Ananias and Sapphira
The spin I use to apply their lesson.
This may sound convoluted, but please bear with me. I once worked as chief engineer of a country radio station. Part of the job requirement was all employees had to have an appreciation of the format; it didn't have to be our favorite, but we had to appreciate it. I managed.
I've found that to be similar to having a girlfriend who espouses some cause or other; I've got to be able to find some merit in it, although it doesn't have to be my main thing? Are you with me so far?
Well, I had gotten this girlfriend who was in the forefront of the movement to legalize marijuana. I gave it my best shot. I researched the subject and found that the main reason middle-class straights objected to it was they feared the subversion of the values of "industry, thrift and continence" they were trying to instill in their young, should they be smokin' it. So I started promoting those values, especially to those in the movement, that they should at least moderate their use to below the level where it would subvert those virtues. The sign that I marched with said: on one side, and on the other: My reasoning for the second side was that the movement was already making a positive statement regarding industry and thrift by promoting the very useful fiber hemp, but that people still had the general impression that those who smoked pot would be having sex with each other, not necessarily their own spouses. If you look at the commandment, "Thou shalt not covet," you'll see it includes, "Thou shalt not covet ... thy neighbor's wife, nor anything that belongeth to thy neighbor." Adultery was mentioned in a previous commandment, so I think this one, rather than being redundant, was referring instead to the general service and companionship a wife gives her husband apart from the sexual function per se. And in its general applications could refer to the distributed service a girl metes out to her boyfriends, that any one of them should not be coveting all her time, or the particular time she'd committed to another. I figured that unmarried couples would be less tempted to have sex if they don't go with just one another exclusively, like married couples, and that playing the field only works well if the parties are not covetous, whence my sign. That was the best I could do.
Anyway, over a series of dates we'd agreed that I was her boyfriend as well as her pothead one, and that we'd date once or twice a week until I got busier at work and then on weekends after that. She also made me agree not to be familiar with her beyond a certain point in public so that her other (potential) boyfriends would not be too bashful thinking she had a boyfriend--which rule she herself would break, but that's another story. As part of the description of her ideal man, she said she wanted one who served God, which was great for me but her pothead boyfriend leading the movement was doing it in God's name too.
Anyway, I'd meet outside for prayer with Christians and we'd pray that those pot-smokers would get their heads on straight, and the pot group would meet in the same location on another day of the week to pray for whatever they prayed for ... but prayer is a good thing. By and by, when I tried to get my girlfriend to go out with me those times she'd committed to, she always had the excuse she was seeing the other guy then. That got me to not feeling so unified with him in our extended prayer circle. I mean, he was going out with the girl at the times she'd committed to me.
But then I got to thinking, per my agreement with the girl we had deliberately misled the guy into thinking she and I were nothing more than friends, so how could I fault him for taking away my time with her? Furthermore, he was claiming to be a servant of God, and for all I know maybe in some way he was; and there is the story of Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:1-11. So I looked at the lesson which seemed to be that they had not lied to men but to God. Sure, there are some men it might be advantageous to lie to regarding a land sale because for one reason or another they couldn't handle the truth, but God certainly deserves the truth, and his ministers should be able to handle it too. Similarly there are some men, I've found, that if they find out what was going on between me and their (jealously guarded) girlfriend, will hit me. Maybe I wouldn't want to tell them all the truth, but God's ministers are not supposed to be covetous. So I went and looked up the guy and apologized for deceiving him, told him I was really her other boyfriend and was into continence. The guy had not an objection in the world to her seeing me when she wanted, but he sure doesn't like it when people lie to him.
I believe the way some preach the story of Ananias and Sapphira is that one should not make the church look bad, that to lie to the church is to lie to God perhaps. Ananias and Sapphira sold property that was theirs and the money they got from it was theirs to do with as they wanted, but they should not have represented one thing to the apostles when it was another. Likewise the girl and I were free to make our own arrangements but we should not have misrepresented them to the servant of God[?].
Similarly, one might say that we can arrange church one way or another as it suits us, but we shouldn't misrepresent it. Could we for instance call a service contemporary if we sang mostly traditional songs in it? How about a "traditional" service where it's almost always a contemporary Bible version being read? I mean, a preacher might have the liberty to use Bible versions I personally would consider awful, just as I'd have the liberty to date women he'd have never touched, but isn't it the lesson that we be honest in our representations to each other? One could certainly read the NIV in a traditional-song service just as Ananias and Sapphira could have said they were donating only part of the proceeds of their land sale, but if I'm representing a girlfriend as only a friend, I better not be doing so to God, and in fact I am careful that any other Christian girlfriends don't think I'm exclusive with them when I'm not, and don't you think we should all be that way?
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Copyright © 2002, Earl S. Gosnell III
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.
Permission is hereby granted to use this paper--with credit given, of course--in intellectually honest non-profit educational material.
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