Introduction: Many years ago, I met with a group of public school
teachers who wanted to explore what was involved in obtaining a job-related religious accommodation. They had religious objections to
supporting a labor union. The short answer was that they needed to
tell the union about their religious beliefs, and ask that they be
allowed to pay the union fees to a charity that they and the union
agreed upon. When the teachers drove up to the meeting place, I
noticed one of them had a beautiful new Cadillac. Later, the Cadillac
owner asked whether a religious accommodation meant that he would
resign from the union. I was astonished, how could you have religious
objections to an organization and want to remain a member? The
mystery was solved when he said he needed to remain a member so that
he could purchase low cost car insurance! His faith had a price, and
that price was the difference in the insurance premium amount.
Consider whether dishonesty is putting a price on your faith. Let’s
explore some novel ways the Bible defines dishonesty.
- Defining Dishonesty
- Read Luke 16:10-11. Recall that we previously discussed in
detail the story that sets the context for this statement.
Let’s re-read that story so that we are all on the same
page. Read Luke 16:1-8. If we define dishonesty as the
simple matter of not cheating people, then it seems we
need a new definition, right? Jesus seems to commend the
- In light of the story of the dishonest manager, how
would you now define dishonesty? (Failing to be
shrewd with God’s money. Failing to use common
- Let’s consider a couple of things that I have
observed. The hospitals associated with my church
employ administrators who are sometimes paid ten
times what a church administrator is paid. Do you
think that is fair? Is it honest?
- I have also observed, that when a business is
given to the church, it declines and goes out
of business. Why is it that when a member of
the church owns the business, it prospers, and
when it is given to the church, it declines?
(It seems to me that paying large salaries to
experts be sure that the hospitals prosper
(assuming they in fact, prosper), is being
shrewd. It also seems to me that handing a
business over to those who are not experts (and
are not paid the salaries commanded by
experts), with the result that it fails is
being dishonest – according to the definition
in Jesus’ parable of the dishonest manager.)
- Are some things not a “matter of simple
honesty?” (The honesty that Jesus was teaching
about, in the context He gave, is not a simple
matter. It is a matter of competently handling
assets to advance the Kingdom of God, rather
than a question of stealing.)
- Spiritual Dishonesty
- Read Acts 5:1-2. Is there anything dishonest in the story
so far? (No.)
- Read Acts 5:3-5. What is the dishonesty, and what is not
dishonest? (What is not dishonest is keeping part of the
money for land that you own, and giving the rest to God.
What is dishonest is lying about whether you gave the
entire sales price to God.)
- What would motivate Ananias and Sapphira to engage in
this lie? (Read Acts 4:32-35. They wanted to look as
holy and committed as the rest. Taken together, these
texts show that no one was required to sell their
lands or houses, but some did.)
- Would you call this sin pride? Or, greed?
- Is this a type of dishonesty?
- Is any attempt on your part to look more holy
or committed than you actually are a sin?
- Read Acts 5:7-11. What does Peter say is the sin here?
(“How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?”)
- How were they testing the Holy Spirit? The Holy
Spirit knows the truth, so He was not deceived.
- Notice that Acts 5:4 also says that the sin here is
lying to God. How can you lie to the One who knows
- Read John 12:4-6. If taking God’s money and
misrepresenting your holiness is a sin, then why wasn’t
Judas struck dead for what is reported in these verses?
- Let’s skip down a few verses in Acts 5 to see if we can
better discern the sin that caused the deaths of Ananias
and Sapphira. Read Acts 5:12, 14-16. Why are people healed
even when all that is involved is Peter’s shadow falling
on them? (It is the power of the Holy Spirit. It is belief
in the power of the Holy Spirit.)
- Did Ananias and Sapphira believe in the Holy Spirit?
(No. They could not have believed in the power of the
Holy Spirit, otherwise they would know they could not
lie to Him. I think that is at the heart of the
reason why judgment was executed on them immediately.
They thought so little of the Holy Spirit that they
believed they could deceive Him and His agents, the
apostles, at a time when the Holy Spirit was working
at an extremely high level of power.)
- Tithe Power
- Read Leviticus 27:30-34. The last verse says that these
commands were given for the Israelites. Do they apply to
- Read Hebrews 7:5. Who is entitled to the tithe? (The
descendants of Levi.)
- Do we have those descendants here today?
- Read Hebrews 7:1-2 and Hebrews 7:6-10. What connection
does Abraham’s tithe-paying have to the sanctuary system,
the Levites, or the Sinai commands? (It has no connection,
except to say that Abraham was the ancestor of Levi, and
Abraham paid a tithe to Melchizedek.)
- What does that suggest to us today? (That it is a
good idea to pay a tithe, that we have an example of
tithe-paying unconnected to the sanctuary service
- Read Malachi 3:8-11. Do you believe what God says about
the blessings of paying tithe?
- If you don’t believe, are you in the same boat as
Ananias and Sapphira?
- Let’s focus on Malachi 3:10-11 as an investment offer.
Let’s say that a stock broker comes to you and tells you
that if you invest 10% of your portfolio in this one fund,
it will give you unlimited returns. What would you say?
What would you say if the broker had been in the market
forever, and had a perfect reputation? (Let’s do it! This
is an amazing deal!)
- Now let’s assume that children of a very rich person
come to you complaining that their father made them
invest in this scheme. Would you suggest that they
look for a loophole to avoid this investment? Find
some way to reinterpret the Father’s direction?
(Anyone with common sense, anyone who is shrewd,
would say, “Are you kidding me? You object to getting
richer?” I think the most critical point is not
whether tithe is required today, the point is who
would not take advantage of this offer? Especially,
when the down side might be robbing God?)
- Just this week someone reported that paying tithe
never seemed to benefit him. How would you respond?
(In Malachi 3:10 God invites us to “test” Him. That
makes me doubtful about the accuracy of the “no
benefit” report. In my life, I have experienced huge
- Read Malachi 3:13-16. If you doubt that God rewards you
for being faithful, why not create a “scroll of
remembrance” to remind you of His blessings? Keep it
- Read Malachi 3:12. Do you feel joy in giving gifts to
- If you had a nation of gift-givers, would you call it
a “delightful land?” (The problem is the attitude
that we bring to tithe-paying. If you view it as a
burden and a reduction in income, then you have
completely missed God’s point. Generosity not only
lifts your spirits and gives you joy, it makes you
- Friend, are you beginning to see that “honesty with God”
is not simply avoiding lies? It is a matter of excellence
in handling His affairs. It is a belief in the power and
authority of the Holy Spirit. It is an attitude of
generosity that reflects blessings into your life. Why not
ask the Holy Spirit, right now, to change your heart to
embrace the blessings of generosity?
- Next week: The Impact of Tithing.