Dr Stan Moody- 12/01/2013
Who are the biggest liars?
In the early church, Peter and the other apostles had no time to fool around. They had to demonstrate quickly that they were legitimate as ambassadors of Christ, or there would be no proof of Christ’s divinity. Baptism in the Holy Spirit was one way that legitimacy was demonstrated. Another was through a dramatic healing ministry. Yet, some believers, being recovering sinners and cheaters like the rest of us, still needed convincing that when the apostles spoke, God was speaking through them.
The Big Lie:
We are told in Acts 4 of a Levite named Barnabas who sold a piece of land, brought all the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet. Acts 5, however, takes a drastic turn. Ananias and Sapphira, in copycat fashion, also sold a piece of property, brought in the proceeds and laid it at the apostles’ feet. The problem: they lied to the apostles by telling them that what they brought in was the entire sale price of the property. Both fell dead, and, we are told, Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events (5:11).
Had Ananias and Sapphira opted to hold back all of the proceeds from the sale, it would have been perfectly acceptable. What they did, however, was attempt to ratify by deceit a contract between themselves, other believers and God.
Two things were made evident in this early church account. First, to lie to God’s anointed is to lie to God. Second, lying to God is fatal.
Who Are the Anointed of God Today?
In our day, it is nearly impossible to determine with assurance who are the anointed of God. We have often cheapened grace as a mere emotional trip to the altar. The contract between the sinner and God has been signed and witnessed without examination. As a result, truth within the Church of Jesus Christ is a rare commodity. We dare not trust our church community with all our resources, as was the practice in the early church, for fear they would squander it.
One thing stands, however. Lying to God is fatal.
Who Are the Liars Today?
A recent study on lying conducted at the University of Regina in Canada concluded that “…sex, age, grade point average, student debt, size of return, socioeconomic status, and average time spent in religious observation are not related to the decision to lie” (Childs, 2013).
400 students were recruited to participate in the study (Stephenson, 2013). They were paired into “senders” and “receivers”. Each pair was split apart into separate rooms. The “sender” was given two cash amounts, say $5 and $7 or $5 and $15, and was to tell the “receiver” both amounts and give her the option of choosing what amount she wanted. The “sender” would keep what was left. In 50% of the cases, the “sender” lied about the amounts, thereby keeping the greatest amount for himself.
Children of Divorce, Business Majors and Evangelicals:
The study concluded that the children of divorce were the most likely to lie, at 29.3% higher than the group average. Next were business majors, at 18.1% higher rate than the average. Of special significance to the Church of Jesus Christ, however, is that while nominal religious observation did not factor into the propensity to lie, religiosity, or the degree to which religion dominates our lives, did factor in. The researchers found that the propensity to lie was directly proportional to the degree to which religion was important in the life of the subject.
While the validity of the conclusions of the study can legitimately be challenged and should be challenged, the suggestion that dishonesty and religious zeal go hand-in-hand ought not to be of surprise. A 2008 study by evangelical pollster, George Barna, determined that the divorce rate among born again Christians is statistically identical to that of non-born again adults – 32% (Barrick, 2008).
Should We Be Surprised?
Considering the encouragement in our Church culture to fudge one’s standing with the Lord or one’s conversion experience, would lying not be a common way to cover weaknesses? Consider, as well, the emotional damage inflicted on children of divorced parents who are professing Christians. If 1/3 of our evangelical marriages are breaking up, leaving damaged children in their wake, what kind of integrity are we to expect from many of the very religious?
Is it possible that the Church of Jesus Christ in America is in fast-track production mode of making disciples of Ananias and Sapphira? On the other hand, maybe this presents a prime opportunity for the Church to get serious with God in order to regain its legitimacy as ambassadors for Jesus Christ to a dying world.
Barrick, A. (2008). Study: Christian Divorce Rate Identical to National Average. Washington DC: The Christian Post.
Childs, J. (2013). Personal Characteristics and Lying: An Experimental Examination. Science Direct, 425-427.
Stephenson, P. A. (2013). Business Majors and Children of Divorce the Biggest Liars. Quartz Daily News..