One of my biggest pet peeves is when people are dishonest. This includes “white” lies, half-truths, and a little “innocent” exaggeration. I love, however, people who always “shoot straight,” even if it’s not the most convenient or the most exciting.
How does God feel about lying? If you grew up in the Church, you’re all probably singing in your heads the one verse you have memorized about lying (Revelation 21:8). Liars go to hell. I didn’t say it…God said it.
But you knew that.
In fact, you’re probably pretty bored reading this so far because no one thinks of himself as a liar. We all know lying is bad, Hannah, just like we know stealing and murder is wrong.
But what if I told you I know you’re a liar?
You there! Reading this article right now. You’re a liar.
Or at least you have been at some point in your life. And I’m not just talking about the time you ate cookies before dinner and lied about it when you were 5. I mean in your adult life.
Gasp! How dare you?! You don’t even KNOW me, you crazy amateur blogger person!
You’re right, I could be totally off. But here’s why I think that:
I recently read the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. Since it’s only 11 verses long, I’ll include it here:
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 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? 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.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.
Until recently, I’ve always thought of Ananias and Sapphira as terrible, wicked people who deserved what they got. How dare they lie about how much money they were giving to the Lord! But lately, I’ve been thinking more about this story, and I’ve realized that they probably weren’t bad people. In fact, they were probably very admired in the community and in the church. They made a mistake. They sinned. Just like we all do. And they were struck dead immediately as an example of how God feels about dishonesty driven by greed (or by anything else, for that matter).
But why?! They were giving money to God when they could have kept all of it! Doesn’t that count for something?!
That’s not the point. It wasn’t about the money. It was about the lie.
Why in the world would they lie about that, anyway?
I can’t get in their brains or anything, but I’m sure they wanted to feel the glow of all the admiring glances and words of praise from the apostles and from all who heard of their godly generosity. They decided to do something good with part of the money they had earned. If it had stopped there, everything would have been fine. But it didn’t stop there of course. I can imagine the conversation that went down that day, or possibly in bed the night before.
“Hey honey…you know that money we’re gonna take to the apostles tomorrow?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“Let’s not say anything about how much of the money we’re giving…but if they ask, let’s say we’re giving all of it. I don’t want anyone to think we’re being greedy or anything. I mean, we need that money. We know that. But everybody else—they don’t know that…”
I think we’re all guilty of this. Ananias and Sapphira were liars. Even if that was the only lie they ever told, they were liars, and that condemned them. Here are some ways we can sometimes be like them:
You might be a liar if…
- You go to church every time the doors are open, but that’s your only time with God during the whole week.
- You make sure everyone sees you dropping your contribution in the collection plate, when you know that particular portion of your budget is the last priority.
- You teach a children’s Bible class at church, allowing them to believe you actually study your own Bible at home, rather than just scanning the lesson in the 2nd grade curriculum Saturday night before teaching on Sunday.
- You go on a mission trip and love to talk about how evangelistic you are, when in reality, that 2-week trip when you passed out fliers and sat in on Bible studies was the extent of all the soul-winning you’ve ever tried to do.
- You bow your head in congregational prayer while your mind ponders whether you want the pizza buffet at Pizza Hut or chips and queso at Moe’s for lunch.
- You sing out “Bind us together” while you know good and well you have not done your part to make things right with Sister Jones. You’re singing “Purer in heart, Oh God, help me to be” while, if you were truly honest, you’d see the irony in that considering the raunchy entertainment choices you’ve made this month.
- You lead beautiful public prayers, professing your love for Jehovah God, but deep down, you know that’s the only, or one of the only few prayers you’ve said this whole week.
- You always speak up in adult Bible class about loving one another, respecting one another, and being kind even when it’s difficult, but you apply none of those rules to your marriage (the private moments of which no one else sees).
- Maintaining a strict, Biblical moral code is very important to you, and you make sure everyone who knows you also knows where you stand on moral issues, but when it comes to your political vote, Biblical morality comes second to taxes and healthcare.
- You tell your friends you couldn’t make it to worship services because you were under the weather, when in reality, you were just tired and didn’t want to put real pants on (as opposed to PJ pants or sweat pants –which, incidentally, are all I wear at home).
I’m sure you could add to this list. I’m not writing this to be unrighteously judgmental in any way. I’m writing it to retrospectively ask myself (and you, obviously) if we’re being completely and totally honest before God, or if our primary goal is to appear righteous before men. If my primary goal is to look holy, and my actual relationship with God is secondary, I’m no different than Ananias and Sapphira. I’m no different than the hypocrites of Matthew 6:5 who loved to stand and pray on the street corners so that everyone would see how religious they were. I’m no different than Diotrephes, who “loved to have the preeminence” (III John 1:9-10).
At the beginning of this article, I called you a liar. If you’ve never been guilty of being dishonest before God, I apologize for the accusation. I, however, have been guilty of doing that before, and sometimes I do it without even thinking about it.
Sometimes it’s easy to fool men into thinking you’re something you’re not. I have trust issues because of all the times people have deceived me willingly. But it’s not easy to fool God. In fact, it’s impossible.
Galatians 6:7-8 reads, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”
Are you just giving part of yourself to God while pretending it’s your all? Don’t be a liar. Your sin will be found out 100% of the time.