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IF MY PEOPLE… A Message to Christians – 8th in an series

dwarves off to work

“Heigh-ho, heigh-ho!  It’s off to work we go.  We keep on singing all day long.  Heigh-ho,  heigh-ho.”

In their marching song in the movie “Snow White”, the dwarfs’ joyful attitude towards work suggests they may have grasped the Apostle Paul’s application of the commandment “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15).

Initially in the Bible, the commandment focused on the protection of property.  In the Epistles, it is connected with the benefits that derive from labor.

Stealing means taking something that belongs to someone else without the owner’s permission.  It includes the use of false weights on scales which is an abomination to God.  (See Proverbs 11:1.)  According to writers like Luther, Calvin and Matthew Henry, stealing also includes:  evading payment of debts, not returning something borrowed, shoplifting, and living on charity when you’re able to work.

Restitution requirements were so stiff in God’s laws that stealing was done with great expense to the thief when he was caught.  Exodus 20:1-4 established restitution fines ranging from 100 to 400 to even 500 per cent!  David cited the 400% (2 Samuel 12:6). So did Zacchaeus. (See Luke 19:8). It did not pay to steal. It still doesn’t. Thieves will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Some scribes and Pharisees violated the commandment when they declared their money to be corban (dedicated to God) and thereby avoided having to spend it to assist their parents.  (See Matthew 15:5-6.) The Pharisees fasted, sometimes twice a week, but they disregarded God’s desired fast expressed in Isaiah 58:7 that they not hide themselves from their own flesh.  Paul reiterated the principle in 1 Timothy 5:8. A Christian who doesn’t do what he can to provide for his own household is worse than an unbeliever.

In another reference (Matthew 23:14), Jesus charged scribes and Pharisees with devouring widows’ houses.  One thought is that the Pharisees preyed upon the spiritual sensitivity of widows appealing to their desire to help support the religion teachers.  Another thought is that since the Pharisees knew the laws well, they assisted widows in financial dealings and swindled them in the process, personally benefitting such as in cases of foreclosure.

The onus is on the scribes and Pharisees for abusing their position of trust to obtain financial gain and/or support.

Paul delineates the positive application of the commandment to not steal in Ephesians 4:28.  The thief is to steal no longer, but instead is to labor with the result of having something to share with another who has need.  There is great blessing in giving.  (See Acts 20:35.)

One who works is also allowed to eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10).  The Christian who is physically able to work but instead keeps choosing to live off welfare violates the positive application of this commandment. It is a wicked way that needs to be turned from. This means get a job.

Are you a tither?  Do you give ten percent of your income to your home congregation? The prophet Malachi indicates a person robs God when he or she doesn’t bring the full tithe into the storehouse. (See Malachi 3:8-10.)

There’s another way Christians sometimes rob God.  It’s in the arena of answered prayers.  There are times when a Christian will pray for healing or another need some other person has and God graciously answers that prayer with divine healing, or a job, or provision.  The need gets met.  A grateful recipient sometimes gives the credit to the one who prayed.  The one who prayed may begin to think that he or she is special and thus robs God of the glory that belongs to Him alone.  It’s not about the one who prayed.  It’s all about the One who answered.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho. Off to repent we go.

52 Wicked Ways of God’s People

  1. Stealing
  2. Not tithing (Robbing God)
  3. Sharing God’s glory
  4. Hiding from helping our family
  5. Cheating on tax return
  6. Living on welfare entitlements when able to work

 

the end

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