Once upon a time, when I was a litigation paralegal, I worked on an intriguing case involving a married couple who sued a mega-coffee giant. This case will always be memorable to me, not necessarily because of the famous company, rather because of the husband and wife that filed the lawsuit. High stakes civil litigation can take a while to reach a resolution and this case was no exception. Our team worked diligently for over a year to defend the corporation against a claim that sought millions of dollars in recovery. During the life of the case, we learned a great deal about the couple- their background, occupations, hobbies, social activities, family, marriage and their dreams of the future. We also learned a great deal about the events of the day in question and what each player in this drama did or did not do that contributed to the issue at hand. After much effort, the trial date finally arrived and the married couple spent days putting on evidence to try to convince a jury of twelve to rule in their favor. The amazing part to this story is that our team didn’t put on a single piece of evidence. We simply presented the required opening statement, questioned all the witnesses called by the plaintiff and then delivered a closing statement. Our strategy was simple- highlight not only the lack of evidence, but the suspicious integrity of the husband and wife. Deception, manipulation, exaggeration and potential untruths were identified and the jurors ultimately decided in our favor. The couple walked away disgraced, defeated and empty-handed. Not exactly the result they were hoping to achieve!
In my twenty-something years in the legal field, this case was the first one that seemed to be motivated by more than just money. I won’t bore you with all the details on how I came to this conclusion, but all indicators pointed to the allure of money combined with national recognition. Much like the McDonald’s famous hot coffee case, a day in the spotlight was too enticing to pass up.
Their story reminds me of another couple…. Ananias and Sapphira.
Maybe you’ve heard of this Biblical couple? Maybe not.
Their story can be found in the Book of Acts, Chapter 5 and is an interesting read -- a tale of giving that ultimately leads to their demise.
Read it for yourself:
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge, he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?”
“Yes,” she said, “that is the price.”
Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.”
At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
Arguably, they started out with good intentions- to give to the church. The problem is they allowed greed, pride, and bragging rights to blur the lines between right and wrong. They wanted recognition, status and approval of men over God’s approval. So much so, they willingly mislead the church and brazenly lied. Did they not realize God always discerns the truth? What a price to pay for the sake of appearances!
The parallels between these two couples are noteworthy- both couples compromised their integrity in their pursuit of fame/fortune and both had terrible endings.
Admittedly, we shouldn’t be so quick to condemn them as we all are hard wired to want to be noticed, to be praised and respected. The catch is to be mindful of our motives and to be aware of who’s approval we are really seeking.
I love this observation from Max Lucado- “What if we long for the approval of others because, deep down, we want the approval of our Creator? Our souls want to be seen, noticed, and loved by God, and this deep longing overflows into our relationships. The more we believe in and receive the love of God, the less we live for the love of others. But the more we distance ourselves from God’s love, the hungrier we become for the approval of others. So hungry, in fact, that like (Ananias) and Sapphira we might find ourselves compromising our integrity.”
Friends, may we learn a valuable lesson from these two couples…integrity matters.
May we seek to please God over man- every single time! May we choose to walk with integrity, embrace a humble spirit and speak truth over the temptation to deceive, exaggerate, or boast.
Otherwise, it just doesn't end well.
“A life lived with integrity - even if it lacks the trappings of fame and fortune is a shining star in whose light others may follow in the years to come.”
— Denis Waitley