Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
(Ephesians 4:28 ESV)
Those of us who God calls His children – those who have been born-again through faith in Jesus [John 1:12] – are to live in ways that are different than how we lived previously. Paul is currently teaching 5 ways this should be so. Thus far we’ve learned that we are not to lie and our anger should be properly directed.
Today we learn that we to no longer steal. Instead God wants us to labor, doing honest work with [our] own hands. We might recall that this command is also one of the Ten Commandments (number 8). Stealing is a disobedient, selfish act that reveals a lack of trust in God.
God is a worker. He is a creator. In fact, the very first thing God tells us about Himself is that He is a creator [Genesis 1:1]. God created and made the world through work. God continues working even today [John 5:17]. Right now Jesus is in heaven preparing (i.e. working) a place for each one of us who will join Him there someday [John 14:2].
Human beings are made in God’s image, He designed in us the need and the capacity to work. Adam was placed in the Garden of Eden to work it and to reap the benefit of his efforts [Genesis 2:15]. Throughout the Bible God condemns laziness and praises work [Proverbs 6:6, 10:4, 13:4, 2 Thessalonians 3:10 et. al].
But notice that our work should be honest. The original Greek word means “useful”. Just being busy is not necessarily work. Work produces something of value. To that end, I doubt God considers producing tabloid magazines or selling drugs work as those activities (and many others) do not provide value to anyone else.
The reason we should work is so we may have something to share with anyone in need. The more we work the more we have. But God doesn’t want us to use that extra wealth on ourselves. We are to be thinking of others who are in need.
The people in need in this verse are not lazy people who refuse to work and instead live off of others. They are people who have hit hard times through no fault of their own, perhaps through a physical disability, natural disaster, or just plan bad luck.
Once we are saved our lives are no longer about ourselves. We must take care of our needs, of course. But beyond that God commands us to meet the needs of others with our extra wealth. We should work hard not only for us, but for them.
God is a giver [John 3:16]. He has used His infinite resources to bless us. We are to no longer to be takers. We are to become givers too.
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