“He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest” (Acts 5:2 NLT).
Friend to Friend
After a night of intermittent sleep, I woke up feeling groggy and unsettled. I went through my morning routine including some vague prayers and Bible reading where my mind wandered more than focused. I answered a few emails, organized some paperwork, and participated in a zoom meeting. Then I wandered into the kitchen to make lunch but my eyes were drawn to the large screen sitting above the mantle. I began to make internal justifications why I deserved an afternoon off distracting myself with a television show.
I had work to do, but I could find another time to squeeze it in without missing deadlines.
I had minor surgery the previous week and probably needed some additional rest (even though I had been back to normal for days.)
I didn’t sleep well so I wouldn’t be efficient if I tried to work anyway.
Don’t hear me say there is never a time to take an afternoon off, but this wasn’t a case of self-care. You see, I struggle with television. Maybe it’s not your brand of escape, but perhaps you like to distract yourself with social media, novels, online games, or something else. All of these resources can be helpful tools, but they can also easily get out of balance. If we aren’t careful, they can become our masters rather than our servants.
We must pay attention when isolated incidents become patterns of behavior. We have access like never before to online resources, libraries of books, and Bibles galore. The problem isn’t always ignorance of God’s message, but the abundance of other messages that threaten to crowd it out. Seemingly innocent distracting messages can lead to subtle lies seeping into our thinking. Discernment will help us recognize counterfeit messages that are woven into the fabric of both our culture and our sinful nature. We can learn from the early church to separate important truth from dangerous deceptions.
In Acts 5, a man named Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold property and gave part of it to the church. The problem wasn’t that they didn’t give it all, but that they said they gave the full amount. Acts 5:2 says, “He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.”
They both died as a result of their lie. This punishment seems harsh through our modern lens and perhaps to the early church members because Acts 5:11 tells us that fear gripped the church when news of deaths spread throughout the community.
It’s possible Ananias and Sapphira lied to the church because they wanted the accolades. While it may be hard to accept the severity of the lesson, we find that God used extreme measures to warn the early church about the dangers of half-truths.
This occurrence reminds us that God takes deception seriously. Even small lies offend God’s Holy Spirit. They can affect and infect a spiritual community. We aren’t immune to dangerous deceptions in our culture. Here are a few I notice on a regular basis:
“It’s normal to have sex before marriage.” (Many sitcoms today normalize this behavior.)
“The most important thing in life is to love yourself.” (Check out the bestsellers on Amazon lately.)
“You deserve comfort and security.” (Seen any Facebook ads lately?)
To awaken His church, God illustrated the severity of deception in a very tangible way. While we may wrestle with His method, let’s not miss His message! Deception leads to death. Maybe not in the physical sense like Ananias and Sapphira experienced, but lies kill relationships, dreams, and hope. But the good news is that God’s message leads to life. Abundant life. That’s why He longs for us to live in the truth and not be suckered into consuming culture’s counterfeits.
After my terrible, horrible, no good very bad day filled with television, I knew some changes were in order. I didn’t want to be legalistic and try to manage my temptations. Yet I found that as I spent time in honest prayer, the Holy Spirit nudged me to set some personal guardrails. Like braces that realign the teeth for a certain amount of time, I set some boundaries regarding my media consumption. Awakening to God’s messages with some small changes in my daily routine has brought clarity and joy. I’m praying that God’s Spirit awakens you to His messages in your everyday life.
Lord, we struggle against the many messages of our culture. Help us identify and turn away from lies. Purify our hearts that we want Your fame rather than the approval of others. We are so human, Lord. Awaken us to Your message throughout this day!
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Now It’s Your Turn
Can you identify any activity in your life that threatens to become master if you don’t stay on guard? (If you are having trouble answering this, think of your self-talk regarding limits you set for yourself but struggle to maintain.)
More from the Girlfriends
Check out Melissa’s new Bible study titled Acts: Awakening to God in Everyday Life for an in-depth study of the early church.
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© 2022 by Melissa Spoelstra. All rights reserved.
Beautiful and convicting word today, Sister Melissa! Thank you for the courage to be transparent. The Lord has truly looked me straight in the eye through your word. May the Holy Spirit grant us both victory in this!🙏
All I know is that we have to be educated by God and not the world or man. The bible is our manual for life. The written word and Jesus is the word! We have to invite God the Father, Jesus the son, and the Holy Spirit in every nook and cranny of life. In every aspect of life. We are no surprise to God. He knows everything about us and still loves us and wants a close relationship. My prayer daily is for the Holy Spirit to change my heart and mind to Jesus’s heart and mind, to balance me out. I want nothing that puts a barrier between me and God. I am a work in progress. I will be 61 in May.
I left out an important ingredient earler in my response. Put God in charge!
Melissa, I’m right with you; a “sister of understanding”.
When I’m tired or off center, my screens become my “babysitter”. I’ve been working towards a boundary of screentime vs. mediation time. God knows this, and He’s always there, somehow, in correcting me and making me mindful of who I should be paying attention to.
Just last night, I thought (God influenced!) ” I need to get into the word, tonight”. Even if it is a few moments before lights out, I need that time to possibly, re-direct my intentions towards the “fruits of the Spirit” and set me in to a quiet time of prayerful meditations and praise.
Thanks, so much for sharing your struggle with this subject. It has blessed me this am.
Thank you fir your transparency Melissa. My struggle with screens is word games. I have fasted this lent from them and pray I can set healthy boundaries after Easter.
Melissa, thank you for writing this. 🙂 I found it helpful and timely. Your clarifying question at the end was a great takeaway for me to ponder. (“If you are having trouble answering this, think of your self-talk regarding limits you set for yourself but struggle to maintain.”)