The Ten Commandments Part 8
Taming the Desire to Acquire
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
February 20, 2005

 

Main Passage: Exodus 20:1-17 (NLT)

 

[Top section used at the beginning of the service as a welcome/teaser]

Good morning. Welcome to Sunrise this morning. I know the day’s still young, but I hope it’s going well for you so far. But just in case you’re not sure if you’re having a good day or a bad day, let me give you the…

Top Ten Signs it’s Going to be a Bad Day:

10. You return from a vacation and discover a new name on your mailbox.
9. You stop at a 24-hour gas station and they turn off the lights!
8. You jump out of bed in the morning, and you miss the floor.
7. The bird singing outside your bedroom window is a buzzard.
6. You wake up in the morning, and your dentures are locked together.
5. Your car horn accidentally gets stuck, and you’re following a group of Hell’s Angels.
4. MacDonald’s decides to charge you for a smile.
3. You call your answering service, and they tell you it’s none of your business.
2. You try to boil water and it burns.
1. You call the suicide prevention hotline and Dr. Kevorkian answers.

That’s my Top Ten list for the morning. Later on we’ll be taking a look at God’s Top Ten, the Ten Commandments. We’ve already examined the first seven commandments and if you missed those messages they’re available on our website. This morning we’ll be exploring the eighth commandment which simply states, “Do not steal.”


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Let’s start this morning by taking a little informal survey. Anyone here ever had money stolen from them? How about tools? Have you ever had something borrowed and not returned? Anyone ever have a bicycle stolen? Anyone ever have a car stolen? What about having something stolen from your car? I had a whole case of cassette tapes stolen out of my car once. (That was 20 years ago, but it’s still the reason I lock my car doors today.) Anyone here ever had your home broken into? Have you ever had something stolen from you through vandalism? You know, someone keyed your car or threw a rock through your window or slashed your tires or spray-painted your wall? You’ve got to pay the money to repair or replace what they vandalized, so indirectly they’ve stolen that money from you.

Some of you have heard this before, but last year when Shera and I were still living in our old home on Maypoint Road, we had something stolen from us. It was winter, and I had gone out about a week earlier and bought a couple reflectors from Canadian Tire to put at the end of our driveway. So I was sitting home alone one night when I heard a car pull up and stop in front of our home. That wasn’t uncommon, as we would have three or four people every night turn around in our driveway. But as I usually did, I looked out the window to see who it was. What I saw was someone jump out of their car, grab a reflector, throw it in the back seat, and then get back in and drive off. You know what it’s like… I just stood there with my mouth hanging open wondering if I really saw what I think I saw. Unfortunately, I had. It wasn’t a big loss, but there’s still something completely unnerving about having something stolen from you. In fact, if you drove by our place this year you would discover that I’ve used some wood that I found lying around for a driveway marker this time.

There is something intensely personal about having an object stolen from you. You feel violated, and you’re left feeling hurt and confused. You wonder, “Who would do something like this?” Maybe you even feel angry. You feel like you’ve got to do something… you’ve got to protect your property. Here’s one warning sign I came across on the Internet…

[Show picture – property with sign, “This property protected by Pitbull with AIDS.”]

Commandment #8 deals with this epidemic of stealing we seem to be facing. It states it simply…Do not steal.

Exodus 20:15
Do not steal.


As a child you probably learned it as “Thou shalt not steal.”

[Show ReverendFun.com cartoon - “Thou” shalt not steal 09-04-2003]

This morning we’re going to examine this commandment and see what it means for you and me today. Is this commandment relevant for today? You bet it is. As much as ever. So we’re going to examine what’s wrong with stealing, then we’re going to identify 10 different forms stealing takes, and if we have time, we’ll finish up by talking about a Biblical perspective on how to acquire stuff.

 

What’s Wrong with Stealing?

I debated about getting into this today, because we all know that stealing is wrong. I don’t think I need to convince anyone of that. But I think it would do us good to actually put into words some of the ways in which stealing is wrong. So let me give you four…

 

A. Stealing breaks the Law of Love

As we’ve been going through this series on God’s Top Ten, we’ve seen how in Mark chapter 12 Jesus summarized all Ten Commandments into one word… Love. Love God and love others. All of the commandments in the Bible can be capsulated into that one word.

Romans 13:9-10 (New Living Translation)
For the commandments against adultery and murder and stealing and coveting--and any other commandment--are all summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to anyone, so love satisfies all of God’s requirements.

Not only did Jesus give us that one-word summary of all the commandments, but He also gave us a simple one-sentence description of that it means to show love. We often refer to it as the Golden Rule, and it comes from what Jesus said in Matthew 7 verse 12…

Matthew 7:12 (NLT)
“Do for others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

So if you wouldn’t exactly appreciate someone stealing from you, you should show that same consideration for others. And by the way, how Jesus said this means that regardless of whether others show us that consideration, we still show it to them. We treat them, not necessarily the way they treat us, but the way we want them to treat us. It’s all about how we treat others and has nothing to do with how they treat us.

[See also Mark 12:28-31]

 

B. Stealing expresses a lack of trust in God

Jesus said…

Matthew 6:32-33 (NLT)
“Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.”

And Paul wrote in Philippians 4:19…

Philippians 4:19 (NLT)
And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.

So the Word of God is quite clear that God has promised to care for us. He supplies what we need. We trust Him, follow His guidance, and use the abilities He has given us to earn a living. And even when we’re out of work, He’s not going to abandon us. We can trust Him in this.

So what does stealing do? Stealing tells God, “I know what you said. I know you said you’d supply for my needs. But I don’t believe you. I can’t trust you. I need to take things into my own hands instead.”

Proverbs 30:9 (New Living Translation)
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.

 

C. Stealing comes from a prideful heart.

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve seen how these commandments really deal with heart issues more than hand issues. It’s more about what’s on the inside than it is about what you and I do outwardly. We talked about how murder is simply an expression of a heart that is filled with anger, bitterness and hate. We observed how adultery is given root in the form of lust in the heart. Well, here we are again. Stealing also is an expression of our heart condition. It says, “I’m better than you. You’ve got something I want, and I’m going to take it. And you can’t do one thing about it. Because I want it and I deserve it more than you do.”

Jeremiah 5:27-28 (Contemporary English Version)
You are evil, and you lie and cheat to make yourselves rich. You are powerful and prosperous, but you refuse to help the poor get the justice they deserve.

The Message paraphrase of the Bible puts it this way…

Jeremiah 5:28 (The Message)
Worse, they have no conscience. Right and wrong mean nothing to them. They stand for nothing, stand up for no one, throw orphans to the wolves, exploit the poor.

It’s an arrogant heart that is completely consumed about how they themselves can prosper and couldn’t care less about the rights or concerns of others.

Proverbs 25:19-21 (New Living Translation)
Singing cheerful songs to a person whose heart is heavy is as bad as stealing someone’s jacket in cold weather or rubbing salt in a wound.

There’s a blatant lack of concern for the victim. Fourthly, for those of us who call ourselves Christians…

 

D. Stealing turns others away from God

Romans 2:21, 23-24 (NLT)
You tell others not to steal, but do you steal? … You are so proud of knowing the law, but you dishonor God by breaking it. No wonder the Scriptures say, “The world blasphemes the name of God because of you.”

When those of us who call ourselves Christians steal from others, what a turnoff! Does Jesus really make that little of a difference in your life? If that’s how a Christ-follower acts, why should anyone else want anything to do with Him? Conversely, if you show yourself to be an honourable, trustworthy, respecting and respectable person, you’re setting a great example and it can be very attractive for others who are considering the claims of Christ.

The apostle Paul wrote a letter to Titus, and in it he talked about how servants should behave. But I think it’s good advice for us, too.

Titus 2:9-10 (NLT)
They must not talk back or steal, but they must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good. Then they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive in every way.

 

Now, a moment ago we looked at a verse in Romans which asked…

Romans 2:21 (NLT)
You tell others not to steal, but do you steal?

I think that’s a great question. And to answer it we need to understand that stealing takes different forms. Let me give you 10 of the most common forms of theft. This isn’t an exhaustive or comprehensive list, it’s not in any kind of order… these are just common types of theft.

 

Common Types of Theft:

1. Tax Theft

That season’s coming up shortly. When you fill out your reports, do you make any omissions of hidden income? Do you do any fudging? Anything…creative? “I’m not stealing, I’m creative.”

I was talking with a guy a while back who does odd jobs and usually gets paid in cash. So he doesn’t report all his income. And he justifies it by pointing fingers at the government and saying, “Look what the government has done to us!” But God doesn’t want us to justify it, He wants us to be honest.

Sure, go ahead and claim every deduction you’re entitled to. But don’t lie about it or do anything… creative. You should never fear and audit because you should have nothing you hide.

You think cheating on your taxes is a new thing? It’s not. Even Jesus dealt with it. In Mark chapter 12 we’re told that some people tried to trap Him by forcing Him to offend either the Jews or the Romans. And they did that by asking a question. They asked…

Mark 12:14-17 (NLT)
Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to the Roman government or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?”
Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Whom are you trying to fool with your trick questions? Show me a Roman coin, and I’ll tell you.” When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”
“Caesar’s,” they replied.
“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to him. But everything that belongs to God must be given to God.”

[See also Romans 13:1-7]

 

2. Debt Theft

Romans 13:8 (NLT)
Pay all your debts, except the debt of love for others. You can never finish paying that! If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill all the requirements of God’s law.

People who don’t pay their debts are thieves. When you don’t pay your debts to someone, you are in essence stealing from them. You are holding on to what is rightfully theirs. You’re stealing the principle, the interest, the time and energy it takes to get you to pay it, and every envelope and stamp they need to use to remind you. If you’ve got 30 days to pay something, pay it in 30 days. Don’t hold on to it for 90.

 

3. Borrowing Theft

This may seem like a smaller one to you. But it’s another form of theft. Have you ever borrowed anything and never returned it? Maybe a ladder, or a book, or a tool… You may say, “I never meant to steal, I just forgot.” Well, the outcome is the same. Or possibly even a little worse, because of the position you leave the other person in. Because they have to make a decision… will they confront you about it and appear petty, or do just never mention it and become resentful?

Of course, as I say this I’m well aware that I need to return a DVD to Derek and Loretta, and a CD to Lynn. And if I took a walk through my home I’m sure I’d find two or three other things, too. Maybe some of you need to join me in walking through your homes this afternoon with your eyes open to see what you may have confiscated from someone else. And then you need to return or replace it.

Psalm 37:21 (NLT)
The wicked borrow and never repay, but the godly are generous givers.

 

4. Petty Theft

Ever tear a page out of a public phonebook? How about eat a grape in the produce section? Sure, they probably work all that into the cost. But I don’t do it, and I don’t want to pay for you to do it. Do you really forget what a grape tastes like that you have to sample one? If you’ve got to do it, at least ask permission.

Or what if a clerk gives you back too much change? I’m sure you let them know if they give you too little. Or how about taking a magazine from the doctor’s office? Or paying $20 for gas when you pumped $20.05? You say, “Come on, Greg. Those are just small things.” Well, if they’re so small, why do you have to do it?

Why is this important? It’s not because I’m being legalistic. It’s because the heart cannot tell small from big when it comes to character. It’s all the same. It’s not a legalistic matter, it’s a heart matter.

Luke 16:10-11 (NLT)
“Unless you are faithful in small matters, you won’t be faithful in large ones. If you cheat even a little, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?”

 

5. Computer Theft

I’m not talking about stealing computers, I’m talking about using your computer to steal. You can copy software you didn’t buy, you can download things you didn’t pay for and should not have, you can use shareware programs beyond the permitted period of time. If you click on that little “I Accept” button and agree to buy it if you want to keep it, then buy it. This one often overlaps with this next one…

 

6. Copyright Theft

With all the digital technology we have now, this is easier than ever. Copying CDs, downloading movies, photocopying or printing off copyrighted materials without permission… I’m not saying I’ve never done this, I’m saying I try not to do this now. And you should do the same.

 

7. Employee Theft

There’s an old joke that asks the question, “How many people work in your office?” And the answer is, “About half of them.” Unfortunately, that’s become more of a commentary than a joke.

A little over a decade ago, James Patterson and Peter Kim conducted the most extensive survey ever done on issues of morality in the U.S., or any country for that matter. It was a massive survey and they compiled the results in the book, The Day America Told the Truth. Yes, it’s a book about the U.S. But I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to include Canada in these statistics. If anything, I believe recent moral issues have revealed that Canada may be in worse shape than our neighbours to the south.

Anyway, this book covered a variety of issues including this issue of employee theft. Let me read you some of their conclusions (p.155)… (not in PowerPoint)

“The so-called Protestant ethic is long gone from today’s American workplace.
Workers around America frankly admit that they spend more that 20 percent of their time at work totally goofing off. That amounts to a four day work-week across the nation.
Almost half of us admit to chronic malingering, calling in sick when we are not sick, and doing it regularly.
One in six Americans regularly drink or use drugs on the job.
Only one in four give work their best effort; only one in four work to realize their human potential…”
~ James Patterson and Peter Kim, in The Day America Told the Truth

Another book, Where’s Moses When You Need Him, estimates that $40 billion are lost each year due to employee theft. And it identifies five areas of employee theft:

  • Time Abuse (slacking off, coming in late)

  • Work Performance (poor performance)

  • Personal Phone Calls (an unreasonable amount)

  • Expense Account (claiming extra mileage, throwing in personal receipts)

  • Office Supplies (postage, staples, paper, etc.)

Colossians 3:22, 24-25 (The Message)
Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best… Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being Christian doesn’t cover up bad work.

Or how about what we read earlier about servants…

Titus 2:9-10 (NLT)
They must not talk back or steal, but they must show themselves to be entirely trustworthy and good.

 

8. Employer Theft

There are times that unreasonable wages are given. Perhaps the employer forces the employee to work in unsafe working conditions. Maybe the employer takes all the credit for the work and ideas of the employees. Maybe there’s unfair profit sharing going on.

James 5:4 (NLT)
Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you.

 

9. Reputation Theft

Now, I don’t think the eighth commandment really refers to this, but I think the Bible as a whole does. This is about slanderous words or gossip, where we hurt the reputation of someone else by what we say about them. Things that we may suggest or imply that really aren’t true at all. Hearsay. Things that rob a person of a good reputation.

Ecclesiastes 7:1-3 (New Living Translation)
A good reputation is more valuable than the most expensive perfume.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NLT)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

Proverbs 11:13 (New Living Translation)
A gossip goes around revealing secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence.

You know what strikes me about that verse? Gossip isn’t necessarily untrue. Gossip is simply something you don’t have any business spreading around. Gossip can tear a person down, destroy their reputation, and rob them of their honour, self-esteem, and privacy.

 

10. God Theft

This is one that is unfortunately very common. And it’s one that I don’t think I need to expand on today. I think the prophet Malachi put it quite clearly. He recorded God saying…

Malachi 3:8, 10 (CEV)
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… 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.

Throughout history countless numbers of Christians have done something unthinkable. They have violated and frustrated God’s entire economic plan. They have taken what belongs to God and spent it on themselves. People go to jail in our society for doing that to someone. But Christians have taken what was supposed to be spent on God’s work, and they bought toys and trinkets and houses and clothes and gone on vacations and bought computers with it. And God says, “I’ve been robbed.” Isn’t it ironic that we steal from the very one who said, “Do not steal”?

Now, maybe you’ve made some poor financial choices and you can’t give ten percent. Maybe you need to start at 2% or 5% or 8%. The key is to start and begin to work toward the full 10% so you can be living in obedience and experience the blessing God promises.

 

Well, there’s quite a list. And it’s not even a comprehensive list. We didn’t even get into things like identity theft or fraud or grand larceny or break and enter or plain, old, basic burglary. We didn’t get into any of those because you already know that the eighth commandment speaks to those kinds of theft. But these are some that you may not have identified with this commandment.

You also need to realize that the Bible is not against us having “Stuff”. What the Bible speaks to, though, is how we get that stuff and how we manage it after we get it. I titled this message “Taming the Desire to Acquire” for a reason. It’s not necessarily wrong to have stuff or want stuff. The problem is when that desire runs out of control. With that in mind, let me give you three Biblical ways to acquire “stuff.”

 

Biblical Ways to Acquire:

A. Work For It

Ephesians 4:28 (New Living Translation)
If you are a thief, stop stealing. Begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need.

So the first acceptable way to acquire property is to work, get paid and buy the stuff you need. And you should have enough left over to help others.

The second Biblically acceptable way of acquiring stuff is…

 

B. Make Wise Investments and Trades

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a story about a man and his employees. The man gave each of them a certain amount of money to trade and invest 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 man told the employees who did this well?

Matthew 25:21 (NLT)
“Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!”

And so honest shrewd trading is an acceptable means of acquiring stuff. And in case you’re wondering, gambling, slot machines, the lottery… none of those are wise or shrewd investments. And I do not believe that they reflect the kind of financial management that God calls us to. But that’s a topic for another day.

A third Biblically acceptable means for acquiring property is…

 

C. Ask God for It

Do you remember how Jesus taught us to pray?

Matthew 6:11 (CEV)
Give us our food for today.

You may know it better as “Give us this day our…” what? “Our daily bread.” Jesus was telling us that it was alright to pray for physical needs.

Most of us can remember times 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 couldn’t get, and then God broke into our lives and in a miraculous way provided for those needs. He does that sometimes. That’s just the kind of God He is. And so asking God through prayer is a Biblically acceptable way to acquire personal property. He may say “no” to some of your wants (and He always has good reasons you can trust), but He will never say “no” to your needs.
 

 

 

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