Lying to God

Ananias and Sapphira are a couple we meet in Acts 5. This husband and wife make a show of giving like others in the church, but they were not honest. And, if you recall, their dishonesty cost them their lives. God himself struck down this pair who pretended they were giving their all, but who were really giving for show.

Look at Peter’s words to Ananias.

Acts 5:3-4 – 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.”

What is interesting to me here is the fact that the money itself was not the problem. Peter is quite clear that Ananias and Sapphira had every right to keep or sell their land as they saw fit. Nobody told them they had to sell their property and give its proceeds. But this couple wanted to have their cake and eat it too. They wanted to look to others like they were giving their all while simultaneously holding back some of the financial benefit. Peter says that the dishonesty of this couple was the problem.

Without going deep into the odd spiritual occurrence here, I want us to think about the temptation that got hold of Ananias and Sapphira. It was clearly a big deal to the Lord, as the Lord saw fit to take the lives of this couple. What was the problem? They lied to God.

For sure, these folks lied to impress the people around them. That was a problem. It is terribly tempting to try to look like you are more spiritual than you are. In fact, I’d guess that many of us do this on a week-to-week basis. WE put on a plastic smile and pretend to others around us that we are doing better than we actually are, that we are loving God more deeply than we actually do, that we are willing to serve in a greater capacity than we ever actually have. I certainly am not suggesting that every person must bare the depths of their soul to every other person every Sunday. But I do think we would be wise to strive to avoid the temptation to try to gain status by pretending to be stronger or more spiritual than we actually are.

But Ananias and Sapphira also lied to the Spirit of God. This tells me that, in the process of carrying out this deception, Ananias actually said things to God that were not true. HE lied in his heart to the lord. When standing before the Lord, he said false things. He took his pretending so far that he would say things that he knew to be untrue for the motivation of looking stronger and more spiritual.

Friends, the Lord sees through us in every sense. He sees our thoughts and our motivations. We have no ability to deceive the Lord at any turn. Attempting to do so is foolish on our part and offensive to the Lord. God has never asked people for false claims. God has demanded from us true worship.

What then are we to do? When it is time to worship the Lord, and our hearts are hurting or rebellious, what do we do? Do we lie? Obviously that is a bad idea. Do we avoid the gathering since we are not feeling it? No, that too would be sinning against the Lord by absenting ourselves from worship without providential hinderance. But why not gather with the people of God, be honest about our need, ask a friend to pray for us, and then tell the Lord the truth. When the songs are songs of truth about God, declare them with gusto. When the songs are songs about how we feel, sing them if they are true and talk to God in honesty when they are not.

Friends, take two lessons here. First, do not lie to God. HE knows you. You cannot perform a religious ritual that you do not care about and impress him. You cannot go through the motions of a sacrament and make God think you love him when you do not. But, second, do not let yourself give in to the temptation to pretend a spirituality you do not have in order to impress the believers around you. That kind of dishonesty is deadly dangerous. Let us be people of truth, honestly growing together through our times of weakness and hardship

An Honest Assessment

There is no power in positive thinking when that positive thinking is positively false regarding who we are before the Lord. There may be some good to be gained by a person choosing not to continually dwell on negative thoughts—I’ll never meet my goal; I’ll never get a promotion; I’ll never have a close friend; etc. But when we evaluate who we are in the light of the Lord who made us, we need to speak and think honestly. Only when we see ourselves for who we are can we truly yield ourselves to the Lord and find grace.

Isaiah 64:5-6

5 You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
those who remember you in your ways.
Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

When Isaiah evaluated Israel, he said some very true things about us all. God is good. God is for those who follow him. But, in our nature, we will not do so. We are easily led away from what the Lord commands. In our own strength, even our most righteous acts, the best of our best, will fall short of the infinite perfection of our God. We have been a long time in sin. And, if this does not change, our iniquities will sweep us away to destruction.

Honestly assessing our sinfulness will allow us to look to the Lord with proper humility. A person who understands that Isaiah 64:5-6 applies to us all will be a person who approaches the Lord differently. We will not think, even for a moment, that God owes us goodness. Nor will we think that we, in our own goodness, can earn our way into God’s favor. Instead, we will be like children, helpless on our own, who can only make it if our Father chooses to pick us up and carry us home.

Stop Asking Dishonest Questions

We have all heard people ask questions we know they do not really want to have answered. They like to make demands of us. They like to ask for explanations. But there are certainly people who will ask us things that, no matter how we answer, they will be unsatisfied.

This also happens when people say that they have questions about God and his ways. Often people will say that there is something they are bothered by concerning the Lord, the Bible, and theology. They act as though, if this one question was answered, they would be willing to follow the Lord. But Scripture and real life experience show us differently.

In Luke 20, Jesus was approached by religious teachers with a question. They wanted to know by whose authority he was teaching. Of course, their goal was to trap Jesus and make him look bad. So Jesus put a question in front of them. If they answered it honestly, he would answer them honestly. They refused.

Luke 20:7-8 – 7 So they answered that they did not know where it came from. 8 And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Notice that, when they refused to be honest with Jesus, the Lord refused to answer their question. I think we need to recognize that this indicates to us that God is not at all interested in our dishonest questions.

So, as people raise questions about God and his ways, perhaps you might ask them to seriously consider if they actually want the answer. Will the answer to this question satisfy you? Is there any possible answer that you think would help you? Help them to see that their questions are not often as real as they think. Instead, go ahead and help people to see that what they package as a question may be simple rebellion.

And be careful if this is you. God is not in any way obligated to answer even an honest question. He is God and we are not. How much less is he obligated to answer our questions when our questions are not even honest? Let us yield to God first. Sure, ask questions, but ask the Lord from a heart already submitted to him, and you will find the answers you receive far more satisfying.