Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God


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32. The Truth about Taking – Part 2

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.”

After seeing the 3 ways of getting anything in life, by gift, by work and by stealing we now see how taking affects our:

A. Relationships

Because all relationships are built on trust, theft undermines and destroys the foundation of our relationships because it trashes trust. But it’s not just the physical things that we take which ruin relationships. We can steal someone’s good name, we can steal someone’s relationship with others but with each type of theft we leave ourselves and others empty instead of full. Instead of getting we actually gut ourselves and others.  No thief ever feels satisfied, and they are left with less not more. Stealing doesn’t profit us it poisons us because while we may gain physically, we lose socially and spiritually. While it might temporarily boost our bank account it leaves our hearts bankrupt. The recklessness of stealing has a way of coming back in negative ways not just on those we steal from but on us. When we steal a good name through gossip, it causes us to become people that others won’t share with or spend time with. It trashes trust and ends up ruining our reputation not just theirs.  Instead of gaining we lose and experience the loneliness of relational isolation. Stealing always causes us to draw the short straw. This is illustrated so well in the following true story from our dim-witted criminals department: A man walked into a convenience store, put a $20 bill on the counter and asked for change. When the clerk opened the drawer, the man pulled a gun and asked for all the cash in the register. The man took the cash from the clerk and fled, leaving his $20 bill on the counter. So how much did he get from the drawer? Fifteen bucks. Go figure. We never really get ahead through theft, what we leave behind is our self-respect and broken trust from others. Judas is a good example, the Scriptures say that he regularly helped himself to the treasury of the disciples John 12:6, He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”Not only did he lose his own self-respect, evidenced in taking his own life, but he also lived a miserable life of guilt before this. Thieves are never happy people, often they are the first to worry about people stealing for its always at the forefront of their mind.

B. Recklessness

When we even excuse the small ways we steal, whether taking answers from someone else’s test in school to taking home office supplies that your company paid for we not only hurt ourselves but all society. Stealing is strictly a reckless activity for all, and all are diminished by it! Taking shortcuts, which is the essence of theft, may appear to bless us, but instead of helping it only hurts us. As we see in the story of John Smith. He was a loyal carpenter, working for a very successful building contractor who called him into his office one day and said, “John, I’m putting you in charge of the next house we build. I want you to order all the materials and oversee the whole job from the ground up.” John accepted the assignment with great enthusiasm and excitement. For ten days before ground was broken at the building site, John studied the blueprints. He checked every measurement, every specification. Suddenly he had a thought. “If I am really in charge,” he said to himself, “why couldn’t I cut a few corners, use less expensive materials, and put the extra money in my pocket? Who would know the difference? Once the house is painted, it will look just great.” So, John set about his scheme. He ordered second-grade lumber, but his reports indicated that it was top-grade. He ordered inexpensive concrete for the foundation, put in cheap wiring, and cut every corner he could, yet he reported the purchase of much better materials. When the home was completed and fully painted, he asked the contractor to come and see it. “John,” said the contractor, “what a magnificent job you have done! You have been such a good and faithful carpenter all these years that I have decided to show my gratitude by giving you this house you have built, as a gift!” While everything might have looked good on the outside John knew the truth of what was really on the inside. Like the subpar concrete that soon would crumble John’s character revealed some serious cracks. So, what about you are there any areas in your life where your tempted to take short cuts to try and get ahead? In the end it’s like the old game of snakes and ladders, we might feel like we are climbing the ladder to success but in truth we end up spend more time sliding backwards on the backs of those slipper snakes.

 

 


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31. The Truth about Taking – Part 1

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:

  1. STEALING FROM OTHERS

A. Receiving

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.