Honest to God

 

How do you relate to money and things in the world around you? Do you own things, or do they own you? Exodus 20:15 commands you not to steal, but behind that commandment lies a way of looking at yourself, those around you, the world, and, above all, God.

God has given you dominion. God has delegated authority. He alone is sovereign, Exodus 9:29; Psalm 50:9-12. He made you in his image. Therefore you have dominion, Genesis 1:26-28. Though dominion is abused, God has still given you the world to use. You hold the office of king, serving the King of kings. That puts perspective even on what seems to be mundane work. Salvation in Christ restores the image and the proper use of dominion. God’s delegated authority includes that which he has given to the state to prevent and punish theft. The protection of property is part of its God-given function. The sin of theft (and the greed from which it arises) reverses roles, and makes you controlled by things.

Do not steal. Remember that the earth is the Lord’s, Psalm 24:1; 1 Corinthians 10:26. The earth is the Lord’s, but he has made you his steward. Ownership of property, and hard work to earn property, are not sinful. You reflect the dominion God has over his creation. Do not steal on any level. Inflation of the currency reduces the value of money for elderly retirees, see Leviticus 19:35-37. Governmental indebtedness means a huge burden for the next generation. Uncontrolled personal indebtedness and non-payment of debt break this commandment. The “get rich quick” appeal of the government operated lottery takes from those least able to afford it. Do not rob God by withholding your tithe, Malachi 3:7-10. Do not defraud your neighbor. Examples include: “borrowing” from your company, wasting time on the job, shoplifting, stealing someone’s reputation through gossip. Doing nothing can defraud, Deuteronomy 22:1-4. Beware of finding justifying excuses for theft. Work instead of stealing, Ephesians 4:28. “We must. . . employ ourselves earnestly and unfeignedly that we may be able to confess that the bread we eat comes to us from God’s hand, and that we are sustained by his goodness, as by a father who gives a portion ot his children. . . . Let us labor to do good with the little we have, and to succor such as have need.” (John Calvin, Sermon on Ephesians, at 4:28). Replace the taking of other’s property with earning so that you can give to those in need. Recognize the joy of working to the glory of God. And a nearer purpose is to give to the needy. As Jesus reflected on Mary’s extravagant gift of ointment, he connected the service of him with meeting the needs of the poor. In difficult economic times, and as a nation we tend to look, not first of all for the Lord’s mercy, but for a government fix. Whatever the causes, and whatever the solutions, as God’s people you can give generously to those in need.

Keep things honest—both before God and men. Learn contentment. Stealing often grows out, not a need, but a desire for more. This command fleshes out the command to love, Romans 13:8-10. Reflect the justice of God. Just as the Sixth Commandment relies on the fact that you are image of God, and the Seventh reflects God’s purity, the Eighth reflects his justice and honesty. Learn the secret of being content with what God has given you, Philippians 4:11,12; see Matthew 6:25-34. Recognize that your Father in heaven does provide. While this is not a prohibition of working hard in order to advance yourself, it does keep wealth in perspective.

Recognize what is yours in Christ. When stealing has taken place, restitution is the Biblical pattern of dealing with the offense, Luke 19:8; Exodus 22:1-15. This principle could relieve some of the problems with our criminal justice system. There is no forgiveness without the payment of a price. That was seen in the Old Testament sacrificial system, but it is true for you too. The ultimate restitution has been made—by God sending his Son into this world to live and die in the place of sinners. Recognize that you have failed to be honest to God and to your neighbor, and then turn to God in Christ for forgiveness. You have been given Christ, and in him all things are yours, 1 Corinthians 3:21-23. Now use what you have been given, without becoming a slave to things. “Because Jesus so spoke of his person and work, and defended Mary, his words have placed care for the poor at the heart of Christian devotion. . . . His words imply that we may do for the least of his brothers what we would do for him. He receives our devotion to the poor as we care for them in extravagance, pouring out on them what we wish we could pour out for him.” (Edmund P. Clowney, How Jesus Transforms the Ten Commandments, p. 118).

The wealth of the world around you–is it going to own you? Or are you going to keep things honest with both God and men? Exercise dominion over what God has given you so that you can give glory to your Savior.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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