give in to fear, at least the fear of people. Do, however, be afraid, very afraid, of God. And I mean real fear and reverential fear. Fear of man is weakness. Fear of God is wisdom.

The case of Ananias and Sapphira closes with this statement, "And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things" (Acts 5:11). That was God's idea all along. Today, you've heard about these things. Fear God. Follow Jesus. Listen to the Spirit and the word of God. And, live.

Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]

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