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Lesson 7: Honesty With God *

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 cheater!

      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 sense.)

      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 everything?

    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 system.)

    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 returns!)

    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 updated!

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

      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 wealthier.)

    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.
* Copr. 2018, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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