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The Part I Left Out of My Sermon Yesterday…

November 19, 2012

In the interests of time, I completely skipped over one of the primary emphases of Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians in 4:25-32 in my sermon this weekend. But…don’t worry, I gotcha covered below.

Verse 28 says – “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.”

Clearly what this passage is dealing with is the tangible ways someone goes from the “old self” to the “new self” as they put on Christ. There should be real evidence in a believer’s life that they have taken steps in the wise use of their words and in a restraining of anger as they recognize their own tendency toward sin. The third thing Paul exhorts the Ephesians towards is honesty in their work.

Three things on this verse:

(1) Few of us today understand the economic uncertainty of the 1st century. Yes, you may have seen your 401K plummet, you may have lost you home, but our economy as a nation is infinitely more stable than what was in place in the 1st century. In many ways, the comparison of thieves today and then is not fair. For those whose labor and income depended on drought or a disease to crops, there was no welfare system. There were no bank loans. There was no foreclosure process. There was just…well…nothing. No safety net.

And so the temptation to steal was much higher. Today most of America’s thieves go back to air-conditioned homes with a pantry full of food. Yet, we still steal. And…so we could write this off as “pull yourself up by your boot straps and get a job and stop being lazy” or we could recognize that theft has much deeper implications than mere acquisition of goods. It is a heart disease and is one that can only be changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Our hearts will covet other people’s stuff (see the 10th commandment) until we recognize that we have a God who is anxious for nothing and provides all we need. So, were the circumstances different? Yes. But, the heart condition between the Ephesians and modern Christians was the same.

(2) You don’t just work to stuff your wallet full. Don’t hear what I’m not saying. Work to provide for your family, to go on vacation, and even to buy a brand new car. But…don’t think you are the end of your financial income. You work so that, “(you) may have something to share with anyone in need.” You have an outward face even in the midst of great personal fortune. This helps keep us focused that it is not just 10% of our income that belongs to God, but 100%.

Also, the passage has in mind the local church because of the “we are members one of another” language of verse 25. Yes, we are to give to local and international missions, buy a homeless man a burger, and sponsor a child through Compassion International. But…also make sure your local church members are taken care of to. If there is a need in the church, meet that with just as much zeal as you would outside the church (and maybe even more zeal). Inreach in a church is just as needed as outreach. Take care of your brothers and sisters and if there is any need among them…meet it!

(3) The term for work in this passage denotes labor to the point of weariness. What the thief once obtained with little effort, he now achieves through diligent toil. The message here is that work is hard…but get over it! Adam and Eve had to deal with difficult work after Genesis 3 and so do you. Your job may demand a lot of you to the point that you would rather quit and the Bible is not surprised by that. Don’t run away from hard, difficult, and even excruciating work. Instead, use it to focus you heart on what the new heavens and new earth will be with work that is once again full and unstripped of joy.

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