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Religious Lying

Acts 5:3-6
Then Peter said, 'Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.' When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. (NIVUK)

The Early Church was growing. They devoted themselves to learning from the apostles, breaking bread (communion), praying together and sharing their lives with each other (fellowship) as in Acts 2:42. The more they shared, the more they realised that other believers needed financial and material help. So a number of property owners sold homes or land, and gave the money to the apostles to distribute (Acts 4:34-35).

One couple, Ananias and Sapphira, did just that. But before giving the money to Peter, they agreed together to keep some for themselves. However, they wanted the apostles to believe that they had given all the money (Acts 5:1-2). They lied. Perhaps they wanted to be applauded by the other believers, and pride was their motivation. It may be that their real motive was greed, cleverly camouflaged by generosity. But Jesus condemned such religious lying (Matthew 6:1-4).

Peter knew the truth because the Holy Spirit gave him discernment (John 16:13). Even though Ananias and his wife were believers, they had allowed Satan to stir up greed and lies in their hearts (John 8:44). They did not have to sell their property. It would not have been wrong to keep all the money, or tell Peter that they had retained some of the sale proceeds. But in lying to God's servant, they were lying to Him. God's judgement came quickly as Ananias fell down and died instantly. It was a big warning to all the believers - not to play religious lying-games with God and His people.

We live in a corrupt world and wrong desires lurk within everybody, including us who love Jesus. Satan always tries to take advantage of our weaknesses. His evil plan is to convince us that wrong is right, even showing us how to justify it - sometimes with a mixture of religious fervour and lies. That may look good to the church, but not to God. Ananias had no opportunity to repent, but most of us do (Revelation 2:5). So, let us repent; resolving, with the Lord's help, to identify and resist Satan's temptations to gain personal advantage … and be determined never to lie to God or His people again.

Righteous God. Thank You that You know everything. I repent of being untrue to others and to You, as I have fallen to Satan's temptations. Please forgive me. Thank You for this fresh warning against the folly of playing religious games, masking my own self-interest by appearing to do good. Please help me to see the way that Satan has tricked me in the past, and enable me to learn how to live a godly life in the future. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams