Exodus 20:15- “You must not steal.”
Ephesians 4:28 – “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.”
As we continue in our series “Relationship not Rules” we come to the eighth command “You must not steal.” Once again we see that the reason for this command revolves around relationship, because taking trashes trust which is the foundation of relationship. Yet often when we think of stealing, we picture the bank robber and while this command speaks to hardened criminals it also confronts Christians who choose short cuts to get what they want instead of God’s way which is called work. There is another realm to stealing besides criminals and that is in the many ways we find in our common lives to take things from others. Whether that is robbing people of compassion, taking away someone’s good name with gossip, or taking pens and pencils home from work. But stealing doesn’t just rob the relationships we have with people but also our relationship with God. Taking from others or from Him that which is not rightfully ours destroys our soul and society.As we look at stealing, we will see how it impacts both our relationship with each other as well as our relationships with God. So, let’s start with:
- STEALING FROM OTHERS
There are only 3 ways of getting anything in life, by gift, by work and by stealing
- By GIFT
Sometimes this is an act of grace, as the receiver may or may not deserve the gift. Salvation falls into this category. We don’t deserve to be saved, we deserve death, but God offers us His salvation if we cast ourselves at His feet and confess our sins. God graciously forgives and saves us. There are somethings we can only get by grace and the act of giving. Many of the greatest gifts are given not earned. True love can’t be bought or work for it is given. Yet how many of us today are trying to take instead of give? Stealing undermines the grace of giving. Because the act of giving a gift is an act of love on the givers part, while the receiver is usually overwhelmed and grateful. We replace grace with greed and instead of having a heart full of gratitude we have one filled with greed. Which reduces our relationships to what we can get instead of what we can give.
- By WORK
This is another of God’s ways of receiving, by earning. But notice that according to Ephesians 4:28 the goalof work is not just for self but serving. It’s not just getting but giving. Today we view work as a bad thing, but work was part of God’s plan prior to sin. Adam worked the garden and later the ground and received the food he needed. This way of getting things has a lot to do with us, we receive by deserving what we get, for services rendered. Since this kind of getting involves our efforts it can be both productive or destructive based on the condition of our heart. If we have a humble heart it will produce a sense of self-respect because what we receive is connected by sacrifice on our part through work. But if we have a haunty heart it will produce the poison of pride and instead of self-respect there will be self-recognition. This is why God created work and instructed Adam to take care of the garden, so that the fruit he enjoyed would bring self-respect and satisfaction. Work is not just about the money we receive it’s about the respect we gain. Today our welfare instead of work entitlement mentality is destroying society by reducing self-respect. A society that institutes welfare without work strips its citizens of dignity and purpose.Work results in blessing welfare creates a burden. In the bible widows were given the edge of the field to harvest. They still had to work why, because work has more to do with just monetary gain, work results in respect. Self-respect provides a sense of well-being. Welfare without work can be destructive not productive because it can make people dependent while stripping them of dignity. Welfare focuses on the problem instead of the person. And because it focuses on the money instead of the mission it places the value on riches instead of respect. Work is an honorable way for people to get things. And this way of receiving often motivates us to work even harder and more sacrificially since we are blessed by what we receive. Making both self and society productive. The last way to get something is:
- By THEFT
This is the destructive way to receive something, by simply stealing it or taking it! Stealing not only destroys relationships that are built on trust, but it destroys self-respect when one receives by theft that which does not belong to them. Stealing destroys character as it breeds corruption and because it compromises our relationship with one another and with God, it hurts both the soul and society. One of the main reasons people take what is not theirs is because they can’t or won’t wait for it, or because they believe that they shouldn’t have to wait for it. We all know that we can’t always have what we want when we want it. But instead of waiting and working we chose the short cut of stealing because working and waiting are hard. As Eugene Peterson said, “The person who looks for quick results in the seed planting of well-doing will be disappointed. If I want potatoes for dinner tomorrow, it will do me little good to plant them in my garden tonight. There are long stretches of darkness and invisibility and silence that separate planting and reaping. During the stretches of waiting, there is cultivating and weeding and nurturing and planting still other seeds.” Instead of creating self-respect, it cultivates self-hatred. Productivity is replaced by loss, trust is replaced with suspicion. Yet tragically, there are many who see stealing as the only way to get ahead in this world. Our society sees taking as their right instead of something that is wrong. Many of us steal in seemingly innocent ways, like taking time to surf social media at work when we should be busy with business or taking pencils and paper. There is a story of a taxi driver who played on people’s sinful human nature of stealing to his advantage. Every day he would wrap up his garbage and leave it in the backseat of his cab. Always by the end of the day, it was gone. Someone had taken it and gotten a big surprise. No wonder we live in a society that has learned to put bars on the windows of their homes, or double locks on their doors, or to use video surveillance equipment in nearly every establishment. We have become a society that doesn’t trust anyone anymore. In 2016 shoplifting cost retailers $50 billion in the U.S. and that’s just one form of stealing. The prices we pay for goods has factored into it a price to cover the large amount of theft that has become common practice. We are paying the price both economically and socially. It’s no wonder we live in an affluent society today that nobody seems to enjoy, receiving without earning does not make someone happy, it diminishes their self-respect! So, what about you, how are you receiving things, is it through gifts, good honest work or by taking what doesn’t belong to you? If you are stealing come clean, confess your sin, pay the consequences and as Ephesians 4:28 instructs replace your stealing with good hard work so that instead of taking and being a burden, you can be a blessing.