Wednesday, July 25, 2012

That's Not Yours!

Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.

Theft, for any reason, is wrong. The motive doesn’t matter. The end results don’t matter. It’s wrong because God says so - we don’t need another reason. It’s sad to see how many people have adopted the “robin hood” mentality. It’s become a heroic thing in our society to take from people who have and give it to those who don’t have. As noble as this might sound, it is no different in God’s eyes than petty thievery or armed robbery. Taking something from someone by force or cheating them out of it by deceit is simply sin.

Do you believe me? Do you believe that you can have the best of motives still not be justified in stealing? Or do you need more proof than the simple, four-word commandment? Listen to what the Proverbs 6:30-31 says, “People don't hate a thief who steals to fill his empty stomach. But when he is caught, he must pay seven times as much as he stole. It may even cost him everything he has.” It doesn’t matter if the thief is stealing to feed himself - it doesn’t matter how noble his motives are - he will be held accountable for what he does.

Why is God so opposed to theft - especially if it’s “for a good cause”? God hates it because He is a Giver, not a taker! The most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16, tells us that God’s love motivated Him to give. James 1:17 agrees with this concept, it says: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” You see, God is love, and love always gives.

Thieves are not on God’s side. It doesn’t matter what the motivation is, when someone takes something that doesn’t belong to them, they are following in the footsteps of Satan himself. John 10:10 shows us this: “The thief (Satan) does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” The devil is a thief. He took what didn’t belong to him in the Garden of Eden. He is constantly trying to steal what God gives to His people. He isn’t just a thief, he is the thief. And any time a person takes what doesn’t belong to them, they are following the same path!

When someone takes what doesn’t belong to them, even if they’re taking it for someone else, they are not walking in God’s love. Paul said in Romans 13:9 “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” When you love people with God’s kind of love, you will give like He gives. You won’t want to take from anyone! This is important for God’s people to understand. He is our Father - we should want to be like Him!

So what’s the answer? What if I have stolen something from someone? What if I walked out of a store without paying for something? What if I stole from my employer by goofing off when he was paying me to work? What if I realize now that I need to repent? Can I just ask God for forgiveness and leave it at that? Well, not exactly. You see, it would be silly for a man to rob a bank, move to Mexico, and then ask for forgiveness while he’s still living off of the money he stole. The Bible talks about something called restitution - something every repentant thief needs to know.

Exodus 22:1-4 shows us God’s law for a person who was caught stealing. “Suppose a man steals an ox or a sheep. And suppose he kills it or sells it. Then he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox. Or he must pay back four sheep or goats for the sheep...What if the stolen ox, donkey or sheep is found alive with him? Then the thief must pay back twice as much as he stole...A thief must pay for what he has stolen. But suppose he does not have anything. Then he must be sold to pay for what he has stolen...” Do you see this? It was never God’s will for a thief to be forgiven and then keep what he stole!

Remember the story  of Zacchaeus? Do you remember this tax collector and thief’s response to being accepted and forgiven? He said, “"Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of what I own to those who are poor. And if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay it back. I will pay back four times the amount I took." This is a very important point - you can use this to tell if a thief is really repentant or not. Repentant thieves will usually become the most generous people in the world! Ephesians 4:28 backs this up - it says: “Those who have been stealing must never steal again. Instead, they must work. They must do something useful with their own hands. Then they will have something to give to people in need.

Stealing - whether it’s big or small, whether the thief is selfish or “noble”, no matter what the circumstance - is always a sin! Whether it’s an employee that takes a 30-minute lunch when they only get 20. a thief that steals a few thousand dollars from a bank, or a congressman that confiscates millions from the “rich” to give to the “poor” - in God’s eyes, it is all equally wrong. Why? It isn’t wrong because someone gets hurt. It isn’t wrong because someone loses out on what is rightfully theirs. It is wrong simply because...God said so!

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