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.

  1. Defining Dishonesty

    1. 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

      1. 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

      2. 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?

        1. 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.)

        2. 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.)

  2. Spiritual Dishonesty

    1. Read Acts 5:1-2. Is there anything dishonest in the story
      so far? (No.)

    2. 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.)

      1. 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.)

        1. Would you call this sin pride? Or, greed?

        2. Is this a type of dishonesty?

        3. Is any attempt on your part to look more holy
          or committed than you actually are a sin?

    3. Read Acts 5:7-11. What does Peter say is the sin here?
      (“How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord?”)

      1. How were they testing the Holy Spirit? The Holy
        Spirit knows the truth, so He was not deceived.

      2. Notice that Acts 5:4 also says that the sin here is
        lying to God. How can you lie to the One who knows

    4. 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?

    5. 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.)

      1. 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.)

  3. Tithe Power

    1. Read Leviticus 27:30-34. The last verse says that these
      commands were given for the Israelites. Do they apply to
      us today?

    2. Read Hebrews 7:5. Who is entitled to the tithe? (The
      descendants of Levi.)

      1. Do we have those descendants here today?

    3. 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.)

      1. 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

    4. Read Malachi 3:8-11. Do you believe what God says about
      the blessings of paying tithe?

      1. If you don’t believe, are you in the same boat as
        Ananias and Sapphira?

    5. 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!)

      1. 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?)

      2. 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

    6. 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

    7. Read Malachi 3:12. Do you feel joy in giving gifts to

      1. 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

    8. 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?

  4. Next week: The Impact of Tithing.