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12th Nov 2017

Warning Against Theft: A Plea for Honest Work

Paul wrote, “Let him that stole steal no more” (Ephesians 4:28a). This is a prohibition against stealing. The word “stole” in Greek is a present participle verb, which has durative force. Thus, it denotes ‘he who used to steal’ or an actual thief. Whatever form of stealing there had been in a person’s life, once he becomes a Christian, he must stop it utterly.

Jesus said in Matthew 15:18-19 that thefts proceed from the heart and defile a person. Stealing is an unrighteous act that does not befit the followers of Christ. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, the apostle Paul listed thieves among those who will not inherit the kingdom of God. He said, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

Theft was regarded as a serious sin in the Old Testament and was prohibited in firm words – “Thou shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15; cf. Leviticus 19:11; Deuteronomy 5:19; Jeremiah 7:9). Jesus cited the commandment, “Thou shall not steal”, in Mark 10:19, and so did the apostle Paul in Romans 13:9. Stealing is a violation of God’s commandment; it is also a social evil that disrupts the peace and progress of every community.

Stealing is taking another person’s property without permission or legal right, and without any intention of returning it. It is the illegal possession of anything owned by others. Many people practise various forms of stealing today – robbery, burglary, shoplifting, looting, petty theft, fraudulent business, profiteering, withholding employees’ promised pay, mismanagement of time and properties at work, cheating on taxes, refusal to pay debts, plagiarism, copyright violation, not giving tithes and offerings to support God’s work, etc.

Let us not engage in any form of stealing. Neither should we admire nor follow the pattern of those who become rich at the expense of others. Do not collaborate with those who covetously deal with others. Some may have committed certain forms of stealing without realising the severity of the misdemeanour. Nonetheless, everyone should repent from the sin of stealing when the Spirit of God convicts him through His Word. And wherever possible, he should restore those things to the rightful owner.

The next advice Paul gives to Christians is “but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Ephesians 4:28b).

A Christian should never pursue any dishonest means of material gain, such as through stealing. He is advised to “labour, working with his hands”. The thief must stop stealing and begin to put in some hard, honest labour. The Greek word for “labour” (kopiáō) denotes toil or engaging in hard work to the point of exhaustion. Paul used this word in connection with “working with his hands”. Christians should prefer hard, manual labour to stealing. The apostle Paul, when he was without any financial assistance, gave himself to hard labour, working with his hands to support the Gospel work (1 Corinthians 4:12). According to Acts 18:3, when he was in Corinth, he supported himself by working as a tentmaker, together with Aquila. In Acts 20:34, referring to his time in Ephesus, he further said “that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.” Without question, he worked hard to support himself and those in need.

Whether it was in a secular profession or in the ministry, Paul was assiduous and hardworking. In 1 Corinthians 15:10, he said, “but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” In 1 Thessalonians 2:9, Paul wrote, “For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.” Like Paul, we must dedicate our hands, our minds and our strength to undertaking and accomplishing tasks that are good, instead of doing that which is bad, contrary to God’s law. We must not be slothful or lazy in our work. We must not detest hard work. Christians must always be industrious people. Whether it is at workplace, at home, or in church, let us be diligent to put our hands to useful and profitable things.

A commitment to hard work will not only help us to cease from dishonest and evil activities (such as stealing), but will also provide us with means to earn a living for ourselves and to help others in need. The Bible teaches us to be eager to help others who are in need. Paul was a tender-hearted, generous person who took lead in helping others (cf. Acts 24:17; Romans 15:26; 1 Corinthians 16:1-9). As he wrote in Galatians 6:10, “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Note of Thanks for Reformation Lectures

Dear Pastor Koshy,

We would be remiss if we did not thank you and the Session in affording all GBPC members/visitors the very informative Reformation lectures over the month of October, commemorating the 500th year since this work began at God’s command. We are indebted to GBPC and the speakers.

It was our great joy to learn of the Reformation, in such detail, and our wonder and joy to learn how God raised great men of faith to keep His church pure and faithful, for His honour and praise.

That the Reformation coincided with the world rapidly entering the “Englishspeaking” era, with exploding literacy worldwide, is truly God’s perfect timing. It also happened at the time of the world when there was a great “rebirth” in learning in theology, philosophy, arts, engineering, etc. Not to mention also the invention of the printing press! Truly, His perfect timing is so evident throughout the whole Bible and through the several eras of man’s history. All things are always determined by God, and none else!

We are truly humbled by the perfect work of God in the Reformation … Thank you for the rounded presentation. It is truly our untold joy now to be able to follow God’s Word and His work in preserving His church until our Lord Christ comes again. We pray the Holy Spirit and His grace will enable all believers to faithfully persevere in faith, and see God’s faithful and wondrous work in keeping His church pure in our time.

God is faithful to His church. Praise God and amen.

Joyfully and gratefully in Christ,
Robert Tan

Posted under 'Pastoral Exhortation'