Cashing in on the Unpardonable Sin
By Patricia Backora, author of the book
Tough Love in Christ's Millennium
Which you can order online from: http://www.publishamerica.com
What a convenient crowbar some fishers for funds find in Acts 5:1-11! A warning not to lie to the Holy Spirit is turned into a tool to extort money out of the flock of God. Clergymen who resort to this lie are guilty of a worse sin than Ananias and Sapphira committed. It is a grave sin to hold back part of Godís Truth from the church to protect your pockets. Many ministers have themselves been wrongly taught, and have never questioned those who passed on flawed doctrine to them. So ignorance abounds in the Body of Christ and the Church suffers because of it. God knows that all His loved ones are still maturing spiritually while present in the mortal body. Hebrews 5:2 says that Jesus can have compassion on the ignorant, and on those "who are out of the way", (which covers those imperfect in their doctrine). Weíd all be in big trouble if we couldnít be accepted of God unless 100% of our doctrine was dead-on all the time! The commentary in the margin of my Bible clarifies "can have compassion on the ignorant" as meaning: "can reasonably bear with". God picks us up when we stumble and He bears patiently with us because we sincerely love Him and want to serve Him in purity of heart. But what He cannot bear are those who deliberately hide the truth to make a tidy pile for themselves. All sorts of sinners inhabited Jesusí world of 2000 years ago. Harlots, thieves, tax collectors, even murderous brigands like Barabbas. But about the only sinners Jesus ever chewed out in the Gospels were the self-righteous Pharisees, who devoured widowsí houses and turned their converts into twice the son of hell as themselves (Matt: 23:14-15). And the worst of the worst were guilty of attributing Jesusí miracles to the power of satan, though they knew better (Mark 3:22-30). Insulting the Holy Spirit and attributing His wonderful works of love to satan constitutes the unpardonable sin, and this sin was committed by the vilest of the Pharisees. This sin had nothing at all to do with withholding monetary tithes! Men of the cloth who push such a lie KNOW theyíre using wicked scare tactics to enrich themselves, and I sure would hate to be in their shoes on the Day of Judgment!
Jesus spends over half of Matthew Chapter 23 giving the Pharisees a verbal whipping. The guiltiest of these religious experts knew Jesus was the true Son of God, but they deliberately deceived the people because they would have had too much earthly honor and wealth to lose by preaching the Truth and allowing the captives to be set free. So they did their worst to stamp out this precious Truth, even using a Roman cross to try to bury the truth forever. Jesus said: And ye shall know the Truth, and the truth shall set you free (John 8:32). He is speaking here of Himself as being the Truth. Verse 36 says: If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. Indeed, Jesus IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).
Now back to Ananias and Sapphira. Exactly what sin could the couple have committed that was so bad God would strike them dead for it? Contrary to what the worst of predatory preachers would have you to believe, their sin had NOTHING to do with monetary tithing. Their death didnít even happen as punishment for being stingy with freewill offerings! Yes, money was involved in their sin, but it was their OWN money they lied to God about, not money they owed to the church. Actually, this story begins in the preceding chapter, Acts Chapter 4. Instead of zooming on up to where Ananias and Sapphira drop dead, as one crafty preacher did in his sermon, letís consider each relevant verse to get a feel for the contextual setting in which the coupleís real sin against the Holy Spirit was committed.
Acts 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. ***What love, what unity in the Spirit of Christ! What selflessness! A far cry from selfish televangelists who impoverish others to make themselves richer! Thatís the kind of church Ananias and Sapphira belonged to.
VERSE 33 And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. ***You want to see more power in your witnessing as a church? Start loving one another in the Love of Christ and being concerned about one anotherís needs. In that way, the world will know that Jesus still lives, as it sees Christ living through you, and God will pour out His power and Spirit of Grace upon your church as never before.
VERSE 34 Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold. ***These church people showed by their actions that they actually believed their treasures were laid up in heaven, not on earth, contrary to what prosperity teachers will tell you!
VERSE 35 And laid them down at the apostlesí feet. And distribution was made to every man according as he had need. ***Notice, the apostles didnít grab this loot and rush off to buy Cadillacs and Rolexes. The proceeds supported the needy in the church! Today a lot of people are made to feel like leeches when they go to the church for help to put food on their table. Sick or well, old or young, theyíre either told to go get a job or they don't deserve to eat. And theyíre viewed as failures in the sacrosanct School of Prosperity!
VERSE 36 And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus). We need more "sons of consolation" in the church today, and fewer "sons of condemnation".
VERSE 37 Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostlesí feet.
Acts 5:1 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession,
VERSE 2 And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostlesí feet.
VERSE 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
Now we have reached a key verse skipped over by one unscrupulous minister who didnít want a monkey wrench thrown into his doctrine of devils:
VERSE 4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine OWN? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? THOU HAST NOT LIED UNTO MEN, BUT UNTO GOD.***Contrary to what fear peddlers would have you believe, the apostles DID NOT REQUIRE each church member to sell their land and give the money to the church, and the word "tithing" occurs nowhere in this context, and nowhere is it implied. The land was Ananiasí to do with as he pleased. His sin was in lying to God about what he did with his OWN money, not withholding tithes and offerings! If Ananias had told the apostles that he was only donating part of the money to begin with, he would not have been guilty of lying to the Holy Spirit and he would not have died for giving less than the total price of the land. But Ananias wanted credit for giving an amount he didnít give. Plain and simple.
VERSE 5 And Ananias hearing these things fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.
VERSE 6 And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him.
VERSE 7 And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in.
VERSE 8 And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much? And she said, Yea, for so much.
VERSE 9 Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to TEMPT THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.***Sapphira was an accomplice to Ananiasí sin. In lying to the Holy Spirit, they tempted (provoked) Him. Again, no mention of failure to tithe money, or refusal to donate a required amount, as many falsely teach.
VERSE 10 Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost: and the young men came in, and carrying her forth, buried her by her husband.
VERSE 11 And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things***Through this sad incident, the early church learned that God must be held in reverential fear, not for non-tithing, but to avoid sins like lying to Him to provoke Him!
In that church scenario where believers sold lands and houses and "possessed all things in common", the needy were so well cared for out of the church fund that not one among them lacked for the necessities of life. This was a very strong testimony to the world of the Love of Jesus, much more effective than verbal witnessing only. I John 3:18 exhorts us to love not just in word, but in deed and in truth. But truth was absent in Ananiasí life. He and Sapphira were the equivalent of welfare cheats, in that they wanted to live off the church fund and still have something of their own to save for a rainy day. That could be why they withheld part of the price of the land. If the apostles believed that they had made themselves financially vulnerable by giving their all, the couple could have taken charity from the church common fund, like other believers who lacked other means of support. In essence, they were robbing other believers needier than themselves. Here were two wayward sheep trying to pull the wool over Godís eyes, but they didnít live to brag about it to their grandchildren.
How many "faith" preachers in our day hoard vast riches for themselves while crying to "seed sowers" on Social Security to send in money or theyíll go bust! How many of these evil religion peddlers shamelessly appeal to the story of Elijah being fed by the last of a starving widowís flour and oil so they can put more bread in their bank account and fuel their own lusts! And they teach their followers to grease God's palm with sacrificial offerings TO THEMSELVES. Only in that way, it is claimed, will God ever relent and grant desperate people a badly needed miracle! But never any mention that the liberating truths of the Kingdom are to be freely shared, and certainly no mention of what the Bible REALLY says about the Law of Tithing!
God is provoked when ministers claim to give their all in suffering sacrifice, all the while deliberately withholding part of the Truth of His Word from the Body of Christ to leech off of poor brethren so they themselves can splash around in the lap of luxury!
Why is the miracle-working power of God blocked in todayís church? I see some of the answer in Acts 20:27: For I have not shunned to declare unto you ALL the counsel of God.***If monetary tithing had been in force in the early church Paul would surely have mentioned it. The other side of the coin is this: If Paul had seen that church-goers were being pressured to tithe money in some of the churches he oversaw, and he KNEW it was nowhere sanctioned by the Word of God, Paul would have spoken up and denounced the error publicly. He was an overseer over many churches (II Cor.11:28). Paul guarded the church against so-called judaizers trying to sneak legalism into a church called unto liberty. Paul would have chased unscriptural doctrine out of the church like Jesus chased the money-changers out of the Temple. If you don't love your flock enough to tell them the whole truth of God's Word even if it cramps your ritzy lifestyle, you don't deserve to be their shepherd because you aren't loving them with the unselfish love of Christ!
Monetary tithing was not enforced in the Church until the sixth century A.D., when it was made church law by two Catholic Church councils in Europe. According to McClintock and Strongís Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature, two church councils were held legislating mandatory tithing on money. The first was the Council of Tours in 567 A.D. The second, the Council of Macon in 585 A.D., enjoined the payment of tithes under pain of excommunication. Apart from the fact that we are not under law but grace, tithing on money is nowhere commanded in Scripture, much less in that scary Ananias and Sapphira incident. Others will differ with me on this most controversial of topics, and thatís their right. But whenever a minister harbors secret convictions in his heart that tithing on money is unscriptural, and makes it a point never to mention the Scriptures which prove that traditional church teaching on tithing is wrong, he is committing a grave sin. Especially when he says to his flock: "I have declared unto you ALL the council of God." Rather than being Fishers of Men, such men are Fisher for Funds. And what's more it is THEY who stand guilty before God in Ananias and Sapphiraís shoes, not poor people who withhold "God's" tithe. Deceitful users of the Word of God heap guilt on God's burdened people, accusing them of selfishness even as they withhold vital truth which would set them free from guilt-based giving.
In Acts 20: 29-31 Paul warns his fellow laborers to be vigilant in their watchcare over the church of God: For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one day and night with tears.*** Unlike many today, Paul would never have withheld vital truth to protect the flock of God from swallowing heresy!
It is only by the mercy of God that religious deceivers who hold back non-lucrative truth from the body of Christ donít meet the same fate as Ananias and Sapphira. But Peter doesnít hold out much more hope for such preachers than he did for the couple who fell dead at his feet for lying to God. Here is a passage tailor-made for our generation:
II Peter 2:1: But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily (in a sneaky way) shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.***I noticed something here. Some might say to those who preach strongly against sin: Youíre not perfect yet, so shut up. Who are YOU to judge what's right and wrong? But here we have Peter warning of those who would deny their own Lord. Peter knew he himself had denied the Lord three times, but he still delivered Godís warnings. If we waited till we were perfect enough to preach against sin, none of us would qualify to do that till we got to heaven!
VERSE 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways (lascivious ways, as it reads in the margin); by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. ***What a convenient excuse fishers-for-funds have provided for sinners to turn away from hearing the Gospel presented by Godís true servants! The shame of it all! God will hold deceivers liable for hindering the spread of the Gospel of Salvation. And God will hold them accountable for every soul who refused to heed the Savior's call to repentance because of the example of those who committed religious fraud in the Name of Christ!
VERSE 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment of a long time slumbereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.***This is Godís answer to religious frauds who brag that they can have their heaven right here on earth with ice cream piled on top, and even more in the world to come!
Most of those dishonest men of the cloth seem to get away with it in the here and now, but Godís church has not escaped the consequences. Some churches have suffered untold loss through being presided over by ministers of deceit out to enrich themselves. How can God fill a particular church with His glory and power when devious shenanigans have been going on under cover of darkness to keep the funds flowing like milk and honey? I knew some preachers who knew their Bible inside out from cover to cover. They were warm-hearted, kindly men who longed to see more of the power of God in their churches. They could tell you the exact meaning behind every Old Testament ritual under the sun, and the spiritual significance of every stick of Tabernacle furniture. But never once did I ever hear them or any other pulpit minister preach a truly scriptural sermon on tithing, just that we were to do it. A proper sermon on tithing would include scriptures such as Deuteronomy 14:22-27. This passage, as others do, makes it clear that only edible farm produce was ever subject to the tithing ordinance. And contrary to popular teaching, tithes were (in part) EATEN by the tithe-payer himself!
The ceremonial ordinances given by Moses have been nailed to the Cross (Col. 2:14). This includes the tithing ordinance, which never was on money to begin with. And to prove that tithing is an ordinance from Mt. Sinai, you need only look at the final verses of the book of Leviticus. Verses 30-33 cover tithing, and thatís the last ordinance of the Law of Moses mentioned before verse 34, the final verse which says: These are the commandments, which the LORD commanded Moses FOR THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL (not us Gentiles!) in mount Sinai.
Yet ministers of greed will still twist the Word of God to get what they want out of Godís people. They will refuse to let this dead work of the Law stay where God put it. Along with hundreds of other carnal ordinances of the Scroll of the Law, the tithing law was nailed to the Cross with Christ, but unlike Christ, never was supposed to be resurrected. But like disobedient religious experts of today do, King Saul hung onto things God ordered destroyed, as you can read in I Samuel Chapter 15. Saul excused his disobedience away, saying he could go ahead and spare the best of the livestock God ordered destroyed so he could offer them up as sacrifices unto the Lord. Some people would say Saulís sin was a nitpicking peccadillo and God shouldnít sweat the small stuff. After all, Saul's intentions were allegedly good.
But Samuel says in I Samuel 15:22: Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the Word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.***When wily preachers deliberately sit on scriptures they know they should be sharing with the people to set them free, even though it be out of zeal for the offering of the Lord, they are in the same position as rebellious Saul. The Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul (I Sam. 16:14). In many churches the poor are shamed instead of loved (I Cor. 11:22; James 2:6). Between the silent lies of money-loving ministers and the lack of love in dead congregations, itís no wonder such places never witness the wonderful works of God in their midst. Faith works by love (Gal. 5:6). And no wonder. For God is Love (I John 4:7-8). When you banish love from your midst, you also banish God and the mighty workings of His power.