Summary: Stealing is not to be pursued as a practice for Christian people
Series Title - “The Value of Work”
Sermon Title - “Stealing is not a Viable Alternative to Work”
Donovan W. Myers
Rosemount Missionary Church
Last week we began our series on the value of work. We tried to establish what we could use as a theology or biblical understanding of what work is. We said that work is not a curse instead it is a blessing. To be a worker is to be a God-like, Fulfilled and Balanced person.
Today we want to make the point that stealing is not a viable alternative to work. One can find justification for stealing especially you cite prior injustice or need. So you can say it is okay to steal if the person from whom you are stealing has done you some harm or has treated you unfairly. It’s what we say in Jamaica - “Tief from tief, God laugh.” [Steal from a thief and God laughs]. But that is not so. You do not do to others the injustice that they have done to you. It does not make you a better person. It robs you of your real worth.
Stealing is also harmful, since it is not just about the thing which is taken, but it is more so about the persons involved - the victim and the criminal. So the size or value of the object stolen is not the major issue. So you can’t feel justified or exonerated since its just petty theft. It is the fact of stealing that is wrong and what it does to people.
Hear what Paul says in Ephesians 4:28. “Let him that stole, steal no longer: but rather let him labour, working with his own hands (doing) the thing which is good, that he may have to share with him that is in need.” This injunction to work instead of stealing comes in a context which helps us to understand why it is such a dehumanizing thing to steal. What is the context? Paul is talking about relationship with Christ; one in which there is change - put off the old man and put on the new man. As a result, there is difference in the quality of life. One in which truth replaces falsehood; controlled anger replaces blind rage; purposeful talk replaces idle chatter and forgiveness replaces bitterness. When to injunction “not to steal” is placed in that context, then stealing is much more difficult to justify and defend.
Let me suggest three reasons Stealing should be avoided.
Firstly, Stealing goes against the ethos of the Christian Faith. At the very heart of the Christian message is the concept that each man is his brother’s keeper. Therefore he is not authorized to do anything that can destroy this brotherhood. Hence Paul says, “Let him that stole, steal no longer.”
He who has been stealing, must steal no longer. Stealing creates victims. Anyone who has ever suffered at the hand of a thief can testify to fact that he feels exposed, vulnerable and exploited. Whether it is the man who breaks into your home in the middle of the night and moves out all your appliances or the employee who thinks that the wages being paid is not enough and so pilfers from your closet or the pickpocket who watches your every move and pounces on you at the most opportune time and leaves you penniless; whomever it is or whatever the situation, stealing leaves you feeling raw and exposed, it makes you a victim.
Stealing also runs against the heart of the Christian life and witness since it is bred on covetousness and lack of contentment. People take what is not theirs when they harbour “red eye”and despise God’s faithfulness. If God takes care of the sparrow of the air; if he knows and supplies their need, how much more will he take of his children. So to resort to stealing is to not understand this fact or to turn your back on God’s promise to provide.
Secondly, Stealing robs man of his dignity. Paul goes on to say that “...he must work doing something useful with his own hands. When one chooses to steal rather than work, he robs himself of a tremendous blessing. By stealing, he is made into a parasite rather than a producer. So he is told that he must work. This will bring inner satisfaction, affirmation of self worth and help him to create his own prosperity. When a man steals he celebrates his cunning rather than his creativity. So Paul encourages him to do something useful. When you steal it is not a credit to your skill, you are accepting a lie about who you are and what you can do. You may well have done something crafty, but I bet it was not creative. Stealing renders a person impotent rather than making him independent. Paul’s antidote to this is work with his own hands. When one steals, he is not ensuring his own independence, he is demonstrating the fact that his worth and wealth bound up in somebody else’s fortune. He is a slave. This is not the picture of a man with dignity. But this is the picture of the man who exchanges work for dishonesty.