by Jeff Hagan
(Tacoma, WA, USA)

Acts 5

Halloween. As I write this it is just around the corner. Don't worry, this is not going to be a treatment or discussion on the merits, or lack thereof, of Christians participating in this holiday. That record has been played over and over again and neither side is going to give. I, for one, enjoy the holiday. I might be a little bias though, as Halloween is my birthday. An interesting side note is that it was also my grandmother's birthday and it is also the day she passed away.

Halloween was always so much fun when I was growing up. Then, and now, it is one day a year where we can put on a mask or costume and pretend to be something we are not. We can be something on the outside that we weren't on the inside. Well, let me say that Halloween, unless your profession is acting, is the only day that should be allowed. This is especially true if one claims to be a Christian.

Unfortunately, the visible church is full of people who act one way on Sunday when they are among believers and another way the rest of the week when they let their guard down and become who they truly are inside. We've all heard the stories, or experienced them in our own church, of a leader who said all the right things, dressed the right way, made sure their family portrayed a certain image, only to have this person's private life uncovered. They acted one way at church in front of people for reputation's sake, but behind closed doors they were doing things such as abusing their wives and/or children, having an affair, drinking themselves to oblivion, spending hours online looking at pornography, or living life according to whatever harmful sin it is that had a grip on them.

Today I want to look at one such situation found in the book of Acts. In particular, chapter five of the book of Acts. Wonderful things were taking place among the believers. Even though they knew what would happen if they continued to spread the gospel, they dug in their heels and kept talking about Jesus. God was with them in a special way, in fact, there was such a spirit of unity and love among them they freely shared what they had with those in need. Regardless of how new one was to the faith, they were embraced as brothers and sisters. Barnabas was one such example. Barnabas was originally called Joseph but his name was changed to Barnabas because it means “Son of Encouragement,” and Barnabas was known for encouraging others.

On one occasion Barnabas had sold some land that he owned and brought the money in for the group. “This is to help meet the needs of others,” he said as he laid the money at the feet of the apostles. No one had asked him to do this; he did it out of his love and devotion to the Lord and because he was willing to help and encourage other believers.

Well, a married couple among this group saw what Barnabas had done and witnessed the praise and thanks he received. They wanted a taste of that attention, they wanted some praise, they wanted a pat on the back, so they went and sold the land they possessed. (This is called doing the right thing for the wrong reason, and as is usually the case, it doesn't end well).

I'm sure some of you have already guessed, or remembered, the names of these two individuals: Ananias and his wife Sapphira. Ananias started with, “Hey, why should we sacrifice all of the money we earned? Why not keep some for ourselves and just say we brought it all?”

“Excellent idea!” Saphhira agreed. “How could anyone find out?” So they planned out what they would say, and came up with an amount that they would hold back for themselves.

The next day, Ananias woke up early and took a little extra time primping because he wanted to look his best for when he impressed the others. I can almost hear his thoughts, “Wait until they see what I'm going to do. I can't wait to see their faces when I show them this money I'm bringing to share.” I'm sure he felt proud and maybe a little smug about what he and Sapphira had planned.

Just like Barnabas had done, Ananias came and laid his money down at the feet of the apostles as he declared, “The Lord spoke to me and told me to sell my field and bring in all the money to help fellow believers who are in need.” I'm sure he waited for some clapping and praise, but he didn't quite get the response he expected.

Peter responded, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart? What made you do this? You have lied, even saying the Holy Spirit told you to do something that He never did say. You also lied in that you kept some of the money for yourself while claiming you gave it all. You have not lied to men but to God Himself.”

Those words must have hit him like a ton of bricks, they must have pierced him straight through his heart. Not only that, immediately after Peter spoke those words God struck Ananias dead. Can you imagine the reaction of the group at that moment? I would guess they became completely silent and were struck with the fear of God. God demanded that they be pure in heart and would not accept anything less. Dishonesty wasn't going to fly. Ananias was then taken away and buried.

Some three hours later Sapphira comes strutting in. Maybe she was expecting some kind of party to be thrown in her honor for what she and her husband had done. Not yet knowing what had happened to Ananias, I'm sure the reaction she received wasn't quite what she was expecting either.

Peter asked, “So, is this the price you and Ananias got for selling your land?” Without even so much as a pause out came the lie, “Yes, that is the price.”

Peter replied, “Have you agreed to lie too? You are testing God's Holy Spirit to see how much you can get away with before He judges you. Look! The same men who buried your husband have returned and now they will carry your body off as well.” And with that, Saphhira fell at Peter's feet and the men carried her body out and buried her next to her husband.

Lying to others is bad enough, but lying to God? Come on! Lying to God is a serious trespass, I mean He knows our hearts and our thoughts anyway. When you feel like there might be a barrier in your communication with Him, talk to Him about it, get through it. He knows you inside and out.

Live authentic lives. Love the Lord and serve Him, love Him with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Be pure with Him as He knows the truth anyway.

Ananias and Sapphira pretended to be something on the outside that they weren't on the inside, that is lying to God. Those we discussed in the first few paragraphs, the ones living one way on Sunday and another the rest of the week, they too are lying to God. I don't know about you, but if you're anything like me lying to God is not something you want to be found guilty of.

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