Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Acts 5:1-11 and Spiritual Hypocrisy

In ancient times, the theater did not rely so much on the actor's ability to convey emotion with facial expressions as we do today. Back then, they used masks. From this practice, we get the traditional tragedy and comedy masks which are a symbol of the theater even today. The Greek word from which we get our English word "hypocrite" is based on this ancient practice. Literally, it means "to speak from under" and it originally was a reference to actors whose art involved doing precisely that as they performed on stage.

The major sin of Ananias and Sapphira was spiritual hypocrisy, of pretending to be more spiritual than they really were and in so doing, acting dishonestly. They operated on the premise that "no one will ever know," as if somehow both they and God did not or would not know what they were doing.

But hypocrisy is one of the most subtle sins to which we all are prone. Most of us wouldn't do it as baldly as Ananias and Sapphira did, but nevertheless, we can fall into this sin if we aren't careful. Here are some of the more common situations in which we are tempted:
  1. Someone at church asks you how you are doing. While I know the social convention is to always say "fine," or some such, this is church. The Church is supposed to be a new type of community. If that isn't quite true (i.e., inwardly you're thinking, "Well, my sister is dying of cancer, my income isn't paying the bills this month, I feel very far away from God," etc.), how should you answer?
  2. You are deeply struggling with or enmeshed in a sin. You're afraid to tell anyone about it, yet you can't get free from it. What do you do?
  3. You are in a Bible study. Everyone is sharing their experiences with God and it comes to your turn. If you don't have a similar type of experience to theirs, what do you do?
We have to be careful. This kind of hypocritical behavior inhibits the kind of deep relationships which we all want and for which the Church is designed. I've failed in every one of these situations, so I'm glad that God is merciful and gracious. I'm also still tempted.

What about you?

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