Let’s start this morning by taking a little informal survey. Anyone here ever had money stolen from them? Ok, how about tools, anyone ever have tools stolen, how about borrowed and not returned? Anyone ever have a bicycle stolen, Anyone ever have a car stolen. What about having something stolen from your car, like say a computer. Anyone here ever have their home broken into? When we were living in Truro Angela had her purse stolen off the kitchen cupboard one night while she was watching television in the TV room. There is something intensely personal about having an object stolen from you, it is a violation and you feel hurt and confused, who would do something like this. Maybe you felt angry, anger is often an emotion that you feel after you’ve been violated. So to a certain degree I understand the sign that was posted that said, “This property protected by a pit bull with aids”
Here’s the flip side, a little more personal here. How many people here have ever stolen? Now I realize that I’m asking the wrong crowd, but maybe if we take it away from today and move it into the distant past. Maybe candy as a child, or money from your mother’s purse or father’s wallet. Or maybe it was a toy from a store? Maybe it was office supplies from work, or a little creative accounting on your tax return. Or maybe, it was taking a grape and eating it in the produce section of Sobey’s, like that would ever happen. Anyone fall into those categories? We’ve just taken your picture and are turning it into the police. Have I got your attention? Could I honestly say today that everyone here falls into one of those two categories as having been stolen from or has stolen from someone else?
We all have something lurking inside of us that is fascinated with the concept of getting something for nothing. Something that lives deep inside that says “boy, if I could get that for nothing that would be great.” Which explains why so many shoplifters who are caught don’t need to shoplift. They aren’t doing it out of necessity they are doing it for the thrill. And so the God is saying here Don’t let that desire to get something for nothing win out.
And so here we are at the eighth commandment, part of a series that we started back almost in the last century. The first four commandments were vertical commandments dealing with our relationship with God, the fifth commandment turned the corner and said “honour your parents” it was the beginning of our horizontal relationships that is our relationships with one another. The next two dealt with those types of relationships, the sixth was do not kill, or respect the life of others, the seventh was do not commit adultery or respect the love of others, and today we are dealing with commandment number eight, which speaks against that desire when it says in stark simplicity Exodus 20:15 Do not steal., or Respect The Loot Of Others.
The Bible does not have a problem with us having “Stuff”. It does however lay out the right way to acquire stuff, and the wrong way to acquire stuff. The first correct way to gain property or money is to Work For It. Ephesians 4:28 If you are a thief, quit stealing. Be honest and work hard, so you will have something to give to people in need. So the first acceptable way to acquire property or stuff is to work, get paid and buy the stuff you need. And you should have enough left over to help others.
And if you acquire property in this manner as a side benefit you will develop self respect, self esteem and confidence. Most of us will never forget the feeling of accomplishment we had when we purchased our first car or first home. Look what I’ve done.
The second Biblically acceptable way of acquiring stuff is through Shrewd Investments or trading. Remember Jesus commendation of the good servants in Matthew chapter 25. The master had given them a certain amount of money and they had traded and invested it while he was away on business and when he returned they were able to present him with the profits of their investments. Do you recall what the master told them? Matthew 25:21 “Wonderful!” his master replied. “You are a good and faithful servant. I left you in charge of only a little, but now I will put you in charge of much more. Come and share in my happiness!”
And so honest shrewd trading is an acceptable means of acquiring stuff.
A third Biblically acceptable means for acquiring property is through Believing Prayer. Do you remember how Jesus taught us to pray Matthew 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread. He was telling us that it was alright to pray for physical needs.
From time to time in our lives we have seen God intervene and provide us with what we needed. He gave us certain personal property as a gift from his hand. Most of us can remember a time in our lives that we had to pray for a financial need, or transportation, or perhaps food, for something which we needed and didn’t have and God broke into our lives and in a miraculously way provided those needs. He does that sometimes. And so believing prayer and trusting God is a biblically acceptable way to acquire personal property. So diligent labour, shrewd trading, and believing prayer are all acceptable means for acquiring personal property.
But there are some warnings that go with each of those things. To the person who diligently labours for what they need, God says don’t get carried away with your labour and become a workaholic. For those who are trading, he warns that you’d better not neglect kingdom priorities because you’ve become so caught up in making deals. And for those who are praying for their needs he says makes sure that your motives are pure, don’t let your prayers degenerate into a self-centred home shopping list. There is more to prayer then simply asking for things. There is the worship aspect, the thanksgiving side of prayer and praise.
There is nothing wrong with having property, if you acquire it in one of the biblically acceptable ways. But there are ways to obtain property that are not biblically acceptable. Can you believe that? The first way that you can obtain property inappropriately is through Theft, good old fashion robbery. Just taking what doesn’t belong to you.
Probably the most graphic of all of Jesus parables or stories is the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man is travelling between two cities and he is mugged. The robbers beat him up, take everything he has and leaves him on the side of the road for dead. That of course is the most blatant form of breaking the eighth commandment. And probably none of us here would ever do what was described in that story, or at least I hope none of you would ever do that type of thing.
But there are subtler ways of thievery, which seem acceptable for us to get involved in and obtain property through. Some people borrow company supplies: paper, postage, pens you know what I mean. Or company gas, or expense money. What about borrowing a neighbour’s hedge trimmers, shovel, casserole dish and forgetting to give it back. Borrowing a friend’s book or cd and it sort of becomes your own. These are all subtle forms of seizure. And they are wrong.
Maybe you need to look around your home or office or yard and see if you have things that don’t belong to you and return them, maybe if they can’t be returned they will have to be replaced. And instead of just taking them back and saying you’re sorry why not tell them why, that you are growing in Jesus Christ and because of what you heard in your church that you are doing this. Sometimes people don’t just need to hear about your faith they need to see it.
A second inappropriate way to obtain stuff is through Deceit. Proverbs 20:23 The Lord hates dishonest scales and dishonest weights. So don’t cheat! 3500 years ago guys doctored their scales to cheat their customers. Who would have thought? And 3500 years later it’s still going on. You read in the paper where service stations have been charged with not keeping honest pumps, and we all have experienced or know someone who has experienced deceit at the hands of a less then scrupulous mechanic.
Deceit happens and a lot of times the people who are perpetrating it don’t even think it’s wrong. What was it P.T. Barnum said “There’s a sucker born every minute.” And maybe that’s true but we don’t have to be trying to take them. There are people out there who prey on the elderly or the gullible and when they charge an exorbitant amount to fix a roof, or a car or a furnace that doesn’t need fixing then they might as well break into their clients homes. This type of stuff goes on all the time, false advertising, false claims, hype exaggeration, a salesman saying you need this extra insurance.
Deception is just a sophisticated way of stealing of obtaining someone else’s money or property and it is a violation of the eighth commandment and God says it’s wrong. Friends I want to challenge you today to be very careful about how you represent things that you are trying to sell, personally or professionally. Don’t make extravagant claims or promises you can’t keep.
So the eighth commandment prohibits seizure, it prohibits deceit and let me add one other inappropriate way to obtain things that don’t belong to you and that is Defrauding Someone. You say what’s that. You defraud someone when you withhold something from them when it is rightfully due. I don’t know how many times I’ve talked to people who have owned their own business and they’ve told me that the major struggle they have is with people who don’t pay their bills on time, they didn’t pay when they promised they would, they didn’t pay according to the terms. Many times it was because people didn’t pay when it was due that the company went ends up going belly up.
One person commented and said those people are thieves, flat out thieves, they stole the interest that money could have generated they stole the capital it could have purchased. They stole my product and my money for 60 or 120 days or whatever.
When you hold on to a payment past the terms that you agreed to, when you stall your landlord with the rent cheque, when your car payment is late you are stealing by defrauding. You are withholding what rightfully belongs to others. When you run into a car in a parking lot and don’t leave a note with your name and phone number, you’re stealing. When you don’t claim all your income on your income tax, or you don’t give your employer a day’s work for a day’s pay you are stealing by defrauding.
And so let’s go one step further and talk about the ultimate act of defrauding, the ultimate act of withholding what rightfully belongs to someone else. Do you know what I’m talking about here? I’m talking about defrauding God, about us keeping what rightfully belongs to him. The life giver, the salvation giver, the grace giver, the heaven giver. And some of us defraud God of what is his.
In the Old Testament, the prophet Malachi 3:8-10 You people are robbing me, your God. And, here you are, asking, “How are we robbing you?”
You are robbing me of the offerings and of the ten percent that belongs to me. That’s why your whole nation is under a curse. I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house. Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing.
When we’ve been adopted into God’s family we realize that life will never be the same. And God makes no bones about it he says “when you come to me for salvation you bring everything you have to the table, because if I’m not Lord of all then I’m not Lord at all.”
And when we accept the salvation that God offers, and as we grow in Christ and learn his word we discover that God tells us that all of our resources belong to him, everything we have everything we are. And God in his graciousness says it all belongs to me, but I’m going to let you use 90% of it. All I’m asking for is 10% to run my church, which is the local church which you call home.
Because the topic of money is such a sensitive issue around churches I’ve tended to tip top around it so the church won’t be misunderstood, but it’s part of what the word of God is all about and so it can’t be completely ignored.
But throughout the history of the Christian Church countless numbers of Christians have done something unthinkable, they have violated and frustrated God’s entire economic plan, when they have taken that first tenth that God has asked for and they have defrauded God of that amount by taken what is the Lords, and spent it on themselves. They’ve taken what was supposed to be spent on God’s work, and they bought toys and trinkets, and bought houses and clothes and gone on vacation and bought computers with it and God says “I’ve been robbed”
We spoke earlier about how you feel when you realize that you’ve been robbed. Whether you’ve been robbed by seizure, deceit or defrauding you feel violated. And that’s when a stranger did it, someone you didn’t know. How would you feel if it was someone you knew, someone you trusted someone you loved, and someone you thought loved you. How much more would it hurt. Can you imagine how God feels when his own children defraud him?
And God says that isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, you do what you’re supposed to do and I’ll bless you. Listen again to what his word says: Malachi 3:10I am the Lord All-Powerful, and I challenge you to put me to the test. Bring the entire ten percent into the storehouse, so there will be food in my house. Then I will open the windows of heaven and flood you with blessing after blessing.
Maybe you’ve made some poor financial choices and you can’t give ten percent, well them maybe you need to start at 2% or 6% or 8%.
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