When We Lie

Acts 4:32-5:11
32Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.
33And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.
34There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold
35and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
36Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus,
37sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
5:1But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,
2and 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.
3But 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?
4While 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.”
5When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.
6The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
7After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.”
9But 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.”
10Immediately 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.
11And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things.

We’ve all been lied to at some point in our lives and it stinks. It’s the worst feeling. For me it says the other person thinks I’m stupid and easily manipulated. Just thinking about it gets me a little hot. But being on the receiving end of a lie is a universal experience because there are many people for whom lying is a part of their everyday existence.

The early church had to deal with lying almost immediately. Our reading for today tells of a particularly despicable lie that impacted an entire community. As the story begins the new church is thriving and that is because they care for the group more than they care for themselves. Everyone is watching out for everyone else so that all have enough food, shelter, and daily necessities. But into that harmonious existence a lie is born. It was the practice of these new Christians to share all of their worldly wealth. Many sold their property putting the money into a community fund and as a result no one suffered want. For reasons we can only speculate about, Ananias and Sapphira decided to lie about their financial participation. They too sold their property but instead of turning over the money to the community, they kept some back for themselves. The problem wasn’t that they chose not to give all of the money to the group. The problem was that they lied about it. Peter even acknowledges that they were under no compulsion to turn over all of the money. It was theirs to do with as they wished. But in order to look good in the eyes of the people they said it was the whole of their holdings. This lie is immediately revealed to Peter by the Holy Spirit. He calls a lie a lie and both of them drop dead upon being questioned separately. You have to admit, the consequences of the lie are pretty dramatic. Peter calls it when he says that they have lied to God; as if God could be deceived!

Lying doesn’t always blow up in your face when it comes to other people. Sometimes they don’t find out you are a liar. But you can never lie to yourself (not really) or to God. The Apostle John quotes Jesus calling Satan the father of lies.

John 8:44

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

I left the words in read because they come straight from the mouth of Christ. Jesus knew Satan personally and when He says these words they cut to the heart of the matter. Ananias and Sapphira were speaking with the voice of Satan. Their lies were born in Satan’s heart and so are ours. This husband and wife lost their lives for lying to God and their lies show us what was going on in their hearts. But Jesus did not call lying unforgivable. He died for this sin too. We are forgiven in His blood even for our lying tongues. Perhaps such a sacrifice might inspire a greater desire to live with the truth instead of with lies.