Do you think wearing a mask can fool the Lord? Seriously, do you think God is not going to know who you are underneath your mask? It is October – the month of fall festivals, Halloween, costume parties, and trick or treat! For many, this is such an enjoyable time of the year being able to conceal your identity, and dress up as someone else and play the role of them. I certainly understand having that escape from reality and the joy that such an escape can bring.
But, I tell you, there are many people who don’t wait until this time of year to put on their costumes and masks. I want you to understand that I am not talking about the kind of masks or costumes that can be purchased in a store. No, there are many people who wear a mask to trick and fool the people around them. This bothers me, if I were to be honest with you because you can’t really tell who some folks are. (They probably like it that way too.)
Wearing a mask may certainly work to fool some people, but I want to tell you today that you cannot fool everybody by wearing a mask. In today’s sermon, I want to take a look at the example of Ananias and Sapphira who thought that they could fool the Lord. I want to show you that the Lord is not easily fooled by the masks that many people choose to put on for others.
Ananias and Sapphira
We are introduced to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1. They two are both married and we are told that they sold a possession. Notice this chapter opens with the word “But” which is used to connect two contrasting clauses. The opening of this chapter is connected to the later part of the prior chapter. So, to better understand these two and what is going on, let’s take a look at the prior chapter.
These two were living during the early days of the church. Early believers had come together and were essentially living together as a community We are told that the early church was of one heart and one soul and had all things in common (Acts 4:32). Those who were possessors of lands or houses in that day, sold them, and brought their profits to the apostles so that the apostles could share the profits amongst the believers (Acts 4:34-35). I believe politicians would define this sort of communal living as a sort of socialism, but that’s not what I want to focus on in this sermon.
What is clearly shown to us is that this community, or congregation of believers, were living at a very high level spiritually. We could not live that way in our society today, or even as a church congregation, because frankly folks would not be so trusting. We would also see some folks get too power hungry and greedy when it comes to money and other things coming in. The hunger for power is a major problem that we see throughout our society – in the workplace, schools (colleges), and even in the church, so that sort of communal living just would not work.
What we should note about Ananias and Sapphira is that they were part of this community; they were believers and followers of Christ! We know this because they are connected by the contrasting clause to a man who had sold his land and brought the profits to the apostles. This man was named Joses, but was also given the name Barnabas (Son of Encouragement) by the apostles. This is the same Barnabas who would later assist Paul on his missionary journeys.
It was likely known by many in this congregation what Barnabas had given. Let’s imagine that Ananias and Sapphira saw what he had given and decided to do the same exact thing that he had done. At first glance, this seems like the genuine thing to do because others were doing this in the early church community. However, we are going to notice that something was different about Barnabas, Ananias, and Sapphira’s heart.
In a way, this lesson is a reminder of the lesson that Jesus taught to the rich young ruler who had told Jesus he had kept all of the Law. Jesus told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give to the poor, but the young ruler was unable to do so. Barnabas was able to be fully committed to his oath, and he gave of himself freely and in good faith! Whereas, Ananias and Sapphira, sold a possession but we are told that they secretly planned on keeping a portion of their profits (Acts 5:2).
This, when you first read it or hear about it, does not necessarily sound like a bad thing, right? We would say, “Well, it was their possession. They should be able to keep whatever profits they want!” However, I will tell you that a very grave sin had been committed by these two and they thought that they could fool the Lord and get away with what they had done.
Initially Ananias and Sapphira committed an oath to do just as Barnabas and the others had done. What they misunderstood was that this oath, this commitment, was not to the apostles or the people. You see, when you take an action through your faith, you’re committing action in the name of the Lord – you’re committing that action to God. This is why you have to be careful when you start saying you’re doing something in the name of God.
In Ecclesiastes, you will read about making vows to the Lord (Eccl 5:4), “do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed.” I often reference this scripture when it comes to us committing to doing something in the Lord’s name or giving something to God. God expects for us to live up faithfully to our commitment – not do it half halfheartedly and in part.
For example, when you say that you’re going to faithfully pray to the Lord, you should not pray to the Lord halfheartedly. When we say that we are going to meditate on Him and study His word, we cannot do those things halfheartedly. Some people promise the Lord that they will never act up again, if God brings them out of a situation but as soon as they are brought out, they forget the oath they have made. When we say that we are going to be faithful, we cannot choose to do so halfheartedly because we have made a vow.
The sin of Ananias and Sapphira had nothing to do with the money. The sin they committed was breaking their oath and not living up to the promise they made to God. When they stood before the apostles, they thought they were standing before men, but what they did not realize was that they were facing God as well.
You can’t trick the Lord
Peter asked Ananias (Acts 5:3), “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?” This shows us that they were not on the same level spiritually as the rest of those living within the community of the early church. Satan was able to work his way into their hearts and pollute their thoughts. After being corrupted and having a change of heart, we see that these two tried to cover up what they had done.
Ananias arrived first to the apostles (wearing a mask) believing that he could fool the apostles. We notice, however, that Peter was not fooled by this man’s actions. Peter was able to spiritually discern that something was not right through his connection to the Holy Spirit. Again, people wear masks nowadays to fool folks, but we cannot fool God.
Scripture shows us that this is certainly true. When the Lord sent Samuel to anoint David as the future king of Israel, he entered Bethlehem and marveled at the outward appearance of a man who he thought would be king of Israel. Of the man, Samuel remarked (1 Sam. 16:6), “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him!” Yet, we will see that God had a different response for Samuel and made things clear to him.
To Samuel, God replied (1 Sam. 16:7), “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused (not chosen) him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” This is a great lesson that many of us either did not learn or we have simply forgotten.
The forgotten lesson
There are many who will say that they do not see the outer appearance first, but I would honestly have to ask them what do they say then? You see, the outer appearance is the first thing everybody sees. We first see the color of the skin, skin tone, hair, eyes, nose, lips – we see outer appearance first and come to a judgment. Then, after we have taken in the outer appearance, we will continue our judgment of somebody through their words and their actions.
This is why so many people are fooled by and follow after liars today. Again I say to you, there are many people who are wearing a mask and costume today. That mask has a big huge smile on it but behind the mask is a face full of deceit and lies. Instead of discerning by the spirit that lies within us (1 John 4:6), we try to “eye test it” – discern with the eyeballs in our face! To get back to Ananias and Sapphira, this is how they thought they would trick the Lord. They failed to realize just how in tune Peter was with the Holy Spirit that dwelt inside of him with his spirit.
Peter was able to discern the truth because he was able to commune with the Holy Spirit (God) and allow Him to guided him to the truth. Again, God is not easily fooled – you cannot play trick or treat with the Lord. There are many people who do not realize that God is not being fooled by their playing of church and religion. God is not fooled by the outer appearance (looks or actions) because He is an interior decorator. God sees through the mask, the pretense, and will look directly at your soul (Heb. 4:13).
Come forward with your full offering
Again, the story of Ananias and Sapphira was about their commitment and the giving of their best to the Lord. You see, we have an offering of what we can give to the Lord. Our offering to God has nothing to do with our tithes to the church! The Christian life is not about pretense! It is not about putting on a show for someone to see or for the Lord to see.
God expects for us to genuinely live our life for Him and His way – (that is loving Him and being obedient to Him). We come forward with our full offering when our heart is clearly focused on the Lord and we give it to Him! Ananias and Sapphira messed up because their heart got out of focus with the Lord and they did not give it fully to Him. The mask that some folks wear to fool others, eventually will fall off and the truth will be revealed.
So, the question must be asked today: Are you giving your heart fully to the Lord, or is all of this for show to you? Are you putting on for God out of pretense? I wonder what the church would look like today if what happened to Ananias and Sapphira happened today in church?