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AUGUST 9 2015

The Eighth Commandment

Part One

 

[I. Introduction] People have strange ideas about God’s law. Before I became a Christian I never gave the law much thought. If someone were to ask me, though, I probably would have said that the commands found in the Bible were just men’s ideas and that they were oppressive. The truth is the exact opposite. The Bible is a divine document revealing the mind of God and God’s commands do not oppress, but bring freedom and flourishing. Those who have not been born again feel as if God’s law is oppressive because they are yet in rebellion. But, when God grants a new heart to a person then that person begins to love the law he once despised.

 

Loving the law is the right and natural response because the law is an expression of God’s love to us.

 

Not only is it an expression of God’s love to us but, as we live it, it is an expression of our love to God. Still more, as we live it, it is an expression of our love for our family, our fellow believers, and our neighbor. The commands of God inform us how to love people. Because we don’t know how to love. People think they know how to love but they do not.

 

Still more, blessings come to those who possess the law, who love the law, and who live the law. For all these reasons the child of God must learn what the commands of God are and what they mean.

 

The ten commandments are found in Exodus chapter 20. We will examine the eighth commandment this morning. It is found in 20:15 and consists of only four words: You shall not steal. 

 

How many here have had something stolen from them? [Show of hands] I’ve had a bicycle stolen when I was a boy and a good camera stolen when I was an adult. Five and a half million bicycles are stolen each year in the U.S. which comes to nearly a billion dollars per year. And that is just bicycles!

 

In 2013 699,594 autos were stolen in the U.S. which cost the owners or their insurance companies 8.2 billion dollars. This theft causes your insurance premiums to be higher than they would otherwise be.

 

29 billion dollars are lost by retailers annually through theft. And, 13.2 billion of that was from their own employees. That theft causes the price of what you pay for products to be higher than they would otherwise be.

 

Sin has a price even in this life.

 

A school teacher attempting to teach her students the importance of honesty asked the question, “Suppose you found a briefcase with half a million dollars in it. What would you do?” One boy immediately replied, “If it belonged to a poor family I would return it. But if it belonged to a rich person I would keep it.” This shows that our thinking can become fuzzy even about four simple words.

 

[II.] The negative side of this command is what is plainly stated. We should not take things that do not belong to us.  Few Christians are tempted to take something from their neighbor or co-worker. We are more apt to think like that boy in class and take something small from a large company because, we may rationalize, “they have so much money they will not miss it.” Or, “I’m not getting paid enough so this little thing I’m taking makes up for their lack of pay.” The rationalizations can be many.

 

God did not say, “You shall not steal from individuals.” Nor did he say, “You shall not steal unless you think…” (put there whatever you wish). He said, “You shall not steal.” We must not take things that do not belong to us whether from an individual, from a company, or even from the government. It is that simple.

 

When God says, “You shall not steal,” this necessarily implies that God has established the right of private property. It is not possible to steal something if what you are taking does not belong to someone else. God has established the right of private ownership.

 

[A.] Whenever we take what does not belong to us it is stealing. It does not have to be an object of value nor does it have to be money. It can be time. When you work for someone the hours that they pay you for belong to them, not you, and there is a mandate for you to use their time with your work.

 

Recent surveys reveal that American workers admit that they spend 20% of their time at work “goofing off.” That includes talking without working, calling in sick when well enough to perform your job, surfing the internet, and the like. It does not matter that it is a common practice. Right and wrong are not determined by what people do but by what God has spoken. As followers of the Lord Jesus Christ we must be a light at our workplaces with regard to how we use our employer’s time.

 

 People are observing you even when you think they are not. Your employer may take notice. And your co-workers will take notice.

 

A young preacher just starting out was asked to preach at a church in a mid-sized town. He preached on the eighth commandment. The very next morning he got on the bus and paid the fare, which was much less than a dollar, with a dollar bill. The bus driver gave him his change and he walked to the back of the bus and counted his change. It was a dime too much. His first thought was, “The bus company will never miss this dime and I don’t want to walk back up to the front of the bus.” But his conscience troubled him so he made his way to the front and said to the driver, “You gave me too much change.” “Yes,” the driver said, “a dime too much.” The young man was surprised by his statement. The driver went on, “I gave it to you purposefully. I heard your sermon yesterday and I watched in the mirror as you counted your change. If you had kept the change my suspicion of all Christians being hypocrites would have been supported. Now I have to consider the claims of the Christian faith more seriously.”

 

People are observing you even when you think they are not. Whatever work we are called to do, let us do it with integrity.

 

[B.] The wealth, the largeness, of an owner, like a big corporation, can make the sin of theft seem less egregious. So can the moral capital of an owner. We may be tempted to think that it is not so bad to steal from an immoral person or an immoral organization. Hence, it is easy to cheat on our income tax forms because the government is both large and immoral. Our conscience may not bother us. But the eighth commandment allows no such exceptions. We may think that the rate of our taxation is too high (and I do). But the way to overcome that inequity is not through another inequity – breaking the eighth commandment – but through the democratic process. Stop voting for people that will raise your taxes. Vote for those who will reduce your taxes.

 

[Give account of the books of an AoG member.] People are observing you even when you think they are not.

 

[C.] It is a sin to steal from an individual. It is a sin to steal from a company. It is a sin to steal from the government. But one can also steal from God. In one sense everything belongs to Him. The Lord said so.            

 every beast of the forest is mine,

                        the cattle on a thousand hills.

            I know all the birds of the hills,

                        and all that moves in the field is mine.

            “If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

                        for the world and its fullness are mine.

(Psalm 50:10-12 ESV)

 

But, as we have seen, the Lord has ordained ownership. Things are given into our hands and they belong to us. Under the Old Covenant the Lord required 10% of His people’s income back. This was known as the tithe.

            Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.

(Malachi 3:8-10 ESV)

 

Under the Old Covenant God required a certain amount from every Israelite. By the time of Malachi most Jews were breaking the eighth commandment by keeping what was not theirs to keep, by not giving the full tithe.

Under the New Covenant we are no longer required to give 10%. But we are still required to give to God. When we fail to give what we are supposed to give back to God we are breaking the eighth commandment. What are we supposed to give? This is not the right time for a message on that subject, but I will give you the short answer and the Scriptural proofs will have to be for another time.

 

  • We are to give as we purpose in our hearts. (This means we must intentionally contribute to God’s cause on earth. It will not do to just haphazardly give at the spur of the moment.)
  • Our giving must be commensurate both with the benefits we have received and the duties that God has entrusted to the church.
  • The benefits that we have received are greater than the benefits that the OT saint has received.
  • The duties of the church are greater and more important than the duties of Israel.
  • Therefore, as New Testament disciples, we must give more than 10%.

 

Put another way, we ought to purpose in our hearts to give more than 10%. What that is should be between you and the Lord. It should be purposeful. It should be greater than a tithe.

 

A Christian man, let’s call him Charles, was visiting another country and was taken to lunch by a wealthy man to a fine restaurant. The food was excellent and the waiters were efficient and friendly. When the bill came Charles’ host looked at it and he thought he saw a frown. When it came time to leave the tip the wealthy gentleman left some coins on the table. At first Charles thought that this must be a small tip since they were only coins. But realizing that he was completely unfamiliar with the coins of this country thought he would wait to see the reaction. When the waiter came to the table a large smile crossed his face. It was evident that his host left a good tip. After this incident he began thinking that we always give a tip of 12 to 15% to our food servers, unless the service is particularly below what we expect. Why do we do this? One reason is as an expression of appreciation. Another is that we recognize that the wages our servers make is rather low and tipping will help them out. But, certainly yet another is that we are afraid of what they will think of us should we leave only 5% or 7%. And it dawned on him that he was more afraid of a waitress’ disapproval than God’s disapproval. And that God had done so much more for him than a waitress. From that day forward he began to give God His due.

 

Some of us are already giving 10% or more, but some are not. Those that are not are also among the number that are experiencing a lack. How do I know that? Because that is what God’s word says. Look at verse 10 of Malachi 3. God says that if they would bring the full tithe, not 5%, not 7%, but the 10%, then He would pour down blessing “until there is no more need.” They were experiencing need because they were not tithing.

 

We are no longer under the tithe, but these principles still hold true for what we are supposed to give: as we have purposed in our hearts in accordance to the benefits that we have received from God.

 

[1.] Money and how we use it reveals where our affections truly lie. A popular pastor of a large church was called by one of the members and she said that she was having some spiritual struggles and she wished to get counsel from him. Could she make an appointment? He replied affirmatively and they set a nearby date and time. The pastor then said, “Make sure you bring your checkbook.” She was taken aback. “Oh, I thought that there was no charge for counseling.” “There isn’t,” replied the pastor, I simply want to see where your priorities are in life.”

 

I don’t think I would ever have enough gumption to ask that kind of a question. But there is no question that how we spend our money reveals something about where our hearts truly are. Money is a measuring rod for our hearts.

 

What we give to the Lord so that His kingdom will expand reveals in some measure how much we love Him and His kingdom.

 

That can be discouraging to ourselves. “I thought I was devoted to God, but if what the pastor is saying is true then I’ve been deceiving myself.” I hope some of you are a little disturbed by this revelation. This is what a disciples life should look like! God reveals something to us about ourselves – and he always does this through either a preacher, a brother or sister, or through reading His word – and we do experience a little apprehension about the discovery. Then we call upon Him and resolve to live differently and we do…because His power is there to enable us!

 

But it is not just power generically…willy-nilly. The Lord almost always gives us specific direction. It is the same about giving. Here is the good news:

 

[2.] Although giving reveals where our heart is now, it is also gloriously true that what we give will change our hearts! The classic text on this reality is in Matthew chapter 6.      “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

(Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)

 

Once we begin giving to God’s kingdom and do so regularly we will discover that our hearts follow. We will discover that we will love God more and love His kingdom more. We will also find that we will become more cheerful in our giving.

 

[III. Conclusion to part one] The eighth commandment:

 

  • convicts those who will steal from individuals.
  •  It calls to account those who would steal from an employer even if it be a large company.
  • It forbids taking from the government what is theirs by law.
  • It speaks to how we are to give to the Lord.

 

We must make a self-assessment. The self-assessment is not for condemnation. It is for transformation. Remember what I said not only at the beginning of today’s message, but at the beginning of every message on the commandments: Following the law cannot save us, but it will bring blessings!

 

Living out this command will bring blessings poured out from the windows of heaven into your life! It is a divine promise. Put God to the test and see the faithfulness of the Lord!