This morning, let us take our Bibles and turn to Exodus 20. We are looking and starting with that passage this morning, as I continue to look at the ten commandments.
Let us look at verse 1 through verse 15. It says:
Then God spoke all these words, saying, I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
You shall have no other gods before Me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generation of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, or your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
Let’s pray. This morning, Lord, as we again look at your word, I pray that our hearts would be ready to consider Your commandments. For we know Lord, that Your commandments show forth Your character and Your glory. You gave Your people a standard of living, something that reflected Your will and transmitted it to them.
So I pray Lord, we consider the commandments, even Lord for our own day. Even though in Christ we’re not under its condemnation anymore, but we know that it still illuminates sin. It still convicts of that sin and makes it clear. I pray Lord that as we consider the law of God, we know Lord that it’s been fulfilled in Christ.
I pray Lord today that we would live in an obedient manner as we submit to the Spirit of God who gives us the power to live out the truths of Scripture and to live out the communicable attributes of God in our daily life.
Lord, bless us with an understanding of this commandment. I pray this in the Lord Jesus Christ name today. Amen.
Through the law of God, I discover and you discover that we are people who find it difficult to let God be God. The law of God does reflect some of the character and glory of God. When you and I look at the law of God, we see that we have fallen short of the glory of God, that we have broken the law of God, that we cannot keep the law of God. Therefore we fall under its curse.
The law reveals to you and I that we are not good. Actually, we are sinners and rebels against God. The law had a temporary function to it. The mediator function of the law was transitory. It has been replaced by something better. The apostle Paul wrote in Galatians:
but now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
So our relationship to the law, for those who are believers, has changed. We are no longer under this tutor, as it says in Scripture. Now scripture insists that the law’s old function was as a pedagogy and is no longer necessary.
Let me just explain for a minute. A pedagogy was a slave who supervised the life of young children; they were tutors. The father of that child gave the pedagogy instructions and he saw to it, the tutor, that the children carried out those instructions completely.
But when the child grew up, he became directly now responsible to the father. No longer did the father relate to the child through this household servant, or slave or tutor. The slave was at that point retired, and the service was no longer needed.
So the law is like a teacher, a tutor, that brings us to Christ. Once we come to Christ, we no longer need this tutor. As it says in Galatians, it says the law was our guardian until Christ came. It protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. The whole point of the law was to show sinners that they need Jesus Christ. They need someone to deliver them, to save them, to redeem them.
So then, Scripture’s argument in the book of Galatians is that after Jesus came, and the Holy Spirit was sent into our hearts, the old relationship with the law was superseded by something better. The coming of the Holy Spirit to live within the believer removes the necessity of relating to God through the law.
However, setting aside the law’s mediating function does not mean God is no longer concerned about righteousness. It simply means that God has a better way of helping believers grow in righteousness. Believers in Christ learn to live in response to the Holy Spirit’s inner promptings and leading with the Word of God. That becomes how Christian grows in Christ, how a Christian become righteous. They don’t become righteous on their own power. They become righteous on the power of the Spirit of God setting them apart, sanctifying them. Just like when we read passages of scripture like Galatians 5:16:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.
This passage in Romans is really more pointed, as far as you and I are concerned, where it says:
so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
We have to ask the question when it comes to law: what has changed as far as you and I are concerned? Let’s consider this for a moment. We have the law. Of course, the law is something that we have. We have God and of course God gave the law. God spoke the law and of course secondly the law spoke to man, transmitting God’s will to man. Then the believer express faith in response to the law, or in obedience to the law.
This would be what would happen in the Old Testament, that a person would respond to the law in that way. You had to go through the law to get to the Lord. Of course, that would be through the sacrificial system too, but remember the law always revealed God’s moral character. The law always reveal righteousness and goodness. The law always revealed sin and underscored man’s need for forgiveness and righteousness.
However, the Law never showed how one could be saved. It never produced or provided righteousness to the believer. In fact, if one obeyed, they would receive blessing because of obedience. Of course, that was through offering a sacrifice and coming to the Lord, having their sins forgiven. If they did not obey, they would be under a curse. That’s what would happen.
Now, for those who are believers, who have now the Spirit of God, what has changed? Well, What has changed is that the believer is now related directly to God. Directly to God. We do not go through the law anymore. God the Holy Spirit will direct the believer’s way and will work His own inner transformation. God’s Spirit will produce in us the Holy Spirit’s fruit.
That would be the difference. The law was not able to do that because the law’s righteousness was not fulfilled yet. The justice of the law was not fulfilled yet. But when Christ came and He became our substitute, He fulfills the law. He satisfies the justice of the father. Therefore, we are now set free from the law’s condemnation to live for Christ, to walk in the spirit.
That’s why, if you haven’t noticed, in this passage, it says in Galatians:
But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
There’s no set of rules that you and I live by any longer, as Christians, because we have the Spirit of God. It goes on to say:
Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Now the Spirit of God has given us new passions and desires. Then it says in verse 25:
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
God now commits himself to work directly in our lives and directly upon our character. The focus shifts from just external behavior in the Old Testament to the person we become in the new relationship we have in Christ, now having received the Spirit of God.
Law could never have added anything to the new life a person would receive as a believer in Christ Jesus. that’s just a little theology as I go through the Ten Commandments, just to give you a little bit of update on some of the confusion that would come when we consider the Old Testament law and what it means for us today.
It still does convicted of sin. It still magnifies the sin that is in our heart. It no longer can condemn because that condemnation has been taken for us by our Lord Jesus Christ, who fulfills the law. Because we’re in Christ, we fulfill the law too.
Now in saying all that, I like to watch evangelist Ray Comfort share the gospel on the streets of Santa Monica in southern California. When he gets to the eighth commandment, that’s what I’m focusing on this morning, he sometimes says: have you ever taken something that didn’t belong to you, regardless of the value? This includes stealing an answer on a test, or taking a pen from work, or even keeping extra change that you know isn’t rightfully yours.
If you’ve taken anything that isn’t yours, then you are a thief. Then he usually includes a question: does that concern you? Then he goes on to say and adds usually a comment in the Scripture where he says: do you know no thief can enter the kingdom of God? He usually uses 1 Corinthians and he says:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, or homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.
When he says that, he says: by your own admission, you are a blasphemer, liar, thief, adulterer, and so on at heart. If you are judged by the Ten Commandments will you be innocent or guilty?
He has a unique way to get people to say you’re guilty. He’s good at it; he does it every day. He takes the law and applies it to the conscience of a person.Under the judgment of the law, the person have to conclude: you know what, if I stood before God right now, I’m not doing so well. That’s exactly what the law supposed to do. It’s supposed to put us in a place where we have to have something else to save us.
Of course, he then will say something like: if God is good and He’s a righteous judge, He must punish murderers, liars, and thieves. God’s place of punishment is the prison of hell. I don’t want to see you go to hell. I don’t want to see you end up in hell.
At that point, he finally will present the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, his death, his burial, his resurrection, his death in the place of sinners, his shed blood to wash away the sin of an unbeliever and receive forgiveness, and of course the resurrection unto new life. He says them: if you turn from your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ, He will forgive you of every sin you’ve ever committed and grant you the gift of eternal life, which is the only way anyone could be saved.
So that is a very good way to witness to people. Take the law and apply it to their conscience. And as it’s applied to the conscience, they really cannot wiggle out of it. They can’t run from it. If they’re really honest, they’ll say: I’m guilty guilty. Of course the answer is in Christ Jesus. That’s the exciting thing about it.
So, right in this commandment we’re looking at this morning, there’s a principle revealed in the eighth commandment. The principle of the eighth commandment, which simply says you shall not steal, is this: it’s the responsibility for honesty to be the policy and the practice of God’s people.
That’s sounds very simple, doesn’t it? This is the policy. It’s been the policy of God’s people all the way along, but now we have to put this policy and procedure and practice into our fabric of our everyday, by the power of the spirit of God.
By definition, stealing is the act of taking property from another without permission and in secret. Leviticus tells us this: you shall not steal nor deal falsely nor lie to one another. Stealing is surely prevalent in our society among pagans who do not plan with God in their thoughts. I’m sure there are amongst us formers thieves who, by the power of the gospel, have been transformed into honest persons. Even professing Christians have been guilty of breaking the eighth commandment – thou shalt not steal. The moral law contained in the commandments is as relevant for God’s people today as it was in the Old Testament. It still reveals sin. When we find ourselves to be guilty of stealing whatever it may be, however it may manifest itself, we still come under the guilt of committing or breaking that particular commandment. In
Scripture, there are all kinds of thefts that the Bible mentions. Matter of fact, looking at this passage of scripture, I was overwhelmed by how many places in Scripture it talks about people stealing. I said: wow, that’s interesting. But it’s not surprising because, you know what, we’re sinners, right? That’s what sinners do. There’s one thing that I think everybody can say: that there’s not been a time in my life that I haven’t taken something that didn’t belong to me.
So, stealing is a broad subject because there are many things that can be stolen: material things, possession, property, money. In Scripture, it could be stealing livestock or things that are valuable.
Take your Bibles and turn to Exodus 22. I want to read the section to you, because it’s a big section about being a thief and stealing.
Notice what it says in Exodus 22:1-9:
If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it and sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the Sheep.
If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft. If what he stole is actually found alive in his possession, whether an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.
If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animals loose so that it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard.
If a fire breaks out and spreads to thorn bushes, so that stacked grain or the standing grain or the field itself is consumed, he who started the fire shall surely make restitution.
If a man gives his neighbor money or goods to keep for him and it is stolen from the man’s house, if the thief is caught, he shall pay double. If the thief is not caught, then the owner of the house shall appear before the judges, to determine whether he laid his hands on his neighbor’s property first. For every breach of trust, whether it is for ox, for donkey, for sheep, for clothing, or for any lost thing about which one says, "This is it," the case of both parties shall come before the judges; he whom the judges condemned shall pay double to his neighbor.
So in that passage, there is a lot of stuff in there about different situations, about how people can steal. It’s not just taking from somebody. It could be very subtle. It could be planned. It could be just ignorance – ignoring your own stuff that gets into other people’s stuff. We have other words or terms for it: stealing, extortion. Zacchaeus made restitution for him extorting money because he was a tax collector, if you remember in the New Testament. Breaking and entering, shoplifting, larceny, embezzlement, stealing time, stealing ideas, stealing people. The Bible addresses that in Exodus 21:16 – kidnapping. In fact, it says:
He who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.
For kidnapping the penalty was death. But what about stealing God’s property? What about stealing from God? I like you to take your Bibles and turn to Joshua. I want you to notice in Joshua 7, not only that he stole, but I want you to know again the progression of temptation. Remember, that progression I mentioned last week, that somebody sees with her eyes, they then desire it with their heart, and then they take it.
Notice in Joshua chapter 7:20-21. Achan was stealing God’s property. What’s interesting in Joshua is that God says: listen, when you go in and destroy all the people then that booty from that warfare is mine. All that Achan had to do is wait for the next town and it would have been his. God, in the next town, gave it to the people. But this time he says: no, I want it. Notice in Joshua 7:20-21 it says:
So Achan answered Joshua and said, "Truly, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.
So in that passage of Scripture, you see the progression. I saw; I coveted; I took. Stealing from God brings consequences. In Achan’s case, not only was he stoned to death and his goods burned, but his whole family, his wife and family, were too. He took what was under the ban, what was God’s possession. He took and of course, he suffered the consequences for that. He stole from God.
Here’s a passage to look at, Malachi 3:8-9. It says:
Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me! But you say, "how have we robbed You?" In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse.
now, in that passage of Scripture, one of the things that people were doing was: they were giving, but they weren’t giving it all. They weren’t given their best. They weren’t giving their first. They weren’t doing that. So they were saying: what do you mean we haven’t been giving? We’ve been giving. What do you mean we’re robbing god? God says: you are robbing me, because you’re not giving me the first and the best. You’re giving me the chump change. You’re not giving me what comes out of the first fruits of your labors. That’s mine. See, we can be stealing from God when it even comes to that. Not giving God what He’s due in our own Christian life.
You know, our time is not our own. Our bodies are not our own. We looked at that, saw that last week. Our life is not our own, right? We are actually slaves to a good master, and His name is Jesus Christ. Now we’ve been freed up by the Spirit of God to actually serve God with joy and with gladness and with the desire to want to see His name uplifted and glorified. In doing that, we received blessing from the Lord.
So we can steal from God with our not giving Him our time, not giving Him the use of our spiritual gifts, not giving Him our possessions in the sense of giving each week as part of worship. It’s giving back to God what He has blessed us with. So stealing has other forms than theft and robbery. It could be the misuse of a trust fund. That could be fraud. Or it could be unfair wages. Like it says in James:
Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you,
In other word, somebody did the work and you don’t want to pay them. That is also considered theft and robbery. Scripture talks about in Exodus 22: excessive interest. The people of God are warned that if you lend to people, you cannot excessively impose upon them a high interest. Sometimes it’s no interest at all. The best way to do if you’re ever giving money is to give money with no strings attached. You don’t expect anything back. If you don’t expect anything back, you don’t expect anything. I want to give out of the goodness of my heart. I thought about it. This is yours. That’s it. It’s closed, not coming back later and saying: you know what, that money I gave, I need it back. No, that’s not the way we should do things.
Also, using inaccurate measurements of weights and sizes and volumes. There was a warning in Scripture, that people were not to use weights and measurements inaccurately. I knew a guy who used to visit the gas stations, and they would pull apart the pumps and they would make sure that the gauges on the pumps were actually giving the right amount of gas for the right price to everybody. I don’t know if they still do that. They probably do it electronically now, but they used to be able to fix things. It’s like the old proverbial thing, that you go to the butcher shop to get a pound of meat and the butcher has his thumb on the scale. That’s the kind of thing that goes on all the time. You feel like sometimes, when you go to buy something, you’re getting taken. Sometimes you’re not, but sometimes you are. We shouldn’t be doing that as God’s people. We should be upfront.
Unpaid debts. Failing to pay to another that which is due. Even credit cards. Using credit card, where we are way over the top and not realizing that when you use that credit card, you should be thinking: if I don’t have the cash to pay for this, I’m not going to use this card. You shouldn’t be paying interest and finance charges. That means you’re not using your money right. That means something is wrong. You need to see Khaleef and get into the YAM class on on finances, and he’ll set you straight. He’s learned all those lessons and now he’s able to teach them.
Receiving stolen goods, like pirated software, music, videos, movies. Ezekiel talks about robbing souls of truth, not giving people the Word of God and giving it out like you’re supposed to.
So stealing also includes deception – covert planning for the opportunity to take what is not yours for yourself. It includes the misuse of intellectual ability, ingenuity, skill, and gifts that God has given you, to merely serve yourself and not serve the Lord and others. And usually coupled with the thought that when you done that, you’ve gotten over on someone.
So the thief has a strong desire to obtain things without the desire to work for it. He has a shortcut in mind. He may think it is easier to take from others who have worked for what they have than to go through all that hassle of working, those long hours for such little. I’ll just take it. That’s what’s in his mind. In the end, the thief’s view and understanding of work is twisted of its original shape into something thought as good to the thief, but in reality very perverted when you come to the Word of God.
What are some of the causes of theft? A simple heart of unbelief – a person who has a high distrust in God’s providence. Like it says in Psalm 78:
Therefore the Lord heard and was full of wrath;
Why was He full of wrath? This was in the wilderness where God supplied all the people – their food, the manna from heaven. Their clothes didn’t wear out. He supplied them water in the wilderness. He made a river in the desert and a road in the wilderness. God did that, and yet it says in scripture: they did not believe in God and did not trust Him for His salvation.
So unbelief in God’s providence could be that we do not trust God, that He will provide, so we have to scheme to get it on our own. Get something on our own because we don’t believe God will supply.
Also, a sinful heart of covetousness. I’m going to cover this in the tenth commandment. The tenth commandment is a very interesting commandment. The term covetousness really signifies immoderate desire of getting something, which is at the root of all theft. A person covets more than what has been given them. So the person takes it from another. He schemes to take from another.
And then just downright greed. Greed is prevalent in scripture in all kinds of ways. In Proverbs 15:27, notice what it says:
He who profits illicitly troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.
Then this passage of Scripture is so convicting, in Timothy where Paul was telling young Timothy this about people who love money, it says:
those who want to get rich
What’s interesting there is: it doesn’t mean they ever will. But they want to. I’ve known people who have all their life wanted to get rich, and never did. When you look in their car, where they sit is all filled with old lottery tickets. Because they always wished to hit that jackpot, to hit the big one. If you look at the rest of the passage:
they fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.
For the love of money is the root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
See, these get rich quick schemes, these Ponzi pyramid insurance schemes, lottery and gambling, all those things are all prevalent in our society. They are, many times, the temptation to just fulfill that desire to want more than you should have or God intended to give you.
And there’s the external causes to thievery, it would be just the world system itself. The Bible says in Ephesians 4 that:
the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind,
and then it says:
practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.
But you did not learn Christ in this way,
Paul says in Ephesians. Then Satan’s solicitations. You find that Satan can use wealth to tempt us. An ideal person is tempted by the devil to take what is not his. Satan wants to actually rob us of our innocence in this area.
We find Judas, when Judas, it says Satan entered into him. He was the person who took care of the money bag. He loved money more than he loved Christ. Then Ananias and Sapphira, where they wanted to mimic what Barnabas was doing. So they gave land, but they only gave a part of it. Barnabas gave all of it. And that’s why it says in Scripture in the book of Acts, Peter says:
Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?
See, there’s internal causes in our own sinful heart. There’s external causes that could bring someone to be tempted to be a thief. There’s many examples in scripture about thievery. Rachel stole her father’s idols. Somehow I looked at that and said: maybe that’s not a bad thing, to steal his idols. But she never told her husband Jacob. Jacob said: I did not know Rachel stole them. She stole the idols.
Then Joseph’s brothers were concerned that they would be accused of stealing Joseph’s silver cup. Remember the silver cup ended up in Benjamin’s bag, right? And then of course he got taken in in a big ordeal. God was teaching a big lesson to the brothers for selling Joseph into slavery.
Then we already saw that Achan stole items that were devoted to God. Ahab and Jezebel stole Naboth’s vineyard. In Judges, Micah stole 1100 pieces of silver from his own mother, but then gave it back to her.
Remember when David sinned with Bathsheba and killed Uriah her husband. Nathan came to him and told the story about someone robbing someone’s little lamb. Remember the parable of stealing the poor family’s pet sheep. Then Nathan the prophet said to David: you’re the man who did that. You’re the one who stole. Not only was it adultery, it was murder. It was also thievery that David was guilty of. He should have been put to death, but God forgave them. There’s the intersection of the mercy of God in the mist of sin that you cannot rescue yourself from, unless God intervenes.
And of course the varied penalties for theft: death, double payment, fourfold payment. The judges would make decide what restitution needs to be done. If you didn’t have anything to give, you would be sold into slavery.
In other cultures, they used to have debtor’s prison. A person would be put in prison because they didn’t pay their debt, or they would be sent to jail. Some places like in the Middle East, cut off your ears, cut off your nose, cut off your hands. You stole – boom, that’s it. Tell me that won’t prevent you stealing again, right? But that’s what they do in other places.
Now, you don’t have that kind of level of penalties for stealing in the Old Testament. Death came only if you stole someone or you stole from God. With other things it was really payment restitution, giving back. But you gave back two-fold, four-fold. The thief had to feel the penalty, the weight of what he took from somebody else, usually twice-fold and four-fold.
That brings me to this morning to the New Testament, the principal in the eighth commandment related to life today. Let’s take our Bibles and turn to this passage of scripture, just one section of scripture. Remember, this is in light of the apostle Paul teaching about the Holy Spirit. Carrying out these things because you have the Holy Spirit. You are a believer. The Holy Spirit indwells you. Now I can actually overcome this sin of stealing by living in the Spirit.
Ephesians 4:28. If you were in the habit of stealing things, steal no more. Now in Christ, if you are in Christ, become an honest workman. You noticed that in the passage of scripture, it says:
He who steals must steal no longer;
Now that is assuming that a person is a believer and has the Spirit of God to be able to actually put this into practice. If on the other hand, thievery continues, if there is no change, then it just shows the person has not yet matured spiritually or is not a Christian at all.
However, let it be known that this epistle is written to believers who are being progressively sanctified. Believers are call to walk in holiness, meaning they are not practically made perfect yet. They will never be made perfect on this side of eternity, but they are growing in maturity. Some sins we were quickly delivered from when we became believers, but the others we need instruction from the Word of God. We understand, in our thrashing about against sin, that the struggle is not immediately over. No matter how long you will be a believer, you’re always going to be struggling against some sin. As you mature, you see your sin more clearly. As you mature in Christ Jesus, you see your thoughts as being sinful. That’s the root. You want to take care of the root. That’s where you want to kill it.
The Spirit of God shows you the things that you’re thinking are not honoring to the Lord. We are going to go on struggling with remaining sin. We are going to be tempted to sin, tempted by past sins, and entice to sin even in present situation.
What the Word of God is doing is instructing us to stop stealing. Scripture is informing us that we have the Holy Spirit. We have His power. He is presently at work in us, to will and to do of God’s good pleasure.
We are not struggling in our sin against our sin alone. We are not fighting against our sin own. We are part of the body of believers who are being made strong, in order that we will live for God in this world and imitate the character of God. The character of God here is that we would not steal.
I want to split the passage in half. What is interesting is this: the second part of it is the solution to the thievery. Look at what it says in verse 28. The insistence in our passages is upon honest work, but urges one to labor so diligently that he may have some surplus with which to relieve his fellow brother or sister who’s in need. Look at what it says:
but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good,
so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
So theft, in all its forms, misappropriate to one’s own use, the results of labor which belong to another. Thus by way of contrast, the highest motive for patient and humble toil is the desire thereby to acquire the power to relieve those who are in distress. The supreme inspiration in labor is not personal gain, but it’s sympathetic service to others. It’s worship to God.
In other words, our passage doesn’t say: become an honest workmen so that you may support yourself. That’s assumed. It really says: become an honest workmen so that you may have something to give away to those who are poorer than yourself, those who are in need other than yourself.
It’s always dying to self here, when it comes to our money and our finances. If a person has need, I see that need, and I have compassion on them. Compassion seizes and supplies.
If God did not have compassion on us, if He didn’t see us in our need, He would never supplied. But His compassion sees and provides. It’s the same here, that we see what we need to do. Then we work in order to give. We work in order to give. The christian ideal is that we work, not to amass things, but to be able, if need be, to give them away.
That’s pretty odd kind of way of thinking. That’s not the way of thinking pretty much in America, in this system that we live in. For the Christian, the stealing, which takes from others to give to oneself, must be replaced by hard work, which takes from self and gives to others. Selfishness is thus replaced by unselfishness in a very, very practical way.
The solution for hedging against the temptation to steal is to work. To work. To put your hands to good use and good labor, for what motive? So I have enough to take care of myself, and I have enough to give to somebody else. To give to the Lord’s work – I have enough to do that without strapping me. I’m learning how to use finances in a way that I’m freed up to do that.
Now a lot of things have to take place for that to happen in some of your lives, right? You may have to adjust, take care of things. But you know, when people say: well I can’t afford to give. Well, you can’t afford not to give. That’s the way it ought to be. That’s a cliche, I know that, but that is true.
I can’t afford not to give to God because God is the greatest giver in Scripture. In other words, when we give, we are acting like God. We are exemplifying the character of God through the Spirit of God, out of our lives to other people. We’re not taking; we don’t have to take. We can give. When we give, then we are acting like God. In fact, it’s Timothy who told Paul:
Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
God wants to give to us so we can be happy. So we can be content. So we don’t have to be looking to the left or to the right, or our neighbors. Look, they have that; maybe we should get that. We don’t have to be looking like that. We can just be content. If God bless somebody else better than me, God bless them. God didn’t bless me like that. That’s all right. Just be content. That’s the motive the Spirit of God gives Christians. When we do that and we were able to handle our own finances and our own property the way we should, then God gets the glory.
Remember, God is the giver. He gave His Son and did not withhold His Son. He gave His Spirit. He gave life to us. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life. He gives us spiritual understanding. Gospel of John tells us: We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true.
He gives us the gift of faith. He gives us the gift of grace. But to each one of us grace was given, according to the measure of Christ’s gift.
So for the thief not to consider these gifts and the blessings they bring is to treat with disdain what God has given to us. God doesn’t make us stingy. He opens our hands and makes us givers. That’s what He does. That’s His nature. He does that to us. He expects his children to do the same thing.
So, saying all that and considering this commandment, what is to be done to be avoiding this? Avoiding stealing, avoiding this particular conduct. Some simple things, but it’s true: live as those who have been called to be in Christ. The passage of scripture we just looked at in Ephesians 4:28:
He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
Live as a person who is in Christ, and that’s what a person in Christ does.
Secondly, keep in mind the shortness of life and what one departs with from this world. What do you depart with? Listen at what it says in 1 Timothy 6:6-7:
But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing into this world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
When you leave, you’re not bringing the U-Haul with you. You’re leaving alone. You’re leaving. That’s it. Consider that – we don’t take anything with us. So everything God has given you is for now, this side of eternity. Use it well. Don’t hoard it. Be wise with it, but be able to freely give when called upon.
Then some other ones would be this: keep in mind the instability and unpredictability of wealth. Proverbs 23:4-5 says:
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from considering it. When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies towards the heavens.
It goes in one pocket and it goes out the next, right? I sit there and I do my bills, and I’m saying: do I have to pay this bill? Yeah, I have to pay this bill. I still write checks. I know the millennial generation don’t write checks anymore, but I write a check. I am kind of splitting it now, half electronic and half I write. Somethings I have to know I paid, you know, and I copy it and file it.
Anyways, you probably do the same thing, but we should have some kind of filing system. When the electric goes out, and we don’t have any more internet, I’ll still have my bills paid and you won’t. That’s the way I think. I want to write out paper stuff.
Then the next one would be this: be content with the estate that God has given you. Remember, godliness with contentment is great gain. To me, that is probably where the hardest part of Christian growth is, the Spirit of God getting us to this point that we are just content. That means we’re not complaining. We’re not grumbling. We’re not murmuring under our breath about our situation. We are thankful. We know we’re being blessed by God and that God has His hand of protection upon us. He’s giving us way more than we deserve. That’s in our mind when we think of this particular subject: be content with the estate that God has given you. What does it say in 1 Timothy 6:8:
If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.
You know what God promised you? He promised you food to eat, clothing on your back, housing, and work. That’s it. He didn’t promise you to be healthy, wealthy, and fine. He’s never promised that. Now He does allow some people to have wealth, but the warning for a wealthy person is pretty high. If you have that kind of wealth, you better be using your money in a way that honors Him if you’re a believer. There’s a great emphasis put upon that. I like what it says in Hebrews 13:5:
Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,"
It’s amazing that that’s in that passage. When we’re not content, we’re thinking: God’s not with me. He deserted me. He’s not taking care of my needs. That’s what we think. That’s the temptation right there. The temptation is don’t go there. Be content. I don’t have all the answers why I’m in the situation I’m in. I may never get all the answers about the situation I’m in. But I am going to be content in the situation I’m in, because I know God will never leave me or forsake me. His Providence I can trust, even though I don’t see clearly.
You and I are going to be in that situation a lot of times, but God’s not going to take a left turn on us. You can just keep following and trusting in Him because He will always be faithful to His kids. Always. Satan don’t want you to believe that. He doesn’t.
And just this one right here: trust in God, not money. It says in Psalm 62:10:
Do not trust in oppression and do not vainly hope in robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.
Don’t trust in what money can do. Trust in what God can do and will do. A lot of times, we get to the place where we have a little bit more, and we start trusting in what it can do. All that that means is that God has given you a little bit more. Now, how am I going to use it in the right way? That’s how we should be thinking.
Then one last thing is: send your treasure on ahead. Matthew 6:19-20:
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;
That’s what we need to do. Live for the Lord. Our greatest treasures is going to be when we get to heaven. We’re going to have as our possession God Himself.
I don’t understand all that. I can’t wrap my mind around that, but I know the Scripture is true and tells us that. We are going to be heirs together with Christ. That’s a promise in Scripture. That’s a promise that we’re going to be heirs together with Christ. Thank you for that.
Let’s pray. Lord, this morning thank you for the wonderful knowledge that You give us. How great a God You are, how great a giver You are. Lord, You give good gifts to Your children. And You withhold things that we think are good, but are not. Thank You Lord for that.
When we work honest with our own hands, we are acting like You. And when we work like that, and we use our possessions and our finances in a way that we can not only take care of our own needs and bills but we can also have leftover to give. Lord, that’s what You want us to do. In doing that, we are going to hedge against the temptation to steal. For we know, Lord, that never honors You. Help us to do that, Lord.
Help us to overcome and put to death this particular sin and its temptation, so we can live for You in a way that honors You. Being a christian is being renewed in the image of our Creator and after God’s likeness. So, I pray, Lord, that as we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit of God, we would exemplify this character of being honest, hard workers, and people who know how to handle what we have for the glory of God.
I pray this in Christ’s precious and most holy name. Amen.