God wants the very best life for each of us. He tells us to do the things that He knows will work. God is not leading us astray. He’s not telling us to do the wrong things. If you believe the Bible is God’s Word, then let’s do it.
“Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another. ‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:25-32
We’ve seen in the past two weeks how important it is that we put away lying and speak truth with our neighbor, “for we are members of one another.” We’ve seen that we should not sin in our anger nor let the sun go down on our wrath. If we do, we “give place to the devil.” So far, pretty simple: don’t lie, tell the truth, deal with anger quickly and appropriately. Don’t give the devil the opportunity to get his foot in the door of your thoughts or feelings. That’s what Satan did with Adam, Eve and Cain. Don’t let it happen to you.
Now, on to step 3. “Let him who stole steal no longer.” Fact – Christians did bad things before they were saved. Some were thieves. They stole things from other people. Stealing is a way of life for many people, so it means a big change of heart and mind. The first thing a saved thief needs to do is want to put off the old man and put on the new man. That’s where being “renewed in the spirit of your mind” plays an important role. It will take a renewed spirit and mind to change a thief.
Can a thief really stop stealing? Absolutely! The power of God in a saved life is a mighty thing to behold. He can certainly empower a thief to stop stealing. Then what? What should a saved thief do after they stop stealing stuff from people? Work hard with their hands and give stuff to people – “but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” Isn’t that the coolest thing?! It’s the perfect therapy for someone who wants to change from being a thief to being someone people can trust. The heart of a thief is self-centered, only caring for themself. They lie and cheat to get what they want. Remember Step 1? Put away lying and speak truth with your neighbor. A forgiven thief must live a life of truth to their neighbors. They must change their way of thinking and living. They must prove themselves trustworthy to be trusted. How to do that? Thieves use their hands to steal what belongs to people who work hard for their possessions – so a saved thief should work hard and make good things with their hands so they can give something to people in need.
Is that an amazing way for a saved thief to live? You bet it is! Tell a thief to stop stealing. They stop stealing. Then what? They made a living with their hands taking what belonged to others. What will they do with their hands after they stop stealing? If they don’t use their hands for something good, don’t you think they will be tempted to go back to their former way of life and use them to steal again? They haven’t learned the importance of serving God out of their weakness. God knows us inside and out. He knows exactly what it takes to change a person.
We are changed through the process of loving God and others. A big part of loving someone is serving them. Remember that stealing is more than just the physical act of taking things that belong to others – it is also the mental and emotional act of taking what doesn’t belong to the thief. Working hard with their hands, then giving to others from their heart and mind is a big part of changing the way a former thief looks at their life and others. It changes the way they see people. Instead of seeing people as targets for theft, they see people as brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, or they see unsaved people in need of the same Love and Grace that changed the life of the former thief.
This principle from God’s Word works for any kind of thief – whether they steal things, ideas, dreams or hope. Example – I was an outspoken atheist 40 years ago. I told people on my daily radio show every day that God did not exist. I spent hours and hours reading and studying religious, agnostic and atheistic texts to be ready to defend atheism and challenge Christianity and other religions every chance I got. I used my skills as a radio host to influence people for atheism. I stole peoples’ ideas, dreams and hope through my ideas and by my words. Then God saved me. What did He direct me to do? Speak for Him – become an outspoken believer of the Living God. I told people on radio and television about God. I spent hours and days reading and studying God’s Word, history and sciences to be ready to defend the reliability and integrity of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I wrote about God in newspapers and magazines and on the Internet. Studying and teaching God’s Word turned me around and pointed me in the right direction. It forged within my mind and soul the absolute Truth that God is Who He says He is, has done what He says He has done, and will do what He says He will do. But what if I had just believed and nothing else? When I was an atheist, I tried with all my strength to convince people that God did not exist and that believing in Him was a complete waste of their time. What if I had never studied the Bible, never spoken for the existence of God, never defended the Gospel of Jesus Christ, never tried to convince people that God did exist and that believing in Him was the best use of their time? I can’t even imagine not doing that. What God did for me is more than anyone on earth could or would have done. I owe everything to God.
Just like an atheist has a lot to give back – so does a thief. An atheist steals people’s hopes and dreams. A thief steals their possessions. Which is worse? Which is better? Doesn’t matter – the forgiven atheist and the forgiven thief have a lot in common. Both need to labor so they will have something to give people who have need. We live in a world that is hurting – really hurting. People need to know God and His Love. God uses us to show them how.
Were you a thief before God saved you? Did you steal people’s possessions? their ideas? their dreams? their hope? Then give back. Use your hands, your heart, your mind, your mouth – and give back to those in need.
Next week – step 4 in Walking Like A Brother.
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”