Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE ESSENCE OF THIEVERY”

Ephesians 4.28

 

In Second Corinthians 5.17 the Apostle Paul wrote these words:

 

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”

 

For years the prevailing view among Christians was that this verse referred to a believer’s position in Christ, not his practice in Christ. That is to say, Second Corinthians 5.17 was thought to refer to how God saw you as a Christian, but that the verse had little to do with how you were expected to behave as a Christian. However, as we slide into the great apostasy that characterizes the end of this age we see this wrong view of Second Corinthians for what it really is, a way to cover up and excuse the wicked behavior of people in the Christian community who claim to be born again, but who have never trusted the Biblical Jesus the Biblical way for the Biblical forgiveness of their sins.

The fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian congregation bears this assertion out. Please turn there. You see, it is in Ephesians chapter 4 that Paul begins to sort out the details of just how it is a saved person is brought to show, on the outside, that he is a new man on the inside. It takes genuine conversion, it takes the ministry of a church and a God-called pastor, and it takes practical scriptural exhortations to the new Christian to establish godly goals to live up to. Such practical exhortations we have before us in Ephesians 4.26-29. Let us stand, and remain standing afterwards, as we read the passage:

 

26    Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27    Neither give place to the devil.

28    Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

29    Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

 

You might have noticed a pattern in these four verses. First, there is an exhortation related to your temper, Ephesians 4.26-27:

 

26    Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27    Neither give place to the devil.

 

Next, there is an exhortation related to taking, Ephesians 4.28:

 

“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”

 

Finally, there is an exhortation related to talking, Ephesians 4.29:

 

“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

 

My text for this message is Ephesians 4.28. In this single verse we find a prohibition, an admonition, and a motivation. Shall we read the text again?

 

“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”

 

The prohibition is quite straightforward, but is more far-reaching than you might first imagine:

 

“Let him that stole steal no more.”

 

You see, the English word “stole” gives the distinct impression of being in the past tense. And it is, in English. However, the Greek word rendered “stole” is actually a present active imperative form of the Greek word “kleptoo.”[1] We get our word kleptomaniac, meaning compulsive thief, from this word. From the form of this word, we see that Paul is definitely not referring to someone who once stole things, but who no longer steals. He is referring to someone who is presently and actively engaged in some form of thievery. How can this be, you ask, since First Corinthians 6.10 clearly declares that thieves are not saved, though Paul is obviously writing this letter to saved people? Folks, let us be reminded that wrongdoing is so deeply ingrained into the behavior of the sinner that no saint can entirely stop sinning this side of heaven.[2] Therefore, while the newly saved person will stop shoplifting, and will stop stealing cars, it may take him a while to comprehend the need to give his boss eight hours work for eight hours pay, and it may take her considerable time to get off food stamps and aid for dependent children. So you see, some of these things cannot be stopped in a matter of minutes or hours. Sometimes days, or weeks, or months are involved. However, there will come a day when the child of God will no longer be taking property from other people in unethical ways, even if those unethical ways are technically legal, like having your undisciplined child declared to have attention deficit disorder just so he can get on the public dole and get a monthly check for being “disabled.” I know a guy who enlisted in the Marine Corps who was already diagnosed with asthma, yet he professes to be a Christian and yet insists on taking a monthly disability check for his asthma, even though his military service had nothing to do with his condition. That, of course, is stealing. Paul’s prohibition is far-reaching and has direct application to believers after all.

After the prohibition against taking comes the admonition:

 

“But rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good.”

 

Have you ever thought about the number of spiritual problems that can be effectively dealt with by the proper application of hard work? “Labor” here means hard work.[3] Think about it sometime. The lazy sluggard, which is to say, the guy who will not keep a decent job that he could hang on to, or the kid who will not do his homework, or the girl who will not clean her room, should be forced to work hard and do without food until the assigned tasks are performed. That advice comes from Second Thessalonians 3.10. What about the person who is a taker? Maybe he no longer steals candy from the store, now that he is saved, but he does short the effort he gives to his boss at work, or he shorts the effort he gives to his parents who pay his way in life. You see, the problem with a person who steals time and opportunity, and things like that, is that he doesn’t appreciate the value of a hard-earned dollar, and the only way he will ever come to appreciate the value of that which he takes from others is when he has to work hard to generate that which he has taken. Then and only then will he appreciate the value of what he takes. However, that is not the end of it. Just as the cigarette smoker rarely stops smoking by deciding only to stop smoking, so specifically designated sinful behavior habits are rarely ended when you just decide to end them. The Biblical pattern of forming godly behavior patterns follows the put off and put on principle. Put off the old man and put on the new man.[4] Put off stealing and put on giving. Listen to the motivation:

 

“That he may have to give to him that needeth.”

 

It is not enough to just stop stealing. God is not pleased with those who just stop doing wrong. He wants His people to start doing right, working from the inside out, from one’s heart to one’s conduct. So, the motivation for the stealing to end, for the working to begin, is so you will be able to complete the transformation from being a taker to becoming a giver. When that happens you have begun to show those around you that you are a new creature in Christ.

Why do you want the things you want? For what purpose do you desire to have? Is it to give to them that needeth? For years I wanted to someday own a home. I wanted to own it, not rent it. Why? Four reasons: First, to provide for my wife in her old age. Second, to provide for my daughter when I am gone. Third, to provide for my mother while she was alive. And fourth, to have a comfortable place to host church members and lost people I’m trying to bring to Christ. I was willing to work so that I might have (a house) to give to them that needeth (Sarah, Pam, mom, lost folks). I now have the house, though my mother never saw it, and though I doubt that I will ever pay it off enough to benefit my wife and daughter, we do try to use it to reach lost people. As well, I want to earn money so I can give to the cause of Christ. I, who was once one of the most selfish of children, am now by God’s grace so much more a giver instead of the taker I used to be.

These introductory remarks said, let me contrast the Christian life with the life of the unsaved man or woman by focusing on a single aspect of your life, taking as opposed to giving. My sermon is titled “The Essence Of Thievery.” Thievery, at its root, being understood in its most basic form, is not limited to taking someone else’s stuff. The real essence of thievery is taking anything that belongs to another person, instead of giving to meet that other person’s needs. You might wonder, what is wrong with the essence of thievery? Thievery is wrong on all counts. Remember, God created you and He expects, no He demands, that you be your brother’s keeper.[5] So, when you take from your brother instead of give to your brother, whatever it may be, you are in rebellion against God’s will for your life. Additionally, since God made you and me in His Own image and after His likeness, anything that you do to me that is wrong, or any right thing that you have opportunity to do that you withhold from me, is an assault against the very image of God.[6] In short, being a taker instead of a giver, being a person whose very life demonstrates the essence of thievery, even if you never violate a single law by stealing another person’s real property, is still being selfish and is still being sinful.

Let me bring to your attention three observations that I have made about thievery:

 

First, AN OBSERVATION ABOUT THE EXAMPLES OF THIS WICKEDNESS

 

This is very practical and has pointed applications:

First, the example of fornication and adultery. This sin, sexual sins of all sorts really, is a violation of the seventh commandment. This is a sin which directly or indirectly attacks the institution of marriage and the home. It is adultery and fornication that immediately or eventually robs children of their parents and undermines the security of their homes. Why? Because it is adultery and fornication that causes far and away the most divorces and out of wedlock births, as well as pregnancies terminated by abortion. Do you see how sexual sin is the essence of thievery? It leads to stealing parents from their children, stealing security from the home, stealing virtue from the virgin, frequently stealing the life of the unborn child, and stealing and cheapening God’s precious gift of sexual communion from the institution of marriage. Fornication and adultery is the essence of thievery.

Next, the example of murder. What does the manslayer take, but the life of the victim? Perhaps the life of an ex-wife and a waiter is snuffed out in a fit of rage at a restaurant. Perhaps the life of a little girl is extinguished by cowardly gang members in a drive by shooting. An innocent child killed by thugs who are afraid to admit that they are disgusting curs who prey on helpless children. Regardless of the reason, the taking of a human life is a heinous crime in the sight of God, even if the child is as yet unborn. Why so? Because human life, being as it is in the image of God, is sacred. Murder and manslaughter (including hatred, according to First John 3.15) is the essence of thievery.

Third, there is the example of lying. What does the liar take? Though many would suggest that lying is really no big deal, the liar takes the truth and perverts it. You see, liars mostly tell the truth. Lies simply have to be nestled in a context of truth to be believable. So the liar, in order to deceive, has to mostly tell the truth. Liars take from others in this way: They take from those they lie to a clear comprehension of the truth, and a willingness to believe the truth at face value. What liars leave behind is deception, doubt, and mistrust. Since the Lord Jesus Christ indicated that it is the truth which sets men free, the liar is one whose preoccupation results in bondage.[7] Dealing in lies, the liar does not set men free. Quite the opposite. He enslaves men. Tell me that taking men’s freedom by the telling of lies is not the essence of thievery.

Fourth, there is the example of idolatry. Do you bow down to statues? Do you cross yourself? Do you pray to statues? If you do those things you are guilty of the sin of idolatry, which is the second of the ten commandments listed in Exodus 20. Do you realize that idolatry is also the essence of thievery? Consider also that idolatry is more than bowing to statues. It includes valuing anyone or anything more than God. Here is how idolatry in all its forms is the essence of thievery: God is the only true and living God. All other beings have been created by God and are greatly inferior to Him. So inferior are all other beings, in fact, that God has specifically declared, “My glory will I not give to another.”[8] He is willing to share your worship, your adoration, and your veneration, with no one besides Himself. So, when you bow to a statue, when you pray to or show reverence to a statue of the Virgin Mary or to a so-called saint, even when you cross yourself, you are taking from God what is rightfully His and His alone. How about staying home to watch a football game instead of attending a church service or participate in a church activity? This, too, is the essence of thievery.

Then there are the examples of witchcraft and sorcery. In Galatians 5.20 we find the word “witchcraft” in Paul’s list of sins typically committed by unsaved people. In Revelation 21.8, which lists those who will have their part in the lake of fire, we find the word “sorcerers” listed with other kinds of sinners. Both words translate the Greek word “,” from which we get our English word pharmacy or pharmaceuticals.[9] “Witchcraft” and “sorcerers” in the Bible are related to the use of drugs. By this is meant not just the illegal use of drugs. Oftentimes the perfectly legal use of drugs is, despite its legality, quite sinful. You see, drug use does not have to be illegal to be wrong. Let me explain: Drugs, such as alcohol, can be used in a strictly medicinal way, which is appropriate and sanctioned by God, or can be used quite wrongly.[10] However, when drugs, like alcohol, are used to control your mood, to mask the guiltiness of your sins, or to artificially counterfeit joy that should only come from God, then the use of drugs is wrong. There are only two things that can make someone feel badly, a physical problem causing pain or discomfort, or a spiritual problem causing distress or robbing you of your peace of mind. When you attempt to address spiritual problems by medical or pharmaceutical means you are taking away from God the right to remove your joy when you commit sin, the right to convict you when you do wrong, and the right to reserve your bliss for those times when you obey Him. What better example of the essence of thievery is there than taking from God, through the inappropriate use of stimulants, depressants, and mood altering drugs, His right to exercise control over the emotional aspect of your life?

Sixth, the example of not giving tithes and offerings. What could be more obviously stealing than refusing to give tithes and offerings to God? In Malachi 3.8, we read that refusing to give God tithes and offerings is described by God as robbing Him. Is not robbery stealing? Is not someone who steals a thief? What does the tithes and offerings thief steal when he refuses to give God’s tithe and when he refuses to give his own additional freewill offerings? In addition to stealing from God he is stealing from his church and from his brothers and sisters in Christ. When you withhold God’s tithe and your offerings, in addition to stealing money, and stealing obedience, and stealing submission to God, you are also stealing ministry from your fellow church members and taking away from them the material resources God would provide to the church through you. As well, do not forget honor. Proverbs 3.9 reads,

 

“Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase.”

 

Withhold your tithe and you take from God the honor that is due Him. You steal what God has a right to from you, the honor you are to show Him. So, indeed, if you hold back God’s tithe, which is ten percent of your gross income, and you hold back offerings on top of the tithe, you are demonstrating the essence of thievery. I have a right to gather with God’s people to see God fully and properly honored, yet some people withhold from God and from me what I have a right to see and experience, God being honored.

The last example of thievery I will mention is the example of unbelief. If idolatry is a sin against God the Father, unbelief is a sin against the Lord Jesus Christ. You see, it is not good enough for you to “believe in God.” James tells us that even the demons of Satan believe in God.[11] The Lord Jesus commanded His followers with these words:

 

“Ye believe in God? Believe also in me.”[12]

 

In the world of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry the word “believe” was a far weightier word than it is in our modern world. Back in the day belief counted for something. The sin of unbelief, then, is the sin of not trusting Jesus Christ. It is the sin of not placing your confidence in Him to save your sinful soul. It is the sin of not thinking you need to be saved, as well as the sin of not being saved. How is unbelief the essence of thievery? It denies Jesus Christ what He deserves. The Bible declares, “worthy is the Lamb.”[13] My friends, Jesus Christ is worthy. “Worthy of what?” you ask. He is worthy of everything. Chiefly, He is worthy of your trust. Therefore, when you deny Him your trust, when you withhold from Him your trust, you are guilty of the essence of thievery.

 

Second, AN OBSERVATION ABOUT THE END OF THIS WICKEDNESS

 

You and I came into this world on Satan’s side of the Conflict of the Ages. You came into this world a sinner. You came into this world a taker. Your life is the essence of thievery. As a husband, you only take from your wife, you do not give. As a wife, you only take from your husband, you do not give. You are lost a kid who only takes from your mom and dad. You never give them anything in return. Not really. Selfishness and sin, sin and selfishness. Take, take, take. Where does that get you?

First, the standing of you who are guilty of being takers. The sins I reviewed, and it was not a complete list of sins by any means, includes sexual sins, murder, lying, idolatry, failure to give tithes and offerings, and illicit if not illegal drug use. Now, perhaps you are not a cold-blooded killer. Perhaps you have just aborted your unborn baby. Or perhaps you persuaded your girlfriend to abort the unborn child you fathered. Hey, maybe you are a drunk. Maybe you are a slothful slob. Perhaps you are a gossip. On the other hand, you could be a complainer who always takes other people’s joy from them. They smile and ask you how you are doing, and you always seems to rob them of joy by responding, “Oh, all right, I guess.” Folks, this is all sin, and the Bible says that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.[14] The standing, therefore, of every taker, every sinner, everyone who is essentially a thief, is a standing of guilt. You stand before God guilty of sin.

So, what is your sentence for being a taker? Turn to Matthew 25.31-46:

 

31    When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

32    And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

33    And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

34    Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

35    For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

36    Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

37    Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

38    When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

39    Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

40    And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

41    Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

42    For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

43    I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

44    Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

45    Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

46    And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

 

Now turn to Ephesians 5.1-6:

 

1      Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

2      And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

3      But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;

4      Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.

5      For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

6      Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.

 

Finally, Revelation 21.8:

 

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

 

Unbelievers, sorcerers, covetous. All takers. All lost men. All going to perish in the lake of fire. That is your fate, my lost friend, my unsaved friend, my taking acquaintance. You are a taker, therefore God will take from you your eternal soul and cast you into the eternal fire.

 

Finally, AN OBSERVATION ABOUT THE ESCAPE FROM THIS WICKEDNESS

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3.16.

 

Is it not wonderful that escape from being a taker, salvation from being a sinner, comes when a sinner gives to Jesus Christ his trust. “Whosoever believeth in Him,” my Lord Jesus said.

 

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” Acts 16.30-31.

 

So you see, the Apostle Paul said the same thing with different words to a man who thought he was going to die and wanted to be ready for death.

 

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”

 

My friend, being a taker is the same thing as being a sinner. A sinner is a taking person, not a giving person. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came from heaven’s glory and shed His blood on the cross to wash away your sins, you who will trust Him. God gave His Son to address your disposition, your sins.

Will you trust Jesus Christ now for the forgiveness of your sins, to save you from your sins, to cleanse you from your sins, and to give you a new life . . . the life of a giver, not a taker?

 

Jesus Christ, Who now sits at the right hand of God the Father in heaven, is ready to save you.[15] If you will turn away from sin and turn to Christ, He will cleanse you from all your sins. Won’t you come to Him now?

A final word to believers. As you see, even after coming to Christ there is a great deal in your life that needs to be dealt with, many deeply ingrained habits that persist and which not only harm your testimony but also grieve the Spirit of God who indwells you.[16] Are you a Christian who now realizes that you are still too much the taker and not enough the giver you ought to be? This is what you should in your life. I am excited about what I know God can do in your life as you are transformed from taking to giving in every area of your life.



[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 534.

[2] 1 John 1.8

[3] Ibid.

[4] Colossians 3.10, 12

[5] Genesis 4.9

[6] Genesis 1.26-27; 5.3; 9.6

[7] John 8.32

[8] Isaiah 42.8; 48.11

[9] Rienecker & Rogers, page 860.

[10] 1 Timothy 5.23

[11] James 2.19

[12] John 14.1

[13] Revelation 5.12

[14] Romans 3.23

[15] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 14.2-4; Acts 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[16] Ephesians 4.30; 1 Thessalonians 5.19


Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org