Summary: Don’t pretend to be better than you really are. You could end up worse than you were; and besides, you don’t have to fake it to make it with God.
A cowboy walked into a Texas bar, ordered three bottles of beer, and sat in the back room, drinking a sip out of each one in turn. When he finished them, he came back to the bar and ordered three more.
The bartender told the cowboy, "You know, a bottle goes flat after I open it. It would taste better if you bought one at a time."
The cowboy replied, "Well, you see, I have two brothers. One is in Australia, the other is in Dublin, and I'm in Texas. When we all left home, we promised we'd drink this way to remember the days we drank together, so I drink one for each of my brothers and one for myself."
The bartender admitted this was a nice custom and left it there.
The cowboy became a regular in the bar and always drank the same way. But one day, he ordered only two bottles. All the regulars took notice and fell silent. When he came back to the bar for the second round, the bartender said, "I don't want to intrude on your grief, but I wanted to offer my condolences on your loss." The cowboy looked puzzled for a moment, then a light dawned and he laughed.
"Oh, no, everybody's just fine," he explained. "It's just that my wife and I joined the Baptist Church in Longview, and I had to quit drinking. It hasn't affected my brothers though." (Ed Rowell, Monument, Colorado; www.PreachingToday.com)
Who is he kidding? And yet that pictures a lot of church members who attempt the same thing. They pretend to be better than they are. It’s a problem as old as the first church in the First Century. We Christians have been practicing it for centuries.
Acts 5:1-4 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” (ESV)
Ananias lied. His sin was not in holding back some of the money. It was his to do with as he wanted. Peter told him the money was “at your disposal.” Ananias’ sin was not in holding back. It was in hiding the truth.
He tried to make it look like he gave ALL his money to the church, when in fact he only gave MOST of it to the church. He tried to make himself look better than he really was. He tried to make himself look as magnanimous and generous as Joseph in the previous chapter.
At the end of chapter 4, Joseph sold a tract of land and brought ALL of the money to the church. The believers were so encouraged, they nicknamed him Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.” “Oh Barnabas,” they said. “You’re such an encouragement.”
The whole church praised him, and I think Ananias wanted a little of that praise for himself. He wanted people to think he was wonderful too. So he devised a scheme to make it look like he was better than he really was. To put it plainly, He lied. And as a result, he died.
Acts 5:5-6 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. (ESV)
Ananias tries to make himself look better than he really is; and as a result, he ends up worse than he ever was. He lied, so he died. The same thing happened to his wife.
Acts 5:7-8 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” (ESV)
She lied, just like her husband. So
Acts 5:9-11 Peter said to her, “How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events. (ESV)