“But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 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. 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? 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’ ” (Acts 5:1-4).
Most of us like to believe we always think and act honestly, but do we? For example, do some of us tell ourselves we are in great shape, but when we are actually examined by a doctor we are told we need to lose some weight, exercise more, and start eating a better diet? In such cases, were we not actually lying to ourselves by saying we were in great shape?
In the passage above we see a couple who not only were being dishonest with themselves, but also with God (Acts 5:1-9). During this time, we see that some Christians who had sold their lands and gave it to the apostles in order to help needy brethren (Acts 4:34-37). This was commendable, but it was not commanded. The Christians did not have to sell their land, but it was a gracious gesture by those who did as they sought to demonstrate their love for their needy brethren (cf. John 13:34-35).
One Christian couple who also sold their land was Ananias and Sapphira. After selling their land, they kept back part of the proceeds for themselves and laid the rest at the apostles’ feet (Acts 5:1-2). However, they had given the appearance that the money they gave to the apostles was the full price of the land (Acts 5:3-4, 8). Ananias and Sapphira had conspired to give this false appearance regarding the land they had sold (Acts 5:9). When the apostle Peter confronts them about this, Peter says they had not just lied to men, but they had lied to God (Acts 5:3-4). As a result, both Ananias and Sapphira drop dead before Peter and great fear comes upon the whole church (Acts 5:5, 10-11).
Why did God reveal this account of what Ananias and Sapphira did in the New Testament Scriptures? Why did Ananias and Sapphira do this? Did they really think they could get away with trying to deceive God? Part of the reason this account is given to us is to warn us of our tendency, at times, to lie to ourselves and, in doing so, to even be dishonest with God.
Remember, Ananias and Sapphira were Christians. As Christians, do some of us lie to ourselves and to God? For example, do I tell myself I am a faithful Christian, but lie to myself because I harbor hate in my heart for others (cf. 1 John 2:10-11)? Do I sing to God on Sunday saying, “Blest Be the Tie that Binds”, when I have no intention of coming to other assemblies of the church to encourage my brethren to keep up the faith (cf. Hebrews 10:24-25)? Am I dishonest with God saying I love Him, but ignore and refuse to submit to certain commandments He has given me (cf. John 14:15; 15:14)? Do I worship with my brethren at church singing, “Love, One Another for Love is of God…” when, in my heart, there are some of them I can stand and refuse to forgive (cf. Matthew 6:14-15)?
I am not calling for sinless perfection among Christians, but I am calling for us to be honest with ourselves and with God. We are told to examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). I want to be honest with myself and with God. Today, as I go forth to serve God I refuse to lie to myself by pretending I am something I am not, but will examine myself in the faith!
“Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Corinthians 13:5).