Summary: Sermon on the eighth commandment.
AM Sermon preached at Central Christian Church March 11, 2007
God’s Top Ten 8th Commandment
[SERMON SERIES SLIDE---IT’LL ADVANCE AUTOMATICALLY TO THE TITLE SLIDE THEN A BLANK SLIDE.]
So did you hear the story about the Sunday School teacher who was teaching on the 8th Commandment and trying to illustrate that it’s wrong to steal? “all right children, here’s another example,” she said. “If I were to pull a man’s wallet out of his pocket and take all the money in it, what would I be?” Little Johnny’s hand shot up, “Oh, oh I know! I know!” “Okay, Johnny, what would I be?” “You’d be his wife!”
Obviously that wasn’t the answer she was looking for. Today in our series we’re ready for the 8th commandment which is found in [SLIDE] Exodus 20:15 and says “You shall not steal.”
Let’s take a quick little survey. Raise your hand if someone has ever stolen money from you. Raise your hand if someone has ever billed you for services they never performed for you. Raise your hand if you’ve ever had a piece of jewelry stolen. Your wallet or purse stolen. How about your bicycle---any of you had your bicycle stolen? Did someone steal your lunch at school or work? Your cell phone? Your computer? A camera or music CD? Your car?
How did you feel when you found out you’d been robbed? I remember when I was about 8 years old and someone stole the desert out of my lunch sack. Man I was so bummed. I felt so hurt and violated, I cried. Then there was the time in high school during gym class--- when I finished playing basketball I discovered someone stole my Tiger’s eye ring. As an adult I had things ripped off from my car---tapes, sports equipment, my tape deck. And there was that morning when I arrived at the church office and sensed something was wrong. Sure enough there was. Someone had broken in, taken some of the church’s sound equipment from the auditorium---pried open the door to the offices and ransacked the place. It felt really weird as I looked at my open desk drawers and knew that someone had dug through them and taken things out the night before. My plans for the day had to be laid aside. I ended up talking with police and working with another guy in the church putting up boards over the window they’d broken into. Maybe you can relate---maybe you experienced something much worse. Maybe someone broke into your home. When that happens the thieves don’t just take your stuff they rob you of some of your sense of security. I think God has this command not to steal on His Top Ten list because it devalues people, people made in His own image.
I mean when some kid stole my desert from my lunch he wasn’t thinking “oh I probably shouldn’t do this because this lunch belongs to a tender-hearted second grader who’ll get his feelings hurt.” And when that person stole the tapes and sports equipment from my car they weren’t thinking “I really shouldn’t do this because the guy who owns this stuff uses it with his church youth groups and besides he’s barely getting by financially and it’ll be hard for him to come up with the money to replace it.” You know they weren’t thinking about me. You see to them, I meant nothing. They just wanted the stuff they saw. To them---I had no value and I didn’t matter at all. Stealing devalues people. I think that’s one of the reasons stealing is such a terrible thing in the eyes of God. But even more than the devaluing of people---stealing is an attack on the ownership of God.
A lot of thieves won’t break into churches and steal things because they’re somewhat afraid---they operate under the crazy assumption that it’s no big deal to God is they steal from people’s homes ---but boy they’d better not steal things from one of God’s churches because if they do that “Boom, zap God’ll come down hard on them for doing that…” But the reality is, whenever someone takes something that does not belong to them---they are stealing from God. Allow me to explain. You see, if we’re going to fully understand this 8th commandment we have to realize that the Bible teaches us that there is a right to private ownership. Rick Atchley puts it well when he writes: “There is a wrong of taking because there is a right of keeping.” And that right of keeping is something God along can give. The right of private ownership, the right of keeping is not absolute. Everything we have in our keeping we have in the form of a trust from God. [SLIDE] Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it.” That means our right of keeping, our right of private ownership is in reality a matter of individual stewardship. Our cars, homes, sports equipment, computers, ipods, cell phones, TVs, clothes and toys are not really ours. They belong to God. And even though God allows these things to be distributed and possessed by people---the bottom line is they’re all still his. And that’s what makes stealing so wrong. When God has chosen to give someone the right of keeping, we defy Him, we steal from Him, when we do the wrong of taking.