The True Danger of Spiritual Pretending

Story of the Day for Tuesday November 8, 2011

The True Danger of Spiritual Pretending

                       A man by the name of Ananias, along with his wife Sapphira, sold some property.  But, with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back part of the money for himself, and brought the rest and laid it at the apostle’s feet.  

                                                    Acts 5:1-2

I have never liked this story.  It seems grossly unfair that, because they didn’t give all their money to the church, God killed them both.  Shouldn’t Peter have said, “Why, thank you so much!  What are generous offering.  God will bless you for this”?  Instead, they both wind up dead as a doornail.

If we listen carefully, however, we discover that the problem is not about giving money at all.  Peter tells them they didn’t have to sell the property, and after they did, they could do what they wanted with the money.

The problem was that they pretended to give all of the money from the sale of their property to the church (but secretly held some back for themselves).  They were lying to the church.

Hypocrisy is lying. We want to impress others and make them think we are more godly than we really are.  We love the admiration we get from this.  But deep down there is the fear that, someday, we will be exposed and the world will know that we are frauds.

Spiritual posturing is a dangerous cancer.  It’s also contagious.  If I pretend I’m holier than I really am, it puts pressure on those around me to pretend they are holier than they really are.  As long as the pretense works – we become insufferably self-righteous.  When we are exposed as frauds, then our hypocrisy becomes a stumbling block to others.

Tony Campolo, in his book, The Kingdom of God Is a Party, tells the story of a young man who turned his back on the church.  His little sister suffered much from cancer before she died.  His dad, a pastor, said there is no sorrow because she is in heaven.  So,  the whole family wore plastered smiles to show the world their great faith.

The night after the funeral, this young man went to the church and sat up in the balcony.   His father was unaware of his son’s presence. His dad walked to the front of the church and began to cry.  The crying turned to uncontrolled wailing.  Then his father looked up at the picture of Christ on the wall, shook his fist, and screamed, “DAMN YOU!”

When the son returned home that evening, there was his dad and family – all wearing their forced, artificial smiles.

I still don’t like the story about Ananias and Sapphira very much.  God’s punishment seems pretty severe.  But maybe that is how forcefully God had to act to impress on me the true danger of spiritual pretending.

                                                                             (copyright by climbinghigher.org and by Marty Kaarre)