Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Ephesians 4:28
In the Christian world, we might ask, “Why does Paul even bother with this? Isn’t it an obvious thing?” The answer is that among Christians, stealing is certainly known as something which is wrong to do. And even among those who are not Christians, but who know the general precepts of the Bible, it is known that Christians look down on stealing. However, this is not a universally applied precept, even in today’s world.
It is true that pretty much every society has rules against stealing, but the individual is often brought up in a culture where it is normal to take things that don’t belong to them, even without a second thought. If they don’t get caught, their conscience simply ignores what they have done. They have been seared to the concept of considering this as moral wrongdoing.
In the case of those in Ephesus, this was certainly the case. Paul saw this common trait of the people and he knew that they lacked the proper moral guidelines to govern their conduct. It may have been a law in the Roman Empire to not steal, but in the lesser cultures, they lived by those norms which they had always lived by. And so, Paul needed to include this thought to show them that the moral expectation of Christian living was not to steal.
And further, he goes beyond the thought of prohibiting it by giving them a positive precept to replace their prior conduct. Instead of stealing, they should instead labor. Such a person should find a way of “working with his hands what is good.” This sets stealing off as the opposite of good. It is contrary to what is morally sound. And then, to further strengthen his words, he goes beyond simply doing what is good for self by supplementing the “good” of which work provides even to showing that not only should it take care of one’s personal needs, but it is proper in order “that he may have something to give him who has need.”
He has, in just one thought, gone from harming others in order to promote the welfare of self, to helping self, and to the additional plus of being able to help others. In stealing, there is actually only harm to all concerned. In working for what is good, there is the possibility of a double blessing. One can enrich himself, and he can also take care of others who are in need.
As another positive benefit of adhering to these words now, there is surely a heavenly reward awaiting those who adhere to God’s word, who are diligent in laboring honestly with their hands, and also who are willing to help those who are in need. All in all, great things can be expected, and are sure to result, from applying the precepts found in this verse.
Life application: A life without productive work is one which will lead to all kinds of troubles. The old saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s playground” is correct. If we don’t fill our time with productivity, we will fill it with that which is detrimental to ourselves and others. Therefore, let us remember the words of Moses –
“And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
And establish the work of our hands for us;
Yes, establish the work of our hands.” Psalm 90:4
Heavenly Father, Your word admonishes us to not only refrain from stealing, but to go beyond that in the pursuit of working with our hands in that which is good. And this isn’t instructed to us just for our benefit, but so that we may help others with what we earn. Mold our hearts to be faithful to not steal from others; help us to pursue hard work and honesty; and instill in us the desire to be willing to share of what we earn with others who are in need. With these things, surely You will be pleased. Amen.