(September 25, 2019) Robert and Maureen McQuillan share some ‘Food for thought’…
Well – did that this blog’s title get your attention or not? Probably did. So what’s it all about? Let’s share the background – and then bring out some challenges…
It’ll soon be two months since we moved into our new home in Melbourne and a thoughtful man called the other day to do some maintenance just as we were going out to an appointment that couldn’t be cancelled.
Now we’d already meet this chap and ‘liked what we’d seen’ – so we made a decision to allow him to work away in our home even though we wouldn’t be there. Asking him to kindly lock up, we quipped, ‘Of course security cameras are everywhere so our “millions of dollars” will be safe!’
We were joking of course – but his response blew us away! Looking us straight in the eye he said very seriously: ‘You know what… I’d rather be caught as a murderer than as a thief. Thieving is a terrible thing!’
Wow! Thieving worse than murder in his vocabulary and he’s not a churchgoer! Our new friend got us thinking… of wrongdoing from God’s point of view! For example… a lie of any kind, big or small, is still considered a lie by God and any crime is a crime. In his eyes a sin is a sin whether it’s murder or stealing.
Thieving – it’s off grounds for God’s people!
Dictionaries described this word to mean the activity of stealing. That’s thieving in a nutshell!
Thieving is a No No that dates way back in history! In Exodus 20:15, along with other sins that don’t please God and neither honour God or his people, thieving was included in those Ten Commandments given to Moses to be passed down and required to be kept.
Number seven, to quote that old King James Version, is an emphatically clear four word demand: ‘Thou shalt not steal.’ Modern versions are equally demanding eg the NLT – ‘You must not steal.’ Message Bible states it even more simply – but more dramatically: ‘No stealing.’
Thieving is stealing… which sounds even more aggressive. ‘Steal’… ganab, meaning to thieve, carry away, deceive (bear this last implication in mind).
The New Testament Greek word steal is klepto … now we could easily think of kleptomaniacs here – troubled, absentminded people – but, no, we’re referring to a sin that like murder, adultery and giving false testimony is a defiling wrong generating in the heart and breaks God’s law and lowers Christian character.
- The Exodus 20 commandments were obviously important to Jesus. When asked by a religious leader about eternal life (Matthew 19:18, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20), he began his response with ‘You know the commandments…’ using a verb indicating ‘being aware of.’ Reality: The ten commandments are a solid foundation for every follower of the Godhead to be aware of and to live by.
- In John 10:10, Jesus pointed out that ‘the thief comes only to steal’ (and ‘kill and destroy’). In Mark 4:15 (the parable of the sower) he said that ‘Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown…’ Thieves take away – lift, swipe – things not their own. Christians aware of the devil’s deceits and cunning consequently consider Satan the great thief, robbing us of many things, such as freedom, peace of mind and truth.
- Paul’s 1 Corinthian 6:10 list of those who will not inherit the kingdom of God includes thieves. He was even tough on preachers too – for he wrote in Romans 2:21, ‘You who preach against stealing, do you steal?’
- Quoting that Exodus commandment in Romans 13:9 he writes that avoidance of ‘no no’ commandments is summed up in the following (that recalls Jesus’ Luke 10: 27-28 direction): ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ In other words, we shouldn’t be into any sin such as thieving that hurts people.
- Paul also wrote to the Ephesian church about stealing, ‘Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer’ (Ephesians 4:28).
- As for the Galatians church no doubt when he penned a list of ‘no no’ things that Christians shouldn’t be into (Galatians 5:19-21) ending with ‘and the like’ he would have been thinking of thieving too. In any case, he added this: ‘I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.’ Well, that’s a rocker!
- Peter too was against thieving (and other sinful practices) – see 1 Peter 4:15. Maybe Peter was recalling his one-time colleague Judas who thieved from the ministry funds (John 12:4-6). Or his charging Ananias and Sapphira of thieving from God – ‘What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.’(Acts 5:4).
Now where are we going with this? Simply a warning to beware of beguiling thieving opportunities…
Stealing is deceiving
Thieving is more than is more than just going to some store, or onto a building site, and nicking something!
In researching this article’s theme we learn that the theft rate around the world is very high (Sadly this great nation of Australia is number four on the list! See, for example,this link: theiving).
And, sadly,evidently many Christians, who are supposed to live by high standards that honour God, also thieve, pinch, lift, deceive, carry off – steal, rob – casually, knowingly or ‘unknowingly’ eg beguiled, even under that banner of ‘Everyone does it.’ Such as…
- Taking things – even pens and paper – from the work place without permission
- Swiping items from restaurants and café tables
- Taking the towels (or other items) from motels
- Not paying debts when due. Worse still, trivialising long-time debts as unimportant
- Borrowing from friends or family and not repaying
- Finding something of value and not handing it in
- Not correcting sales people when they undercharge in error
- Repeatedly taking longer lunch or tea breaks than specified
- And so on…
‘Thieving’ goes further
Recalling that ganab also means to deceive, dare we state that giving any wrong info is thieving, a robbing people of truth? For example…
- Filching on school or other exams
- Charging people excessive interest on borrowed money (Usury – see Ezekiel 22:12-13)
- Inflating (‘padding’) expense accounts
- Deceitful info on tax returns
- Overcharging on business deals (Hosea 12:7 warns against this)
- Exaggerating the actual number of attenders or salvations in your church
- Credit claiming for someone else’s achievements
- Untrue tender love declarations between a married couple.
Treating God unworthily
The list goes on as one thinks further about deceiving, stealing, carrying away…
Earlier we pointed out that dictionaries state thieving is the activity of stealing. Several Christian writers believe that stealing from God is the worst kind of thieving eg not giving financially from what he prospers us with is stealing from God as is not giving of our time, not attending church, not taking opportunities to bless others… and not taking time to spread the gospel.
Both Old and New Testament scriptures make it clear that honesty is something God desires and requires from all who call him Father! For Christians any form of stealing should be counted as not worthy of God’s people and abhorred.
Back to that tradie’s comment about preferring to being caught as a murderer than a thief, truth is that murder is on God’s abhorrence list as well as thieving! Both are ‘fleshly, worldly acts’ – like the others Paul listed in Galatians 5:19-21: ‘The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies,’ – then adding what we mentioned before – ‘and the like.’
The Message Bible paints a vivid modern language picture: ‘…trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalising everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on. This isn’t the first time I have warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God’s kingdom.’
Summing up, we like the simple but profound line found in Truth for the World’s stealing – ‘Why is stealing so bad? It is bad because God says it is. Simple but profound! (The article is worth a read).
Paul’s food for thought
Thieving is really a desire of the heart, a lust of the flesh. We like Paul’s answer in Galatians 5:24 – ‘Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.’ The Message reads even stronger: ‘Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good – crucified.’
Paul’s desire for all Christians is live by the Holy Spirit! After listing beguiling danger points, he quickly highlights a better way to live, one that honours God, blesses neighbours and exudes the Christian character… Galatians 5:22-23, 25: ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.’
Maybe it’s best to wrap this article up with Paul’s Philippians 4:8 encouraging advice, ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.’
‘Think’ here is logizomai … to take inventory. In other words, food for thought!