By J.S. Smith
In Acts 5, we learn that two Christians, Ananias and his wife Sapphira, were intending to copy the example of Barnabas and other saints by selling a plot of land and bringing the proceeds to benefit the needy of the Jerusalem church. However, unlike Barnabas, this couple covets the notoriety of such a gift but does not want the pain of charity to afflict them so severely. Ananias and Sapphira conspire to pretend they are giving all when they are really only giving part of the proceeds. Truly, it was their option to give as they chose, but they endeavored to deceive their brethren into thinking they had done more.
The apostle Peter accuses the husband of his sin, claiming he had “not lied to men but to God” (v. 4). Maybe that was news to Ananias. Maybe he thought he could gild the lily and look like a big man and no one would ever know. Had Peter not possessed a prescient gift from the Holy Spirit, he might have gotten away with it. But honestly, God would have always known the truth anyway.
Ananias was struck dead and his unwitting wife soon joined him in eternity. They perished simply because they pretended to have piety when in fact, they were just going through the motions.
Our offering to God must be more than financial, of course. Money is only a part of the Lord’s work and what he demands and deserves from his children. The Hebrew writer tells us that he also should receive from us “the sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of our lips” (13:15). Is God listening to our songs? As surely as he beheld the sacrifice of bulls and goats in Moses’ day, he is beholding the notes and words of our songs today. Paul describes our song service as “singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). Our songs are directed toward heaven and they are received there.
For our songs to be a pleasing aroma to God, they must be sincere. The most avowed atheist could sing “Amazing Grace” on stage for money, but God would not be worshiped because the grace was not in his heart. We must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24); that is, our songs must be authorized by God and sincere from the heart. If you don’t mean it, don’t sing it. If you don’t mean it, God won’t accept it.
What if God calls our songs as evidence in the great day of reckoning? Will they have reflected the thoughts and purpose of the heart and body? Or will they be evidence of hypocrisy and vain worship? We have promised God over and over that we will “Take Time To Be Holy” by speaking oft with him and feeding on his word. We must ask how regular our prayer and study habit is. Or will the Judge convict us of singing insincerely?
When we sing “This World Is Not My Home,” do the words emit from a heart secretly bowing at the altar of covetousness and the evil things of this world? Should God believe we are just a-passing through when we are busy heaping up treasure on earth and accruing nothing where we are supposedly headed for eternity (Matt. 6:19-21)?
We love to sing “Blest Be the Tie” that binds our hearts in Christian love. Do we mean it? Do we live it? Or do we not even consider one another and forsake the encouragement of the assembling together (Heb. 10:24-25)? Do we live to gossip and backbite? Do we count the tie that binds a noose around our libertine necks?
“Into Our Hands” the gospel is given, we sing. “Haste, let us carry God’s precious message, Guiding the erring back to the right.” But how can we say we mean it if we never utter the name of Jesus outside the security of the meeting house? Why should God accept that song from us if we horde the gospel like it might somehow be used up?
“Every time I sin on earth, I feel that I’m the one,” we pronounce in “I’m the One.” How can we even utter the words if we sin like we are sure of tomorrow? Unless we truly hate sin and intend to rid it from our lives, we had better not sing this song — we don’t mean it yet!
“Would you be free from your burden of sin? ‘There’s Power in The Blood.’” Why then do we lust after the premiums offered by denominations like amusements, banquet halls, and dramatic sketches? If we truly believe there is power in the blood, why flirt with anything less?
“Tell Me The Story of Jesus.” How dare we attempt to sing that in God’s presence when we never pick up a Bible to find the story in the first place? How dare we sing such words when we neglect Bible class?
We pledge allegiance to God beneath “The Banner of the Cross:” “Marching on and on! Marching on and on!” Where are we going? Are we marching into our communities, families, and workplaces like Christian soldiers or have we declared neutrality in the world war with the devil? If your faith never leaves the pew — you leave it there on Sunday afternoon and pick it up next Sunday morning — don’t sing like you plan to march under the Christian standard all week.
“Make me as ‘Clay in the Potter’s Hand.’” Singing this means you intend to truly be a disciple of Jesus, a person who is sincerely like Christ. That requires that your life be molded and shaped by the word and will of God. Will you read it? Will you apply what you read to your own life?
Then there’s the best one of all: “Are you ‘Sowing the Seed of the Kingdom’ brother?” You had better be broad- casting the seed of faith yourself before you start asking about your brother’s habits (Matt. 7:1-5).
Christians must start listening to their songs and learning from them. God is listening. And if we are giving him a blemished sacrifice or keeping back part in pretense, we will be held accountable for it. What part of that offering might we be withholding? Is it the spirit or the truth? Could it be both?
Could God be reacting to our songs as he did to the Hebrews in Amos’ day: “Take away from Me the noise of your songs” (5:23)?