When I turned fifteen and a half, I got my driver’s permit. I read the book and learned the difference between a yield sign and a stop sign. With my newfound knowledge, I was ready to drive. I remember the day my driver’s ed instructor pulled his red Dodge Shadow down our driveway and invited me to the driver’s seat.
We got out on the road and rode around a while. Stop here, go here, turn there. Turn a little sooner, turn your signal on a little later. A few lessons into the class, I took my hands away from 10 and 2 for a second. You would have thought I was playing chicken with a firetruck. He came unglued. Lesson learned.
Early on, it took a while to get the braking down. I didn’t exactly ease on the brake as we approached an intersection. I slammed on the brake, which sent us catapulting toward the windshield into the polyester arms of the seatbelt. That’s what I feel like happens when we come to Acts 5.
We’re cruising along through Acts 2, and over 3,000 people have just been born again. It was revival in Acts 2. Then we come to Acts 3,Peter and John pray, and God heals a man who never walked or jumped rope a day in his life. Now we come to Acts 4. After the crowd witnessed this wonder, many of them believed and birthed a 5,000 soul revival. The church is bursting at its newly sewn seams. They’re setting out chairs every service. People are being born again. And at the end of the chapter, they didn’t care who owned what. They brought all their stuff to the apostles and laid it at their feet. Barnabas was so moved by their giving to bless others, he took the cash out of his pocket from his land he sold and gave it to the apostles.
That’s when Ananias saw Barnabas’ giving and saw some of the handshakes and heard the “thank yous,” and thought, I like that. I’ve got a parcel I can part with. Maybe I’ll get a plaque for the wall and a seat on the platform. So he sold his stuff and broughtthe cash to the apostle Peter. The church was cruising along with the top down and tunes up. Until.
God slammed on the brakes. If God wasn’t driving, He had one of those handy parental brake pedals on the passenger side. Ananias claimed this was all the money, but he and his partner in crime and in life knew better. They both knew they still had a stash of cash under the mattress back home. And the apostle Peter knew it, too because God let him know Ananias was lying.
The issue wasn’t the offering. He didn’t have to sell one square foot of his land or give one shiny shekel to the church. God wasn’t upset because he wasn’t generous; God was upset because he wasn’t honest. Peter told him, “You’re not lying to me; you’re lying to God,” and Ananias fell to the floor in a heap and died.
When God slammed on the brakes on this breakthrough revival, it taught us God is more interested in having a holy church than a huge church. At the end of that day, Ananias and Sapphira were buried, but not because of murder or adultery or idolatry; they were buried because of dishonesty. This story isn’t written in Scripture to make us afraid God will strike us for every misstep; it is written to let us know God calls for honesty from His people. Your boss should never have to wonder if the time you wrote on your time sheet is the actual time you worked. If you’re selling your car, the buyer should breathe easier because Christians are honest. If those aren’t all highway miles, don’t say they are. Be honest.
Every April, when it’s time to pay taxes, the IRS should be able to thumb past all the Christians’ tax returns because Christians don’t cheat on their returns. When your teacher finds out someone has been selling the answers to the final, she should come to your name and move right past it because you’re a Christian and Christians don’t cheat. May it be true of Christians that you can run a spiritual CT scan and MRI on us, but you won’t find any deceit in us. We want to be holy, and to be holy, we need to be honest. Ananias would tell you. Sapphira, too.
Honesty is still the best policy. «