I’m thinking about The 10 Commandments… It has a lot of “Thou shalt not’s”. It condemned covetousness. It condemned murder. It condemned adultery. It condemned stealing. It even condemned false witness. But over the years I have wondered; How come the list of 10 commandments does not include “Thou shalt not LIE?” Is it because lie is so ‘convenient’ – a very present help in most impossible situations? Is it a ‘lesser sin’? Or was it just a big omission? Guys have argued that 9th commandment on “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” also covers the ‘lie’ part, but I do disagree. I think it probably covered lying under oath, but hardly beyond that. So what’s so special about lies?
There is a interesting event in the Old Testament that may be considered a misrepresentation of the truth; and it also raises lots of questions as it was a ‘conversation’ between God and a Prophet. King Saul did screw up and God wanted Prophet Samuel to anoint an unknown teenage boy David Jesse as the substitute king. Since Saul was actually king, the anointing of another in his stead would be regarded as an act of open treason, and that would stir up a civil war, beginning with the killing of the messenger himself, namely Samuel!
1 Samuel 16:2 – But Samuel asked, “How can I do that? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.” “Take a heifer with you,” the LORD replied, “and say that you have come to make a sacrifice to the LORD.
Did God just give him a cover story? To avoid suspicion, and for the prudent management of the affair, Samuel was directed to go to Bethlehem to sacrifice, an innocent act that could easily be believed by all.
This generates a lot of questions: Isn’t it a lie to provide misleading answers? Is it okay to withhold some vital informations sometimes? Is it always necessary, or even right, to tell the whole truth in all cases?
I found a fascinating answer in Pulpit Commentary. It reads “…for though no man in any circumstances should tell a lie, yet, in all circumstances, he is not bound to tell the whole truth, though he must tell nothing but the truth, [he shall] tell that truth such that the hearer shall not believe a lie by it… All charitable, well disposed persons must learn to suppress much [information], and keep a guard over their lips, lest they should stir up strife and hatred.” Whoa, that’s really interesting.
Back to the story:, as a result of Samuel’s ‘wise act’, there was no treason, no civil war, David was not put in the difficult situation of becoming a traitor, Jesse and his family were not put in a position of discomfort and danger; and of course, Samuel got to keep his life! Talking about the familiar win-win-win situation. But does that make it right? Does it mean God considers it a ‘not-so-bad’ sin?
Anyways, my Sunday reflection today centers on a biblical couple who are very popular for their lies. And their lies were way more costly than they had thought. Ananias and Sapphira!! Perhaps their tragic story was a little extreme, definitely extreme, it does teaches us one vital lesson: LYING ALWAYS COSTS US SOMETHING!
Ananias and Sapphira were both members of the first Church, probably elite members, they were privileged to have real estate which they sold and brought and placed money from the sale at the apostles’ feet. Another church member Barnabas had just sold his property and brought the money to the apostles, just like other charitable believers. So to the casual observer, Ananias and Sapphira were doing the same thing. And that was commendable.
Only it was a little different with Ananias and Sapphira; Part of the profit from their sale was kept back by the couple, and Ananias only brought a part of the money to the apostles. That was also perfect, and commendable. But the issue is, the couple collaborated on a plan to stash some of the money from the sale of their property in a safety deposit box for themselves and take the rest to the apostles and give a misrepresentation of the truth by making a pretense of having given all the proceeds. They would not necessarily say they were giving all of the money they received from the sale; they would just let everyone assume that.
This is a hypocritical show! And fraud. And brazen lie. They literally embezzled from the sale price. They wanted the credit and the prestige for sacrificial generosity, but without the inconvenience that comes with it. So, in order to gain a reputation to which they had no right, they told a brazen lie. Ananias and Sapphira lied to the Holy Spirit while attempting to make themselves look better than they were. It is the sin of hypocrisy, and it suggests that their motive in giving was not to relieve the poor, but to fatten their own ego.”
Their acts may have fooled some, but not Peter, who was filled with the power of the Spirit and exposed the fraud and the hypocrisy then and there. The real crime in this text is not that this man and his wife kept back some of the money. Their crime is that they have lied to God. And they received the ultimate judgment, like immediately.
Peter’s response to this couple revealed that their offering would still have been acceptable if they had told the truth.
Acts 5:4 – “The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”
Peter made it simple for them both. And he’s still saying to us today: You don’t have to live a lie before you can be acceptable!!!
The fleshly desire for praise and preeminence which Ananias and Sapphira exhibited backfired big time. Unfortunately they were not given the grace to make things right. We might not fully understand why this couple was denied grace and made to pay for their sin with capital punishment? But we must never forget:
Let’s be honest. Let’s commit ourselves to absolute straightforwardness and transparency. That is the only way to break out of this devilish trap. Whatever lies you have told, big or small, recent or old, can be forgiven by confessing them to both God and the people involved. Why wait until you are in the presence of God to tell the truth? Tell the truth now, while God is giving you the opportunity.
All scriptures are from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation.