… “Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:4)
Have you ever played Mad Gab? It’s a game where a seemingly random group of words turns into a phrase that makes sense when pronounced correctly. For example, the words “Ace Lip Puff That Hung”, said quickly, sound more like “a slip of the tongue”. How it’s heard means more than how it’s said. This game plays for me, mentally, whenever someone says, “Ananias and Sapphira”; I always hear, “and a lie sets a fire.” The mind association probably comes from James 3:6 “the tongue is a fire…” because their lies did destroy them. Literally.
According to my Aunt Ruthie, “everybody lies” (to spare feelings – “that looks great!”, to avoid conflict – “it’s fine”, to dodge commitment – “I wish I could but I’m busy that day”). This is, by no means, an excuse. The story of Ananias and Sapphira shows how strongly God feels about lying. In Acts 5, we see that they agreed to deceive their friends and cheat the church to make a personal profit while appearing generous. The lie was so unnecessary. The property was theirs to sell. All of the proceeds belonged to them already. But prior to this event, they had observed and coveted the respect received by the generosity of Barnabas when he sold his field and laid the money at the apostle’s feet. So, Ananias and Sapphira put on a noble mask to present their contribution as the total price yet kept back a portion for themselves. But God, as always, knew the truth and granted Peter discernment in this situation: “Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” (Acts 5:4) Each was confronted individually and given an opportunity to confess but both chose to continue in the lie and died instantly. David Guzik makes a powerful observation regarding their deaths: “This was a harsh penalty for a sin that seems to be common today. Some wonder if God was not excessively harsh…The greater wonder is that God delays His righteous judgment in virtually all other cases.”
Ananias and Sapphira cared more about reputation than reality. They desired a spiritual image over the Spirit’s impact. Beyond their deception and obvious greed are sin roots of pride, power, flawed faith, even distain for God. You see, there’s no such thing as a little white lie. It always grows deeper. In verse 3, the Greek word used for “kept back” is “nosphizomai” (“to misappropriate” or steal). If you remember Achan from Joshua 7, his theft was described by this same word. These Old and New Testament stories are similar in that the sin of one person (or couple) pulled to a screeching halt the forward movement of God’s people, and it begs the question; are you that person? Has your sin caused dissension, even division in the home, community or church? May our hearts never be so far from God, that we honor him with our lips only. Interestingly, Ananias and Sapphira’s names (“God is gracious” and “beautiful”) reflect more on God’s character than their own. The sudden deaths did spare the church an attack from within but also, assuming they were believers who just made a really bad decision (because salvation isn’t earned through works or annulled by sin – thank you, Jesus!), heaven is a beautiful showing of God’s graciousness.
No matter how we spin our sin, God hears truth. He’s the Mad Gab champ! If you play games with Him, you will lose. The Lord looks above actions to attitudes and beyond behavior to motive. Regarding the currency of time, treasures and talents, God sees not only what we give but what we hold back. “And a lie sets a fire”, but God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins when we confess. If you’re wearing a mask, living a lie, dancing with the devil, drop everything and run back to the Father while you still can. Team Jesus wins every time.