Do NOT Steal
CCCAG July 16th, 2017
When I graduated paramedic school, Tammie got me a professional level stethoscope as a graduation gift. You can buy a stethoscope at the local drug store for $10-15, but it’s not quality, and you can barely hear anything with it. If you are going to be a health care professional that assesses and treats patients, you need a good, quality, and durable stethoscope. The most expensive ones that have amplifiers in them cost almost $500. We didn’t go that crazy- this one cost about $170, and is similar to this one here-
I had it for about 7 years. It saw me deliver my first baby, was on countless calls where my using it helped me treat patient’s and save lives. In fact, whenever I’d pick it up off the dashboard when we got a call, and put it around my neck, it was like flipping a switch and I became at least in my own mind, super medic.
One night there was a bad car accident and a patient needed immediate transport to the trauma center about 45 miles away. However there were bad storms and the helicopters couldn’t fly so we took the patient by ground to Froedtert hospital. Froedtert is the states only level one trauma center. When you see medical TV shows and they bring in a trauma or very sick patient and there are 30 people waiting to receive the patient- that’s like what Froedtert is like. You have to yell your verbal report over the top of a people shouting out orders and medical students asking questions, and nurses calling out assessment findings.
As we moved our patient over to their bed and I was giving report, one of the resident medical students grabbed my stethoscope off my neck to check the placement of the breathing tube and said he would give it right back. He checked all 5 lung fields, and then moved down the stomach to assess for abdominal sounds. Right then the nurses pushed us and our stretcher back out of the way and away from the beside so they could get to the patient, and in the rush of people who swarmed the bed, I lost track of the student who had my stethoscope. I waited for a min, then the charge nurse said for us to clear the trauma room.
I said that student has my very expensive stethoscope and she said she’d get it and bring it out to me.
So I waited outside the trauma room for a couple of minutes and no one came out, so I re-entered the trauma room to find it empty- they had immediately moved the patient for emergency surgery. I tracked down the nurse and she said she had no idea where the medical student went, and it was the first time she’d seen him so she had no idea who he was, or which service he represented so I was out of luck.
I remember thinking-“This guy graduates from his residency this year and will be making $250k next year, and he steals a paramedics stethoscope.” It wasn’t just a tool to me, I had an emotional attachment to it as it had seen me through my rough early years figuring out the job, and become a fairly competent paramedic. This stethoscope here was it’s replacement.
Anyone here ever had that happen to them? Something that you placed a lot of emotional value on was stolen, and you felt that sting and disappointment.
That’s part of our Imago Dei- the image of God that HE put in us at creation. That’s why God gave us our 8th Commandment which is found in-
Scripture Text: Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal”
Part of the reason God gave us the 10 Commandments is because of what happened in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Even had their eternal destiny stolen by a thief the bible calls satan. Through getting our first parents to believe the lie, he was able to steal the image of God away from humanity.
That consequences of that theft continue today as the truth of this commandment is under attack today by some people who misinterpret Acts 2:44. Acts 2:44 states that the church in it’s very early days “had all things in common” to mean that within the church we essentially should be communists in how we treat what God has blessed us with.
In a perfect society, unencumbered by a sin nature, I would agree with that. However, God is not working with a perfected humanity- HE Is stuck with you and me.
So the first part of our talk this morning will be on this truth-
I. God respects private property rights
A. Misunderstanding of Acts
A moment ago, I mention in the early church they seemed to have everything in common, and some Christians use this scripture as a proof-text that we should not have any private property but that we should all have things in common. There are some on a more liberal or radical fringe that say this one scripture supports Communism as an economic and political ideal. Obviously that is false. Let’s explore the context of this verse-
In Acts chapter 2- God gives the Holy Spirit to the church. One of the things that satan stole from our first parents was the abiding presence of God that existed within each one of us.
For 4000 years, the Holy Spirit would occasionally come upon select people- priests, kings, prophets, and other individuals whom God used for a specific purpose and time. The Holy Spirit coming upon a person or even temporarily indwell them was so that God’s will could be accomplished on the earth for that time and place in history. However, it was a temporary visitation, not a true inhabitation.
After Jesus paid the price for our sins, everything changed.
The Holy Spirit now took up permanent residence within the lives and spirits of the believer. Again and remember that none of these people had ever experienced that in their lives.
Believe it or not, I used to be terrified of public speaking, and of meeting new people. My nature is that of a significant introvert- I live in my own mind, and social events are actually exhausting to me. At party’s, I’d be the guy sitting alone in a corner somewhere either watching everyone else or reading a book. I would not be a person that approached people to introduce myself- they would have to come to me.
When I got filled with the Holy Spirit, that all changed. A few months after I received Christ as Savior, I was part of a team that was putting on the production “Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flame” and during the prayer meeting before one of the events the evangelist prayed over me and I was baptized in the Holy Spirit.
After the church service, we went to a fast food restaurant, and I went from table to table asking people I didn’t know if they knew Jesus, and started preaching at them that they needed to repent and be saved.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit makes all the difference- it changed who I was on the inside, and during those first few weeks of experiencing His presence in my life for the first time, I was on fire and telling everyone about Jesus. Then that euphoria wore off a bit and I become more my normal self, but with an increased boldness to share the gospel.
That’s what happened in the early church. Everyone went through this stage of excitement and euphoria, and then things went back to normal, albeit with a new focus and attitude about giving to the poor and needy, and that is what Luke is recording here, not an ecomonic model that the church should follow.
God put the 8th Commandment in His Big Ten rules for us because HE tells us to respect people’s property.
B. Saying that- There is a truth about private property we need to remember- God owns it all- we are stewards
Psalm 24:1 The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;
Every atom in your body as well as every atom in existence was created by God.
To illustrate this-
The scientists at the human genome project, the people who mapped out human DNA gave God a challenge. They said, “Since we have the DNA code available to us, we can now create life out of a pile of dirt just like you claimed to in Genesis.”
God said, “Ok, let me see you do it”
The scientists bent down and scooped up some dirt and God said, “Hold it! I made that dirt. Make your own dirt out of nothing and then we will talk again”
God created everything- the theological term is ex nihilo- which is Latin meaning something out of nothing. In other words God spoke, and nothing became everything.
So since God created everything, everything ultimately belongs to HIM. That makes you a steward of someone else’s belongings.
That should change how we view private property. It should change out we view our money. It should change how we view our talents and abilities-
Everything is God’s, and HE has given different people different parts of HIS property to steward, and to take what is not yours to steward is ultimately questioning God’s wisdom, plan, and purpose. AND, it’s also stealing from God HIMself.
Now that we’ve established what theft is, let’s look at some ways that people in our day break the 8th Commandment. This is not an exhaustive list, but one I came up with doing some research.
II. Highest Incidence of theft in our world
Show of hands, who looks forward to April 15th every year? How many people are smiling as they sit down and fill out their tax forms? Does that bring you a sense of joy making sure you paid the government enough money?
None of us like paying taxes and we do everything we can to get out of paying our taxes. In fact, the IRS estimates that tax cheats cost the US government over 400 Billion dollars a year out of 3 Trillion collected. Much of that comes from companies or the extremely wealthy hiding their money overseas where Uncle Sam can’t track it.
To put that in perspective-
If you make $500 a week and your budget fits exactly into that $500. Now imagine that your employer decides to cheat you out of some of your pay, and only give you $462 a week. How long before you go bankrupt?
WE want a strong national defense. We want well maintained interstates, bridges, and roads. We want social security funded.
But, we do everything we can to get out of personally paying our share to support it. I’m just as guilty as the next person. I don’t cheat, but I take advantage of every honest deduction I can. I am blessed I have a very careful and ethical CPA helping me. John Halverson is very conservative in how he does taxes and if it’s not in black and white with the IRS he will not do it. John doesn’t even know what gray areas look like, and that’s the person I want doing my taxes so I can live with integrity.
Hopefully no one here is cheating on your taxes, but if you are next year make a change in how you file.
Another way people steal is
B. Not paying your Bills
Sometimes this is unavoidable. Medical bills in particular can add up fast. I’m speaking more to purposefully living above your means. IN other words, buying things you cannot afford on credit, and then defaulting on that credit.
The recession of 2008 was largely because people were buying houses they could not even remotely afford on mortgages given to them by government lenders who were afraid of being accused of discrimination based on income or race. $250k houses to unemployed or underemployed workers.
The average American carries $5700 in credit card debit, with an average family carrying $150,000 dollars in total debt counting credit cards, mortgages, car payments, medical bills ect.
Because of the way many states handle bankruptcies, many attorneys can file bankruptcy in such a way that it will get you out of debt while keeping much of what you bought on credit.
Isn’t that theft? Isn’t that a violation of the 8th Commandment?
If you can’t answer that with a simple yes or no, then it’s theft. If a no comes with a lengthy equivocation, then it’s theft.
If you don’t agree with that statement, Let’s flip it around- If you owned a camper and a friend said he would buy it from you and make payments for 4 years and pay it off. He’s a good guy so you agree to those terms and he comes and picks up the camper but then after 3 monthly payments he stops sending the checks. You call him up and he says, “You know, they cut my hours at work a little so I’m just not going to send you anymore payments.”
Do you think he should bring your camper back? IF he refuses and keeps the camper, how many people are heading to court because you have been stolen from.
A credit company isn’t any different, and we should do everything we can to live within our means, and make every effort to pay any debt we have, and if that debt is for real property and it turns out we can’t afford it- work it out with the creditor or give it back.
There is a flip side to credit default, which is-
C. Interest Rates (No more than 1% a month or 12% a year)
If you are a lender of money, and you are charging people the maximum interest you can which right now is legally 24.99%, you are charging what the bible calls usury. Usury is the bible’s term for exorbitant credit fees.
Usury is considered theft and enslavement of your fellow man.
To the Jewish people, that enslavement idea was like waving a red flag in front of a bull. They were slaves for 400 years so this was a sensitive issue for them around the time that God gave Moses this law.
Jews were not allowed to charge interest at all to a fellow Jew, and if they were lending money to a Gentile, they couldn’t charge more than 1% a month, or 12% APR counted annually.
That’s a huge difference to a credit rate today isn’t it?
God considers usury theft.
Proverbs 22:7 (NIV), “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.”
High interest Credit cards and other predatory lenders take advantage of humanities nature to covet things and exploit it to become rich.
Don’t play their game, and become slave to a payment
Another common source of theft
Estimated that employees steal 5x more property than outside thieves.
When I was an assistant manager at a Ponderosa in Kenosha we had to verify a steak count every day. That means we had to enter the freezer and count the boxes of steaks and compare it to the register count of what we had sold. Usually the morning cook would do our steak count for us. The counts were supposed to be right on the money. We were very careful about that because nothing earned the wrath of a district manager faster than missing steaks as the profit margin on them was very slim.
All the sudden, our steak counts were beginning to show missing steaks. One or two at a time, and we just wrote it off to new cooks that might not be recording the lose like they should. We re-educated the cooks but the loses kept happening, and were quickly growing. Suddenly we were missing whole boxes of steaks worth hundreds of dollars. We immediately secured the freezer keys, and created rule for our store that the managers themselves were the only ones allowed in the freezers to retrieve the boxes of steaks. They still kept disappearing, and disappearing fast. We started twice a shift counts of the steaks with another manager present to double count the steaks. We still kept losing multiple boxes of steaks. We narrowed it down to it mostly happening Friday nights when we were at our busiest, and we played with the schedule a bit to move staff around to see if it was certain staff that might be a culprit. We narrowed it down to one couple, and drove by their house on garbage night and saw several empty steak boxes in their garbage in the alley.
They weren’t too bright. We called the police and in the investigation the police found that one of them had managed to have her brother who worked at a hardware story copy the freezer key that was marked no copy and they could come at will and take boxes of steaks and resell them to friends and family.
All told, they had stolen almost $20k in meat from our store, and both were sentenced to 2-4 years in prison and told to pay restitution.
Employee theft in the United States is estimated to cost over 60 Billion per year in 2016.
Approximately 75% of people admit to stealing something from their employer during the course of their employment.
Office supplies, retail goods off the loading docks, and food are the biggest culprits.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter if it’s a paperclip. If you take something that is not yours it is stealing.
The other source of employee theft is wasted time. The biggest source of wasted time- the internet. Social media, news sites, cute cat videos are all part of that wasted time, but one that irritates employers the most- Surfing Linked IN or other job search websites. People surfing or a new job while working their old job.
So ask yourself- are you contributing to that 60 Billion a year figure of employee theft, or do you give an honest days work? That’s particularly important if you wave the Christian flag and try to promote Jesus at work- you should be the best most integrity filled person they have.
Let’s move on to our final point about stealing-
III. Stealing from God (Malachi)
Speaking for God, the prophet Malachi has a conversation with the people returning from exile about their behavior toward the rebuilding of the temple. God begins this part of the dialog by asking this question
Malachi 3:8 “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.
“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’
“In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—your whole nation—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty
I don’t want to re-preach the sermon on giving, and many times that’s how this scripture is used. It’s an appropriate usage, but I want to focus on more than that today.
God does expect His people to give toward the work of the Kingdom. Remember, everything you own is His, particularly if you call yourself Christian.
It’s been said who and what a person truly worships and that a person’s spiritual health is indicated by three things-
#1- The lines of their bank statement- what are they spending their money on? The challenge here- just look at your bank statement and offer it to God to bless. If you are too ashamed to do so…then ask God how to make it right.
#2- Their talent- where and how do they use their talents?
You were given your talent for the kingdom of God. I once knew a guy that was awesome with finances and was asked to help the church sort out a few things. He immediately quoted a fairly substantial price for him to do the work. He told me, “If you are good at something, never do it for free.” I reminded him that every time he or his family got a sniffle, he wanted medical advice on what to do to see if he could avoid going to the doctor or urgent care. I told him I’d be sending him a fairly substantial bill in the mail that I expected immediate payment for, because the going rate for a BLS ambulance call started at $500, and assessment and advice counted for that.
He said, “But you’re a pastor..that’s part of your job! You should be willing to serve for nothing”
I said, “I’m an unpaid pastor, but emergency medicine is what I do for a living. By your standard, I’m pretty good at it so I shouldn’t do it for free any longer.”
The mistake here is this- The expectation to offer our talents to the King to serve HIS kingdom is the expectation for any Christian.
That doesn’t mean you can’t make a living doing it, but remember the person who gave you the gifts and talents necessary to do the job.
#3- Their schedule- how do they use their most important commodity- their time? How much time to you spend in prayer? How much time do you spend watching TV as opposed to devotional with God?
We were talking the other day at work about how old we were. Something that recently occurred to me is you can’t measure how old you are based on your birthdate, but an only measure it based one’s death date. That’s your true indication of age.
Think about. I’m 47 right now. If I die at 48, then I’m very elderly and have little time left to serve the Kingdom of God. However, you can be 50 here, and live to be 100, and you still have 50 years. You’re only middle aged. You have a lot of time to serve the Kingdom.
So I ask you, are you stealing from God in what HE has given you in wealth, talent, or time? Are you a lazy worker at your job? Are you guilty of theft in some other way that you need to repent of and ask God’s forgiveness?
Because theft should never be claimed among God’s people- amen?