Summary: We here the phrase I can't afford to work. The implication is that if I work I will earn less than not working. Eph. 4:28 says that is stealing! The reason I believe many hold this wrong concept and steal is they do not understand God's design for work.
Passages from the NIV on Bible Gateway
Have you ever wished that you had grown up in the first century; being a part of the church at the very beginning? Being in the crowd as the apostles are preaching on the day of Pentecost hearing them speak in our own language. After hearing the word we repent of our sins and are baptized in that first round of believers! Oh, what a glorious day that would have been to be a part of the new Church. Then being there as the Church starts to grow and being a part of church as described in Acts 2:42-47.
"42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."
What an exciting time in history, to be a part of that first church, having all things in common with everyone, and sharing and taking care of others people’s needs. What a fantastic time that would've been to have been there and to be able to have experienced that excitement and enthusiasm.
Oh, what wonderful pictures that come to mind, everybody getting along with each other. Eating meals with each other. No problems within the church...right? It is the big beautiful picture of the perfect Church. Although we like to see the past with these beautiful pair of rose colored glasses, the reality is that people were still fallen sinful people who were in dire need of a savior.
When we read these pages in Ephesians chapter 4, we don’t see perfection instead we see something quite different going on. As Paul tells the Christians in Ephesus what they should be doing and not doing, we see by implication what the Christians were actually doing. As we read through the New Testament letters, we see that Paul and others have to deal with a lot of problems in the church.
Today as we continue in our series on Christianity 101 we may be shocked to find out what Paul has to correct within the church. The believers were stealing and Paul has to tell them in Ephesians 4:28, “28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”
Are you saying that Christians were stealing? Yes I am. The gentile believers Paul is writing to here are people who were walking in the futility of their minds. The sinful ways that they lived before becoming Christians were what they would have called normal or like saying “It’s just the way that it is” type of mentality. So when they became Christians, did they all of a sudden have this miraculous change where they were instantly transformed in their thinking? Of course not. It is the same as today, we must surrender ourselves to Christ and God’s Word, then slowly, as we work and God’s power works within our lives, we correct these false attitudes we have within ourselves. Listen to Ephesians 4:20-24:
“20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Today as we look at the next attitudes we need to work on within our lives, let us who have been Christians for a long time remember what the Church in the 1st Century was actually like. Then we will be able to be more gracious to the new Christians who are just learning. Point out the error in their ways and like Paul, let them know that that they should steal no longer.
Ephesians 4:28, “28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.”
Now when we first look at this passage it is pretty straight forward when it comes to stealing. If anyone here has been stealing, you must stop doing it. Christians do not steal. This one is a lot easier to talk about than my last lesson on anger, because we do have in the 10 Commandments, a commandment number 8 that is found in Exodus 20:15, “You shall not steal.” Is there any question in anyone’s mind as to what God is talking about here? That is good I see a lot of heads bobbing letting me know they understand. But do we truly understand this concept of not stealing?