Acts 5:1-4: Lying to the Holy Spirit

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."

Acts 5:1-4, NIV

Why would a Christian give a false impression to other Christians when God knows exactly who they are? One might understand this in a society where it is popular to be a Christian, but in the new church in Jerusalem, being a Christian wasn't popular and no adult had been raised by Christian parents. I can tell you how an earnest Christian who eagerly desired to follow Christ fell into such a sin.

A student just ahead of me was selling her chemistry book back to the bookstore. The only mark she had made in the book was her name in ink on the inside cover. The bookstore manager told her that they had to buy the book back as used because she wrote in ink. He would have allowed her to erase her name and sell it back as new if she had written her name in pencil. The bookstore had run out of chemistry books and I needed one, so I bought the book used.

A year or two later, I dropped a physical chemistry lab to reduce my class load. I had written my name in pencil and underlined a few places in the textbook, so I erased these. However, I had underlined on one page in ink. To hide this, I glued the tip of the page together with its facing page, so that, if someone thumbed through the book, they couldn't see that page.

I returned the book to the bookstore and showed the manager where I had erased my name. He asked me if I had written in the book. I told him that I had written in pencil in a few places, but had erased them. I held the book out to him. He took the book without checking it. Then, what he said cut deeper than a knife. He said, "I trust you." These words were particularly cutting remembering how bookstore workers usually thumbed through returned books looking for marks.

One might have expected such behavior from an undedicated Christian, but this was not the case. My last year in high school, I had given up a dream of becoming an aerospace engineer to pursue the call to the ministry. I had completed three or four years of Bible classes. I earnestly sought to do God's will. On the other hand, I could have lived without the money. Why would I do such a thing that I knew was clearly wrong?

The next year a student bought the book new. He discovered the hidden page marked with ink. While eating in the cafeteria at school, without mentioning my name, he talked about the condition of the book and that he could read the erased name. I ignored him. Later, the physical chemistry professor confronted me about it. I also ignored him and did nothing.

The student had done the proper thing to correct me (Matthew 18:15-17). He had confronted me. When I didn't admit my wrongdoing, he found another Christian (the professor) to confront me about what I had done. I'm grateful that they gave me this opportunity, but I didn't take it and missed the chance to correct the situation then. Believe me, I wouldn't do such a thing again, but I missed the chance to repair the tarnished relationships with the student, professor, and store manager.

While I asked God for forgiveness and he forgave me, I never reconciled the awkward relationships. I ignored this until about twenty years later when reading 1 Samuel 15 about the Lord rejecting Saul. Saul's sin seemed so trivial. Yet, it was important enough to God that He rejected Saul as king. In the despair of realizing that my sin was just as grievous as Saul's, I cried out internally to God. Then, I heard Carolyn Arends' song, "Love is Always There," on KLTY and thought about how terrible David's sin was with Bathsheba. Yet, God did not reject him as king. The difference was that when confronted, David truly repented, while Saul only showed the appearance of repentance. Saul's actions continued to show that he would not accept God's decision. God's response involved whatever it took to make a correction.

I could have ended the impact of this sin years ago, but now I let the mistrust in the wounded relationships (Matthew 5:23-24) add to that of a generation emaciated by a loss of integrity. Now, looking at my children, I must strive to turn around the misleading influence that this generation has had as its first president illustrated so clearly through his lack of integrity. Past opportunities are gone, but I can now warn those that follow.

Why did I do such a thing? The only way I can explain it is the same explanation for other sins such as lying or stealing. It showed a lack in my trusting God. It showed a lack of believing that God would provide for me and work things out as they should be. Foolishly, I had to intervene with what I thought needed doing. Thank God, He still works out His plans despite our failures. When Barnabas sold the land and gave the money to the apostles (Acts 4:32-37), he showed his faith not only that God would provide for him, but that the imperfect Christians that he gave the money to would help him out if he need it.

God has an interesting way of teaching us in the story of King Saul and King David. In physical appearance, Saul was the largest and strongest person in all Israel. On the other hand, David was an ordinary looking shepherd boy, but David had a heart that desired God's will (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22). Ultimately, we need to live life recognizing that God sees all things, even our thoughts and motives, and that we are responsible to Him above anyone else.

©1999 Perry Vernon Webb. You may quote this page in part or the whole as long as you do not alter the wording and reference this Internet page as the source of the quote.