In Acts 5, we read the story of a couple (Ananias & Sapphira) who sold some property and gave a portion of the proceeds to their church. Seems good, right? Well, God struck them down dead on the spot.
If you have never read that story, it sounds pretty harsh judgment on someone who just gave a chunk of change to God. However, the story tells us that some others sold items and gave 100% to the church. This couple donated a percentage of the proceeds but–and here’s the kicker–intended others to think they had given it all.
Have you ever thought about how this story my apply to you? Frankly, I haven’t given it much thought. I don’t have much resources to sell and give to God. But, G. Campbell Morgan‘s thoughts on the passage bring the core of the problem to light
The Church has never been harmed or hindered by opposition from without; it has been perpetually harmed and hindered by perils from within.
Let it be carefully remembered that the sin of Ananias and Sapphira was not that of refusing to contribute….Neither was it that of refusing to give all.
Wherein then lay the sin? …The sin of Ananias and Sapphira was the sin of pretending that part was all….The sin of Ananias and Sapphira is that of attempting, by confession of the mouth, or song of the lips, to make it appear that things are, as they really are not.
Morgan right rightly points out the heart of the problem: Pretense. Or, if you prefer, hypocrisy. Pretending to be someone of character when it isn’t true; pretending to feel something when you don’t; pretending to be spiritual when not connected to God; pretending to care about someone to their face while despising them in the heart. Sounds like a spiritual form of plagiarism.
If we are honest, we pretend all the time. We smile when we are angry. We say, “that’s okay,” when we don’t mean it. Now, I should point out that there are times when we don’t feel something but we act in a way that honors what we believe. For example, I may sing praises to God at church when feeling disconnected from him. I may help my son with homework when I would rather do anything else. That is not pretense. It would be hypocrisy only if I were to present myself to others as one close to God or tell my son that I love doing homework with him.
Let us work hard to make our mouths and hearts line up–especially if we have any leadership position. Sometimes we may need to be silent rather than pretend. Other times we may need to be more vocal about what is really going on inside us.
And let us consider soberly what Morgan says about today’s church:
The Church’s administration to-day is not what it was, or there might be many dead men and women at the end of some services.