There are some stories in the Bible that make you just think, “What? Why did that happen? This doesn’t seem like the God that I know?”
One that has stood out to be since my childhood is the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. The short version is that a man and his wife sell property and donate the proceeds to the early church. The only problem is that they held back part of the money for themselves but made others believe that they gave all. In today’s world, this may seem like just a clerical error, but it wasn’t a little thing to God. When Ananias came into the church fellowship to make his presentation he died. So, did his wife a few hours later when she came looking for Ananias.
As a child, I remember learning a song that I never forgot. It was all about Ananias and Sapphira and being a cheerful giver. I will save you the horror. But it left a strong impression on me that trying to make a show of what you do for God doesn’t win you in any brownie points in heaven.
The amount they gave wasn’t the problem. The issue was that Ananias and Sapphira conspired to deceive the church and God. Why did this happen at that point? I am sure that many other people since then have done the same thing or far worse and lived to tell about it. I believe this is more an indictment of our churches and society today than it is a warning about things that happened in the early church. Back then the Spirit of God was moving so strongly that deception in the camp could have disastrous consequences.
When the Holy Spirit moves, He strongly encounters demonic lies and spirits that come against God’s standard. Holiness is serious business. I am reminded of the man who accidentally touched the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament and immediately died. Our sin results in death. That is why we need Jesus and His righteousness.
Today, the warning is about spiritual showmanship or exhibitionism. Any time we do something for public praise, we are on dangerous ground. It is better for us to do something in secret and let God bring it to the forefront if He so desires. Jesus did amazing miracles and then told people to keep it quiet. But today if something happens where God’s power shows up, some are too quick to take credit for it.
There is a thin line here because sometimes we need to go tell others about what God is doing. We need to proclaim righteous causes from the mountain tops, but we just need to check our motives and make sure we are really doing whatever it is for the right reasons.
Are we sharing about a situation to inspire others? Do we want to call others to join the effort? Those are usually good reasons. Or do we want somebody to give us praise?
The deepest lesson here is that even when we deceive others, we will never fool God. In God’s Kingdom, honesty is the best policy because the enemy tends to lurk in the shadows of our lies.