Integrity: For the Record Do not steal. Exodus 20:15
I remember the first thing I stole. I was in kindergarten and I just couldn’t resist taking home that little tiny set of plastic or metal gas pumps. I don’t know that I thought about it being wrong but I sure know it became wrong when my parents asked me where I got them. I remember going back to the school and having to confess to the teacher that I feared more than you will ever realize.
Burlington, Iowa police say Joseph Lamar Barrett, 34, held up a convenience store — just minutes after having used the same store's automatic teller machine. The Hawk Eye of Burlington reports that Barrett, of Chicago, allegedly waved a knife at the clerk at the Kum & Go store just after midnight Tuesday, then ran off with a small amount of cash. Looking over the store's surveillance tapes, police saw a man fitting Barrett's description using the ATM twice just minutes before the holdup. Bank records confirmed it was indeed Barrett, and he was arrested at a friend's house and allegedly confessed to the robbery. He faces 25 years in prison.
A would-be robber looked so goofy — well, Pluto, actually — that a convenience store clerk burst out laughing, foiling the attempted holdup. Cranberry, Pa., police Sgt. Dave Kovach told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the man walked into Gordon's Mini Market Tuesday evening wearing a mask disguising himself as Pluto, Mickey Mouse's long-eared, tongue-wagging dog. The cartoon canine walked up to the counter, pulled out a gun and demanded cash from the till. The clerk, alone in the store with the robber, took one look and broke into laughter." The frustrated Pluto robber then left the store," Kovach said. Another witness saw a white male, about 20 years old, get in a car and drive away. Kovach said that laughter isn't usually the best crime deterrent. "I don't want to give the impression that that's an advisable thing to do," he told the newspaper. "Pluto could have been a strung-out heroin addict. You never know."
Many people have been touched by theft. And in all honesty it’s not very funny. Millions of dollars are lost every year in this country over the theft of goods and services. One estimate says that 1 out of every 52 shopper’s carries something out of the supermarket for which they haven’t paid. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 4 million people are caught shoplifting every year. But for every one caught, 35 others get away with it. This means that there are over 140 million incidents of shoplifting every year in America! What’s really tragic is that only 10% of all shoplifters come from low incomes. 70% are middle class and 20% are classified as wealthy.
These facts are astounding! America appears to be a country of thieves. I suppose that if everyone who was guilty of theft were arrested, there would be no jails to hold them, nor arresting officers to lock them up! One new hotel reported that in their 10 months of operation, they lost 38,000 spoon, 18,000 towels, 355 silver coffee pots, 1,500 silver finger bowls and 100 Bible to thieves.
This past week we have watched professional athletes testify before Congress about cheating by using illegal substances to enhance their performances. We also witnessed the conviction of Bernard Ebbers, former CEO of World Com who was convicted on all nine counts for helping mastermind an $11 billion accounting fraud at WorldCom, now known as MCI.
Ebbers, 63, had been charged with one count of conspiracy, one count of securities fraud and seven counts of filing false statements with securities regulators. He faces up to 85 years in prison, but sentencing guidelines are expected to result in a shorter term that legal experts say could nonetheless put Ebbers behind bars for the rest of his life.
Is stealing really worth it? This commandment is not unlike, do not murder. At first read we might be tempted to think that this does not touch us. Don’t check out on this one, I believe we all need to pause and think about this commandment.
There are two possibilities of need that play into breaking this commandment, especially for Americans:
A. We think we need things! This is at the heart of the billions of dollars spent on advertising. To create the need.
B. As Americans we feel that we deserve to have. We should have no matter how we get it.
This need is accompanied by a sense of entitlement. This drives us to be consumers. There is a need rooted need in people that also wants things to be given to them. Receiving with out paying.
We need to recognize God as our Provider and allow Him to give us what we need and even supply some wants.
“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.”
Regardless of the reason, stealing is wrong! God, in these verses condemns it and declares it to be a sin. This morning, I would like for us to take some time to look at the 8th Commandment and consider what stealing really is, as we think together on this thought, "Do not steal."
1. Stealing is a Violation of the Law
A. The Correct Means Of Getting Gain – God has authorized two primary methods by which people can legitimately increase their possession. When we engage in these 2 areas of getting gain, we are doing it the right way. Notice what they are.
1. As A Reward For Work: Contrary to popular belief, work is not a curse! It is a means, ordained by God, whereby people can obtain the resources they need to function in the world. In fact, work is glorified by God: “Stay away from any Christian who lives in idleness and doesn't follow the tradition of hard work we gave you. For you know that you ought to follow our example. We were never lazy when we were with you. 8We never accepted food from anyone without paying for it. We worked hard day and night so that we would not be a burden to any of you. 9It wasn't that we didn't have the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to give you an example to follow. 10Even while we were with you, we gave you this rule: "Whoever does not work should not eat." 2 Thes. 3:10.
One evening a man saw his neighbor, a famous author, carrying coal into his house. The neighbor told him that it was undignified for a man of his social standing to be seen carrying coal. The famous author replied, "Any man who is ashamed to carry his own coal deserves to sit all winter by an empty fireplace."
While social programs have their place, the abuse of the government systems of handing out money to those in need is astounding. Abuse of the welfare system and other benefit programs is stealing the resources of those who work everyday instead of taking. Please note that I am not talking about legitimate need, but those who abuse the system. God’s will is that we obtain the things in life we need by the labor of our hands!
2. By The Reception Of A Gift: Another legitimate means of increasing our possessions is by the generosity of another. Some one may give us a gift, or we may receive and inheritance, or we may be the beneficiary of a will or insurance policy. These are all legitimate ways of getting gain. There is nothing wrong with receiving things from others. Often, God may choose to bless your life in this way.
B. The Corrupt Means Of Getting Gain – This is by taking that which does not belong to us as our own. Also know as stealing. God has condemned this practice and has declared that His children should leave it behind with the other works of the flesh.
“If you are a thief, stop stealing. Begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need." Eph. 4:28.
2. Stealing is a Violation of Loyalty
A. As An Employee: Employee theft costs companies billions of dollars every year, somewhere in the neighborhood of $120 billion. According to USA Today, 48 % of all American workers took something from an employer last year. People do this by taking thing home, selling things without their employers knowledge and pocketing the money, taking kickbacks, falsifying time records, wasting time while at work, etc.
Many years ago a young boy in a small village was working in a general store when a man entered and ordered some cloth. Observing that the owner of the establishment wasn't there, the customer suggested the boy cheat a little and give him an extra yard or two. "It'll be all right, son," he said. "No one will ever know about it. Your master isn't in." Looking somewhat stunned, the youngster quickly replied, "Oh, but you're mistaken, sir. My Master is always in! You see, I'm a Christian." He was conscious of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
After F. E. Marsh preached on this subject, a young man came to him and said, "Pastor, you have put me in bad spot. I've stolen from my employer, and I'm ashamed to tell him about it. You see, I'm a boat builder, and the man I work for is an unbeliever. I have often talked to him about Christ, but he only laughs at me. In my work, expensive copper nails are used because they won't rust in water. I've been taking some of them home for a boat I am building in my backyard. I'm afraid if I tell my boss what I've done and offer to pay for them, he'll think I'm a hypocrite, and I'll never be able to reach him for Christ. Yet, my conscience is bothered."
Later when the man saw the preacher again, he exclaimed, "Pastor, I've settled that matter and I'm so relieved." "What happened when you told your boss?" asked the minister. "Oh, he looked at me intently and said, 'George, I've always thought you were a hypocrite, but now I'm not so sure. Maybe there's something to your Christianity after all. Any religion that makes a man admit he's been stealing a few copper nails and offer to settle for them must be worth having.
Anytime we take things that are not ours from an employer, we are guilty of stealing. Whether it is time, or materials, the result is the same! Notice what God has to say to employees: “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Col. 3:22-24
"Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight, or volume. Your scales and weights must be accurate. Your containers for measuring dry goods or liquids must be accurate.” Leviticus 19:35-36
B. As An Employer: When employees are underpaid, over worked and treated badly, this too is a form of stealing! God has certain principles, which are to be followed by employers. “You slave owners must be just and fair to your slaves. Remember that you also have a Master--in heaven.” Col. 4:1
Employers have a responsibility to take care of those who look to them for employment.
C. In Our Ethics: Often, we are guilty of stealing in various area of our lives. Things like taxes, keeping our word, honoring our debts, borrowing things and not returning them. When we are obligated to do something, we should do it! When we don’t, we have stolen. When we owe a debt, or taxes etc, then we also must pay that, or, again, we are guilty of stealing before God.
In today’s culture, we need to stop and ask ourselves, about things like, music, software, or anything else that we have justified ourselves in taking when it doesn’t belong to us.
Too often we rationalize our behavior by convincing ourselves that Bill Gates or some famous musician doesn’t need the money. They already got theirs so now it is our turn. Sermon in high school chapel.
One Sunday morning, Charles Finney preached a message entitled The Sin Of Borrowing Things And Not Returning Them. He said, "When I went to my tool shed yesterday with some men on hand to do some work, I found it practically empty. President Mahan had borrowed my plow and never sent it back. Professor Morgan had sent for my spade and I haven’t seen it since. Deacon Beecher has had one of my monkey wrenches for so long a time that the memory of man cannot recall how long ago it was borrowed. What does it mean? It means that there are some among the best of us such a carelessness concerning our fundamental everyday obligations." The sermon was extremely effective. The next morning before dawn, one neighbor trying to bring back a workhorse had to be rescued from Finney’s dog. All the rest of the morning, there was a steady stream of the neighbor’s kids bringing back borrowed tools. They ever returned things that were not Finney’s
Restitution for things that you have taken that are not yours is a vital part of Christian discipleship. The story is told of a shoplifter who writes to a department store and says, "I've just become a Christian, and I can't sleep at night because I feel guilty. So here's $100 that I owe you."
Then he signs his name, and in a little postscript at the bottom he adds, "If I still can't sleep, I'll send you the rest." Citation: Bill White; Paramount, California
What the Lord wants us to see is that when we owe something, whether it be our money or just the fulfillment of our word, He expects us to make it right!
3. The Violation of Lordship
There is one more form of stealing that many are guilty of this morning. There is no law of man against it, yet it is far more terrible than these other forms mentioned. It is the idea that a man can steal from God. Just the thought that man would steal from God is amazing. Let’s see how it is done.
A. The Stealing Of The Tithe – Notice what Malachi says about the tithe – Mal. 3:8-10. God says that when we hold back that which belongs to the Lord, then we are guilty of stealing from God. Now, when we think of all that He has given us. How He loves us and how He saved us by His grace, how can a person with any sense at all condone stealing from the Lord? We rob God when we do not give Him what is His, or when we use what is His for our own purposes. The tithe is not ours to use!
You might rob a man, your employer, a bank or shoplift from a store and get away with it here. But, my friends, you will never rob God and get away with it. He will get what is His!
We need to remember that none of us has the right to all that we earn. 100% belongs to God, but 10% (at least) is to be dedicated to His work, and is to be given through His storehouse. I know that I don’t talk about this very often but I should. For those of us who give 10% it is not an incredible act of discipleship. There is nothing incredible about it. It is normal Christianity. It is how God intended the church to function. Churches that are always out raising money for this and that from the community are churches where the people are not tithing. 1 Cor. 16:2. When we follow His plan, we and the church will prosper – 2 Cor. 9:1-7
B. The Stealing Of Time – You and I have been allotted only so much time in this world. If we waste that time instead of using it for the glory of the Lord, we are guilty of theft! Are you using your time as you should? Remember the sermon a few months ago? Every Second Counts. (picture of every second counts magnet)
C. The Stealing Of Titles - There is also the matter of Lordship. We are guilty of stealing when we hold back areas of our lives from His Lordship. When we try to exercise control over our own lives, instead of giving Him the place of supremacy, then we are guilty of stealing from the Lord.
D. The Stealing Of Talents – The Bible is clear when it tells us that when we are saved, we are given certain gifts from the Heavenly Father – 1 Cor. 12:7-27. When we fail to exercise our God given gifts and talents, we are guilty of stealing from the Lord. When we fail to fill our place in His body, we are thieves and robbers. Our lives are gifts and they are to be invested for the glory of God. There should never be an unemployment problem in the church and yet we find ourselves scrambling to find enough people to do just the basic ministries that I believe God is calling us to do. Let me ask you, is church about service or “serve us” for you? Are you a Christ follower of a Christian consumer?
We are taking in members today in the second service. I believe this will be the last group of member to join the church without signing up for a ministry. Signing up to work in the ministry of the church.
If we were honest most, if not all, would have to admit that they were guilty of stealing in one form or another. If this is the case in your life, then God has a word for you. According to the Word of God, when we steal, we are to repay – “if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die. 16 None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live.” Eze. 33:15-16.
We are to practice restitution to those we have wronged. Whether it is an employer, a neighbor or even God. We are to make it right, whatever the cost!
At Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78, George Washington and his troops were in utterly desperate straits. He appealed to the government of Pennsylvania for help. Jacob DeHaven, a staunch believer in the revolutionary cause, lived near Valley Forge. hearing of Washington's appeal, he loaned him $50,000 in gold and $400,000 in supplies.The army survived the winter, but after the war DeHaven was never repaid. Now his descendants are trying to collect. They claim that the loan, compounded at 6% interest daily, amounts to $141.6 billion.
In one sense, all the money in the world could never repay DeHaven for what he did. In reality, he saved the cause of freedom for all America.
There's another debt all of us owe that we can never repay. It is the price Jesus Christ paid to give us liberty from the bondage of sin.
God’s will is that His people never resort to stealing, and if we are guilty, then we need to make restitution. Do not steal!
I would like you to take the insert out of the worship folder. It says, My Record, on it. Only you and God know your record. He sees everything. Every business transaction, every tax form, every relationship, every thing. Spend a moment or two reflecting on where you are with this in your life.
The outline for this message came from Alan Carr at www.sermonnotebook.org