When God gave the Children of Israel the 10 Commandments, it was out of His great love for them. In His great knowledge He was steering His people away from destructive lifestyles and into a life of blessing and peace. As we look at the 8th commandment, “You shall not steal,” it is important to remember that it is founded on love and blessing, not deprivation or neglect.
G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Thieves respect property, they merely wish the property to become their property that they may respect it more perfectly.” You see the desire to possess what others have is what we call covetousness. The act of taking by stealth or by force a thing that is desired is called stealing. Stealing is more than just something being taken without permission. People have had their homes burglarized, purses snatched, cars stolen, or may have been victimized by fraud and this oftentimes leaves them feeling violated, traumatized and insecure. They become reluctant to trust or offer help to others for fear that they may be tricked again by some con artist. As people begin to trust less, they withdraw more, which hurts society as a whole. Those people that were once giving and helpful people are becoming suspicious and unwilling to be duped. As a result, those who are in real need of help are deprived of assistance, and those in a position to help are deprived of the joy or opportunity to give. They begin to enjoy what they have less and less because they live in fear of someone taking it from them or stealing from them possessions that they worked so hard for. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Jesus commanded His disciples to treasure the things that are in heaven, which can’t be stolen even by satan himself. Satan is the ultimate thief.
In their infamous rock anthem to the devil, Sympathy for the devil, the Rolling Stones band played the part of the devil’s advocate by presumably introducing the public to satan’s role in history. In this Rolling Stone song, satan voices his observation concerning the reaction of people to his activity. A quote from that song says, “What’s puzzling you is the nature of my game.” If audiences were more knowledgeable about the teachings of Jesus, they wouldn’t be so puzzled because John 10:10 says, concerning this thief, that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. But Jesus said, “I’ve come that you might have life and life more abundantly.” Satan’s ultimate goal is to steal the lives and souls of men and women any way he can. In other words, he wants to rip us off. The devil robs people of their capacity for joy, for faith, for overall peace of mind, and for giving and receiving love. He plans destruction against people, so they will become discouraged and feel a sense of hopelessness. Satan wants to steal our possessions and to harm or destroy our souls through loss.
What wolf ever broke into a sheepfold to steal the sheep’s grass or water? The wolf’s intention is only interested in getting to the sheep. But Jesus, the Shepherd of the sheep, came to give them life and protect them from being plundered. He does this by making us aware of satan’s strategies so that we can avoid the excessive desire for earthly things. I love the scripture where it says that we should give no place to the devil (Eph 4:27), but to do that, we have to be aware of the wiles of the devil (Eph 6:11). Once our focus and perspective have been adjusted to desire the spiritual over the physical, God then can restore the spiritual things the devil has taken from us such as vision, purpose, peace, and hope for good in this life, as well as an assurance of eternal life.
When we give in to the wiles of satan and become covetous of earthly things it is sin. This sin that begins in the heart can eventually lead to theft, if not resisted through the Word of God, and the Spirit of God.
Less obvious instances of theft can take the form of slacking on the job, failing or procrastinating to pay bills, keeping something that is borrowed, not paying taxes, etc. Anything that disrespects someone else’s ownership is a form of covetousness and stealing. If a person takes something without permission or refuses to give something that has been agreed upon, he is guilty of theft.
Another very damaging form of theft takes place to reckless and antagonistic speech. Putting a price on a Man’s reputation is difficult, if not impossible, but dishonoring or impugning his reputation with words is stealing from him. That is why gossip and slander is a deadly tool in the hands of satan. Also, it seems that we’re living in a culture and in a time where even stealing from employers and the government is a common offense. People tend to rationalize this because the victims are large, faceless entities. Some may reason things like well, they’ll never miss a little bit here and there, after all they throw away massive amounts anyway in red tape alone. And as for sick days, what are they for if I don’t use them? It’s not like they don’t know people take a little extra time off now and then and besides the Lord knows how tired I am.
This is thinking out of a culture, a world system that is governed by satan, but it is not the thinking of Jesus. As believers in Christ, we should do things with excellence and as unto the Lord as a testimony of the goodness of God and His kingdom. Matthew 5:16, which I’ve quoted many, many times says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and bring glory to your Father in heaven.” As believers we should do things as unto the Lord and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these other things that are important to us will be added.
God is not interested in what we think is fair in our own eyes. He’s interested in our faithfulness to our agreements and responsibilities. In Matthew 20 Jesus tells of the vineyard owner who needed workers, and early one morning he hired some laborers who agreed to work for a certain amount of money. Later that morning he hired more labor. He returned to town a third time and recruited still more help. When paychecks were distributed at the end of the day, those who were hired early in the day got angry because those who were hired later received the same amount of pay, but didn’t work as long. When they complained to the owner, the owner rebuked them saying:
“Friend I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? So, take what is yours and go your way. But I wish to give to this last man the same as you. After all, is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” (Matthew chapter 20:11-15)
The key statement in this passage is this, “What is my own?” The money did not belong to the laborers, but the owner. The wages promised to the first workers seem fair to them when they first took the jobs, but they got angry only after they saw others getting blessed. They felt they had been treated unfairly even though they received what they had agreed on. Today, many people find themselves in similar situations. They develop a bad attitude and slack off because they feel the company owes them something. But is it stealing? I think at times even as Christians, we can have a similar attitude towards the things of God. We see in Malachi chapter one that this offends the Lord Himself. Malachi 1:6, 8 and 14 say,
“’A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence?’ says the Lord of hosts to you priests who despise My name. Yet you say, ‘In what way have we despised Your name?’”
“’And when you offer the blind as a sacrifice, Is it not evil? And when you offer the lame and sick, Is it not evil? Offer it then to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you favorably?’ Says the Lord of hosts.”
“’But cursed be the deceiver who has in his flock a male, And takes a vow, But sacrifices to the Lord what is blemished— For I am a great King,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘And My name is to be feared among the nations.’”
David Livingstone, a great missionary to southern parts of Africa used to say this, “Why is it when an earthly King commissions us, we consider it an honor, but when the heavenly King commissions us, we call it a sacrifice?” You see, it’s all about perspective, perception, and attitude. If we’re going to have the kind of attitude of the characteristics of the kingdom that emanate from the character of the king then we need to keep the right perspective, keep our perceptions right, and most definitely keep a right attitude, especially when it comes to advancing the kingdom of God, because we are a people of an unshakable kingdom. We also represent as ambassadors of the kingdom of God, another kingdom. Yes, we live in this world, but we’re not of this world. These scriptures are a reminder to us that God is displeased with those who deny him of what is rightfully his, by breaking their vows to him or trying to substitute something inferior to what they had promised to God. You see, God wants us to give him our very best. The Bible says that we are to offer ourselves as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, Romans 12:1, when we give him the last of our efforts, the bread crumbs off of our table so to speak, we’re telling Him that He doesn’t deserve the honor that we give to others. Scripture is clear when it says to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, which is the glory due to His name.
Are we robbing from the Lord when we make excuses like, I don’t have enough time to prioritize spending time praying and talking to God or reading His word? We must look honestly at what takes up our time. Are television and entertainment worthy of greater honor than God?
What about our finances? We’re always saying we don’t have enough when it comes to giving to the things of God? There’s always an excuse, but I learned a long time ago when I was in the fitness business and the business world, people will always afford what they really want. If we’re really honest with ourselves, (and there’s something about being honest that attracts God’s presence) we tend to prioritize those things we really want. And oftentimes, the things of God are put at the bottom of the list. I’ve heard people say, “well, I can’t afford this, and I can’t afford that, or I can’t do this, and I can’t do that.” But when it comes down to something they really want, they always find a way to buy that favorite clothing item, to buy that newest electronic component, to afford that special trip. However, when it comes to prioritizing the purpose of God and seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, we tend to give that a lower priority.
Remember, the word says very clearly “seek ye first”, in other words, prioritize first, the things of God. So often we rob God of our time, talent, resources and giftings yet we expect the best from God in return. If we’re offering God the equivalent of lame, blind and blemished sacrifices by withholding our talents, our devotion and resources from God then we are robbing Him what is rightfully His, and exchanging His blessing for a curse. You know, fear and greed are the two main forces that influence believers to rob God. Those in bondage to fear or greed experience little of the blessings of God, but God’s Word provides a solution. He says this,
“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’” says the Lord of hosts, ‘If I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes so that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” says the Lord of hosts.”
What a powerful promise was given in this scripture, in Malachi 3:8-11.
If we stop taking from God, robbing Him of our time, talent, and resources; quit giving Him the worst of our day; but instead give Him the best of our time and our talents, our gifting, our resources, even our finances for the kingdom of God; then we will have blessing only He can bestow. Let’s give the Lord the best of our time, the best of our resources and the best of our talents and giftings. He promises to work supernaturally on our behalf when we do.
One of life’s best feelings comes from walking in obedience to Scripture. The Scripture says, “owe no man anything except to love him” (Romans 13:8). When a person truly experiences the forgiveness of sins, he makes restitution as far as possible for anything he may have stolen in the past. One such person mentioned in the Bible is Zacchaeus, a tax collector. In the time of Christ, tax collectors were despised, because they often extorted more money that was required for taxes to make themselves rich. Zacchaeus was such a man. But on the day Zacchaeus met Christ, he experienced a total change of heart. Formerly miserly and covetous regarding money, he repented and became generous. Zacchaeus said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much.” (Luke 19:8.) Zacchaeus’ response to the mercy of Jesus was to make restitution for what he had stolen and not only restitution, but he repaid four times more than the amount he had taken. Jesus took the heart of a thief and turned it into the heart of a generous man. Zacchaeus honored God by giving his finances to the poor and paying back with interest, those he had wronged.
Once you make this type of commitment, there’s no telling what the Lord can do. I have tried to make right what I’ve done wrong in every area of my life. I know I fall very short, I haven’t always been able to make restitution, but I’ve made many apologies to people I’ve hurt over the years even if unintentionally. If I haven’t been able to find that person, or my words were not received, I have learned to trust God by giving it all back to Him.
In my personal journey, I have learned the importance of being honest with myself and with God. If I’m going to live up to the Golden Rule Jesus taught during His Sermon on the Mount, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, then I must love other people. I must be respectful and honorable. I must make sure that I don’t rob others of their reputation through slander because of personal biases, jealousy or envy. These are things we all need to submit to the altar of God. It is part of offering ourselves as living sacrifices, which are holy and acceptable unto God. As we place ourselves on the altar of God, we’re asking Him to be glorified in all that we do, say and think. I pray that He would give me His heart, even in my flawed, frail humanity. The great grace that He has poured out on us; we must extend to others.
If we want to live in a place of deeper consecration with God, we need to realize we cannot project our personal consecrations on others. We must each yield and submit ourselves to the purposes of God in His Word, through communication and prayer, through worship, as well as making sure our minds are being washed regularly through the reading and studying of His Word.
In the fast-paced world that we live in, we need to give God the best of our time, the best of our resources, the best of our day. We must put the Kingdom of God first so we do not rob God of what belongs to Him. When we do that we can be assured that He will put all the other things that are important to us, in place. And We will live in the blessing and abundance of God, which is far greater than anything the world has to offer!
The podcast, “What’s Yours? Golden Rule part 2” can be found on www.CharismaPodcastNetwork or any of your favorite podcast outlets on “A WORD IN SEASON with Doug Stringer and Friends.”