Is it ever okay for a Christian to steal? The automatic answer that comes to mind is “absolutely never” and you would be right to think that way. For reasons like! We know it’s forbidden because it’s the 8th commandment that God gave to Moses, to give to the people in Exodus 20. It’s also, against the laws of the land in Canada and around the globe. But, what do you do with this question when you read Prov 6:30-31? “People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house.” So the only time it is understandable is when you are desperately in need. But unfortunately it will cost them plenty if they are caught. The penalty is server for the thief, even more so over other grievous sins. However, though it is understandable from a human point of view, it is still not right, and God never condones it. There is nothing positive to stealing and there is nothing God honoring by stealing anything that isn’t yours. Stealing comes from the desire to get what we want or think we need. We know that this is a major problem in our society and not going away anytime soon.
So what do we do to help prevent this from happening to us?
We lock our doors when were not home or before we go to bed?
We lock up our cars and have expensive alarms installed on them?
We have passwords and security questions on our banking, cell phones, tablets or computers?
Why do we do these things? Because there is always someone out there that is trying to steal something from somebody. Whether it’s a physical belonging or cyber theft or identity theft?
Now you’re thinking I don’t steal, so this doesn’t apply to me Pastor Mike. I’m a Christian and I’ve answered that question you asked at the beginning with a resounding NO! You’re saying to yourself “I would never do such a thing.” And I hope your right!
But! Let me ask you some questions this morning?
Have you ever cheating on your taxes?
Have you ever borrowed something and never had any plans on returning it?
Have you taken advantage of a store clerk’s mistake when given change back?
Have you ever stolen your child’s candy or chocolate?
Have you ever cheated on a test by getting the answers ahead of time?
Have you ever downloaded movies or music knowing that it’s not free to do so?
Have you ever raided your parents/siblings, change/gunk drawer in their dresser?
Have you ever taken credit for something that someone else did?
We need to understand something very important about stealing! Stealing is more than taking something from someone. It’s an attitude of heart that says “I can have whatever I want, when I want it and I don’t care about anybody or who I hurt in the process” Sadly though! In the past several decades shoplifting has grown alarming, a large percentage of this has been done by employees. And for many, stealing is just a game in which getting caught is the only cause for regret or shame. Until this wrong is seen in its proper light, a person will continue down this road. That’s why it’s the truth of God’s word that transforms the sinful man or woman from their old nature. To deal with this sin of stealing, the heart needs to be addressed first.
Why is this important to understand? Jesus said this “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.” Matt 12:35. Prov 4:23 says “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” The heart, mind and thoughts, and especially the will, and affections, are immediate and the effectual cause of all men’s actions. And from the heart proceeds all the actions, as of the natural and the spiritual. Paul is warning the body of Christ may this not be seen or said amoung the family of God. “Steal” in the Greek is “Klepto” for which comes “kleptomanic” and Paul says we are to “no longer” do such things. The Christian is to steal no longer.
What does the bible say about stealing?
The bible says it’s an abomination to God
Jeremiah 7:9-10 says “Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, 'We are delivered! ‘Only to go on doing all these abominations? Abomination is a thing that causes disgust or hatred, in this case towards God
The bible says it’s forbidden, without exceptions.
Exo 20:15 says "You shall not steal.
Romans 13:9 we read this “For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
The bible says that stealing is fraud and that includes fraud in general and fraud concerning wages.
Lev 19:3 reminds us of this truth "You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning.”
We see this in the New Testament as well “Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.” James 5:4
The bible says those who steal or know of stealing, hate their own souls.
Prov 29:24 says “The partner of a thief hates his own life; he hears the curse, but discloses nothing.” The accomplice would rather risks the punishment, rather than reveal truth.
The bible says it brings the wrath of God upon those who commit it.
Eze 22:29 says “The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery. They have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without justice”….. (v31 goes on to say) ”Therefore I have poured out my indignation upon them. I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath. I have returned their way upon their heads, declares the Lord GOD."
So Paul says “stop stealing from the family of God….But do what? Stealing in any form is a sin, and has no place in the life of the Christian. Rather, as Paul says “Work honestly” with your hands. For the purpose of what? So that you might have something to share with anyone. Paul says work on honest wage and be useful for those in need. What this does is opens us to think of others above ourselves. When a person steals they are only concerned and thinking of one thing…Themselves. When we are focused on others, it builds and strengthens the body of Christ.
Think about it for a moment! Productive people produce productive communities….the same principle applies to the church. When we work together and do our part to help it’s an amazing thing to see and be a part of the church as it grows spiritually and in the community for the gospel confession. The renewed person in Christ through the gospel confession acts without selfishness. Paul counters the urge to steal by commanding the flip side! It’s a four letter word that triggers in those days and many people today. That word is “Work” this word still remains an issue in our culture. Studies show the lack of work goes beyond the stereotype of welfare cheaters and the idle rich. Studies show that more and more middle-class young men are less inclined to work in positions of responsibility because undemanding jobs can provide them all they want: an apartment, a fast car, l a flat screen TV, and a willing partner.
Do you see something wrong with this picture? It’s self-focused and self-driven and Paul is telling us that we should work; so that in doing “something useful” we may have something to “share” with others. The word “useful” has its roots in the idea of something “good” or “worthwhile”. The spiritual echo of this portion of Paul’s letter is moving our minds to consider the impact of not stealing, by moving from a position of being a “taker” to a “giver”. Before the gospel penetrated our hearts we were always looking to take and never to give. Once we sought to deprive others of good, but now we seek to share with others our goods. That’s a witness of grace at work in the church. By living in accord with the instruction of the gospel, the “thief” becomes a representative of God mercy.
The gospel transforms our hearts to be workers and givers to others for this reason.
This principle of working with your hands is a testimony to the unbelievers.
1 Thess 4:11-12 says “and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.”
This principle of working with our hands is to help guard our hearts against idleness
2 Thess 3:6-10 says “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.”
This principle of working with our hands is a beautiful way we share Christ with our fallen community.
Jesus said "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.' "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." Matt 25:31-46
In doing this we get to become Christ to our neighbor. A witness of grace at work in once a thief, but now a new creation. Giving rather than taking reflects the nature of Christ to one another and this lost world. Natural man and woman are seeking what they want and what makes them happy! But the man of God and the woman of God are seeking others with the love of Christ and the gospel that saves. Because we desire our neighbor to be saved through the gospel and find eternal hope in Christ alone. Paul reminds of this truth in Col 3:4 “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” As one theologian said “Jesus is not a theological concept, but He is our life.” This is our present and future hope, and knowing this truth should pump our hearts to work for His glory and honor amoung the church and people who desperately need saving.
What might the Christian being stealing today?
When we fail to worship Him as we ought.
When we fail to honor God with our time.
When we do not give our very best in the family, at work, or the church.
When we waste God’s time and God’s good news!
We need to stop stealing the time God has given us and work with our hands so that we have something to share with anyone. Something as simple as the gospel of salvation! A Christians desire to earn more should be our purpose of being able to give more and help more. Remember this truth written in the book of Acts as we close. Paul said “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all.” Acts 20:32-35. So let’s do that!