In one sense all lies are lies to God. However, as the passage below shows, there is a particular type of lie that qualifies specifically as lying to God. I think of this as “lying on steroids.” Often, this lie is not about hiding things that are wicked, but about misrepresenting things that appear to be good, even righteous. This is where the greatest danger lies for children raised in Christian homes. That is why your parenting must go beyond addressing behavior.
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” Acts 5:1-4
Each day you challenge your children to obey God. In each home this challenge comes with the promise of some kind of negative consequence for not obeying and some type of reward for obedience. Even when you neglect to follow through with the consequences of disobedience, the specter of accountability hangs in the air. Given their sinful nature, the tendency of children is to find ways to avoid these consequences. At the same time, there is also the promise of reward attached to requests for obedience. So again, even when the reward is not consistent (or even not biblical), human nature desires the reward, whether it is deserved or not.
For example, one sibling sees that his sister is rewarded for cleaning. So, he is careful to mention that he too, helped, even if he did not actually do anything. This child realizes that he can achieve what he wants if his parents perceive that he is doing good things. Thus, he might participate by appearing to be busy, but only when mom is looking. Internally, he may be resentful of having to do something he doesn’t want to, but he is motivated by the reward or praise he thinks he will receive. He may even agree that God helped him to obey because he knows that is what his parents want to hear. This deceptive, self-serving attitude may eventually lead to the kind of deception that Ananias and Sapphira practiced. They were seeking praise and status without the sacrificial spirit of truly loving Christ. It was in this way that they lied to God.
As parents, you must not become complacent when your children give only outward compliance to your directions. If you put up with a grumbling, complaining spirit as the price for your children following your directions, you open the door to lying to God. God desires obedience from the heart, not the outward form of ritual sacrifice. (Amos 5:21-23; Isaiah 29:13) So, the mindset that says, “At least he took the garbage out, even though he moaned and groaned about it,” totally misses the point of loving God. This child is not being shepherded. Rather he is being encouraged to believe that God will be satisfied with mere outward compliance to his commands.
Ananias and Sapphira believed that they could trade the appearance of obedience for spiritual status—for recognition from others that they were devoted to the church. But God is not mocked. He cannot be deceived. Lying expresses the hypocrisy of the human heart. This is why the Lord detests lying lips. As lies progress beyond mere self-protection to the point of lying to achieve personal desires, the danger of lying directly to God increases. Ananias and Sapphira tried to manipulate the appearance of doing good. The fatal mistake they made was thinking they could deceive God as well as people.
Lying is not something to ignore; deal with lying whenever you discover it. Don’t allow the busy routine of life to cover patterns of outward compliance. But we must address this sin carefully and wisely. This requires a substantial investment of time and biblical wisdom. We will look at this in the next post.