This morning as I was reading Acts 5 I was struck by how imperative it is for missionaries to care more about what God thinks than what people think. The chapter opens up with the story of Ananias and Saphira. The story is set in the context of the church’s birth (a macrocosmic beginning for what missionaries attempt to do in microcosmic form wherever the Lord puts them.) The church’s conception and then continuing life depends on the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit. Within this context enter in Ananias, Sapphira, and Satan (see verse 3). Ananias and then Saphira in turn lie to the church leaders about giving all of the proceeds from a property sale to the church, when in fact they only gave part. The act of keeping some of the proceeds wasn’t wrong. Lying about it was.
Ananias and Sapphira probably never considered that their little lie to make themselves look good to the church was the equivalent of lying to the Holy Spirit (interestingly, equated with God in this passage.) Or that their little lie was such a serious sin that God’s judgment would mean their death sentence. Satan, a liar from the beginning, used this couple to attempt to gain a stronghold in the infant church where the Holy Spirit was leading and displaying His power not just through miracles and conversions but also through an unusual and supernatural unity among believers. Satan’s foiled attempt to sow distrust and dishonesty showed that he was no match for the power of the Holy Spirit.
Ananias and Sapphira wanted to look good, selfless. and righteous to the church. So do missionaries. Our lively-hood and economic ability to minister depends on it. But what a lesson for us. I doubt many missionaries are tempted to blatantly lie on forms or in interviews, but even a slight twisting of the truth –an attempt to tell the church what we think they want to hear not actually what’s happening, now that’s a regular temptation. But a slight twisting here and a little tweaking there can be devastating to our ministries. If our communication is not the absolute truth, then our character is not reflecting God’s character, and we’re giving Satan a backdoor to slip through into the works God is doing through us. How foolish to undermine the Holy Spirit’s working in this way. He won’t tolerate it. We must be truthful no matter what men may think.