AUGUST 16 2015

The Eighth Commandment

Part Two


The eighth commandment, found in Exodus 20:15 is short. “You shall not steal.” It is short but it is full of meaning. God desires that we know the fullness of His directives, His commands, because they are for our good. Each one is for our good as individuals and as a people collectively.


Last week we saw the negative side of the commandment. We should not take things that do not belong to us. We saw that this means we should not steal from other persons. Neither should we steal from companies, nor from the government. This means that we should not cheat on our income taxes. The federal government may be very large (I would say too large.) and it is immoral. Yet, this does not give us the prerogative to disdain the eighth commandment. The moral condition of the owner does not give another the right to steal from them.


We can also rob God. Those who are in God’s family are required to give back to Him a portion of what God has blessed them with. The New Testament teaches that this giving should be through the church. It is not a tithe, which is 10%. That was under the Old Covenant. It should be something more than a tithe. How much that is will be between the giver and God. If we fail to give what God expects then we break the eighth commandment.


The negative side then tells us that we should not take what belongs to people, organizations, or God. Each negative command implies the thing that God desires positively. After all, God is not interested in merely having us avoid certain actions. He is after us thinking, doing, and living in a different way. If we are not to steal then we are to labor, with either our hands or our minds, in order to meet the needs of ourselves, our families, to lend monetary to support the expansion of God’s kingdom on earth, and even to enable our desires to be fulfilled. God is not a killjoy. David prayed on behalf of the faithful follower:   May he grant you your heart's desire and fulfill all your plans!

(Psalm 20:4 ESV)

It is good to labor even to fulfill our lawful desires.


We are called to work. But not merely to work. The eighth commandment calls us to work well.


[I.] We ought to work well because work is part of God’s original design. You have probably seen the bumper sticker, "I owe, I owe, so off to work I go." For a vast portion of the workforce, that's the best reason they can muster for going to the job each day. According to one poll, only 43 percent of American office workers are satisfied with their jobs. In Japan, the figure dips to 17 percent. Some people hate their jobs.


A good friend of ours and a brother in the Lord who had the gift of encouragement – no matter how bad you felt, if you could spend 15 minutes with this brother you were feeling good – did not have good experiences with jobs. He was actually a conscientious worker who worked hard. He frequently ended up with terrible bosses who made his work experiences less than desirable. In the years that we lived near one another, he would have a different job every few months . He would either get fired or quit because he decided that dealing with his work situation was not worth it. Eventually he found a good job that he enjoyed. Until de did, though, we would have him over for dinner and he would tell us stories that would either make us laugh or wonder. One of the jobs he had was putting up drywall. This was in Hawaii where it is very hot and humid. Not a pleasant job. What made it worse was that the supervisor had a temper. He sent my friend, Jon, to the grocery store to get soda for the crew of five because it was about a hundred degrees. Jon asked him what kind should he get and his boss said, “It doesn’t matter just get anything.” “Are you sure?” “Yes, just get anything.” So Jon goes to the grocery store and gets Dr. Pepper. When he returns he places the sack with the soda at the boss’s work station and goes back to work putting up drywall with the other men on a big wall at the hotel where they were working. The boss comes in and opens the sack. “Dr. Pepper! Dr. Pepper! I hate Dr. Pepper!” He starts pulling off the cans and throws them like grenades at Jon and the other workers. As he tells the story, he threw them so hard that when they hit the wall they exploded like grenades. Jon and his co-workers had to dodge the cans like a dodgeball game. They all walked off the job.


We may not have a supervisor as bad as that but we may have a job that we simply hate.  If not hate, we may dislike it. We may, like 57% of Americans, be doing our work just to get a paycheck. The good news is that hating our job is not God’s will for us. The bad news is that you may not be able to leave your job for a while. But if you hate your job consider that you could have a much worse job. You could be a:


  • Portable toilet cleaner. They have to not only suck the contents out, but they have to wash the walls with a power sprayer. And they have to do it all day long.
  • Deodorant tester. There are people who get paid to smell the armpits of test subjects after exercise and use of new deodorant products.
  • Rooftop Snow Shoveler. Some of the buildings are many stories high. Its slippery. It can be windy. And its cold.
  • Embalmer.


When we dislike our job and the work is hard we may be tempted to think that work itself is part of the curse upon creation. However,


[A.] the Bible affirms work.


[1.] God is a worker. READ Genesis 2:4, 7-8, 19, 23. God is a worker and we are made in the image of God. Therefore, we, like God, are to work. Being an image-bearer antedates the fall of man.

[2.] God’s Spirit moves upon people to work. READ Exodus 35:30-32.


[B.] Work was assigned to man before the curse of the rebellion.          The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

(Genesis 2:15 ESV)


We see, therefore, that work was part of God’s design for us. It is true, however, that work has become harder because of the curse. READ Genesis 3:17-19.


[C.] The creation mandate (also called the cultural mandate) is given to Adam in Genesis 1:28.       And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

This mandate includes three things.

  • Be fruitful and multiply. This has to do with progeny. Since the command is to multiply it is clear that this mandate was not only for the first couple but for their children and grandchildren too. The extent to which they are to multiply is also stated: so that the earth is filled. The earth is not yet filled.
  • The second part of the mandate is to subdue the earth. The animals need to be subdued. Even our own children need to be subdued.
  • The third part is to have dominion over every living thing.


All three of these matters require work. We are stewards of everything in creation. Good stewardship involves work. Again, the fall did not do away with this mandate for it is repeated to Noah and his family when they leave the ark.


[II.] We ought to work well because our work is salt and light to our culture. The fall of man has not done away with our assignment of work but it has changed it. Peter Marshall has rightly stated: “Sin distorts everything, perverts everything, corrupts everything.” Because sin has entered God’s good creation our work should also help in overcoming sin’s effects.


To understand our work as salt and light it is helpful to keep in mind the grand story of the Bible. Sometimes we lose sight of it when we focus on details. When I lived on Maui I saw beauty all around. I used to enjoy hiking and there were things to marvel at close up: wild hibiscus, the bird of paradise flower, red ginger, the ferns, and the rivers. But if you climbed to the top of one the mountains you could look down and see lush and green valleys and experience the beauty of the whole.


The Bible tells a grand but true story. It can be encapsulated in four expressions:


  • Creation
  • Fall
  • Redemption
  • Consummation

We must know where we are at in the story. Where are you? (Answer: either fall or redemption) If we belong to Christ then we are in redemption. This means not only that we are personally redeemed, but we have been called by Him to redeem others. And here is the point of our work: It is not just that we are instruments of redemption by sharing the good news of God’s salvation through Christ. But we are also instruments of redeeming creation and culture by our work.


We contribute something to culture that reverses the effect of sin. We preserve the good aspects of culture. That is being salt. We reveal the corrupted aspects of culture. That is being light.


Of course, we will use our words. But it is not just our words. Our work speaks just as clearly. We ought to work well because our work is salt and light to the culture.


[A.] Our work contributes to the culture by its simple exercise. Gustaf Wingren has represented Martin Luther’s thought on this subject which is transparently the Scriptural view:


In his vocation man does works which effect the well-being of others; for so God has made all offices. Through this work in man's offices, God's creative work goes forward, and that creative work is love, a profusion of good gifts. With persons as his "hands" or "coworkers," God gives his gifts through the earthly vocations, toward man's life on earth (food through farmers, fishermen and hunters; external peace through princes, judges, and orderly powers; knowledge and education through teachers and parents, etc., etc.). Through the preacher's vocation, God gives the forgiveness of sins. Thus love comes from God, flowing down to human beings on earth through all vocations, through both spiritual and earthly [ones].


Each one of us is gifted by God in certain areas and we are to exercise those gifts in our everyday living. When we do we bless others. I have very little mechanical ability. If you ask Josie she will tell you that is not true. She would probably say that I have no mechanical ability. But there are others right here who do and they use that gift to bless their family and others.


[B.] Our work is also salt and light when it is done admirably. 


[III.] Finally, we ought to work well because it satisfies our innermost being. This reflects back to the first point – that work is part of God’s design for us. If we were made to work then we would expect to find satisfaction when we do and a sense of discontent when we do not. And we do find this to be true.


Except for my time in formal education I have never been without work. Except for a three-week period not too long after I graduated from college. I had a part-time job at a math institute during college and after I graduated I was able to increase my hours but still not to full time. So I then found a full time job. But after a few weeks at that job I knew that it was not the right job. So I quit that job and began looking for another. For the first few days I felt free. It felt good not to have to work. But before the week was done I started feeling not so good. The second week I felt worse. The third week I was unhappy. Finally, I found a temporary job, which was probably the second-worst job I ever had, doing phone sales. I had that job for only a short time before the Lord provided a good job. But even though I did not care for that work I felt good just about working. It felt good to go home knowing that I put in a good day’s work although I did not care for the work itself.


Why did I have this experience? Because this is the way that God has made us. There is a longing in us, even though it may be suppressed at times by a desire to avoid work, to accomplish things. We see this in the prayer of Moses in Psalm 90.


            Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,

                        and establish the work of our hands upon us;

                        yes, establish the work of our hands!

(Psalm 90:17 ESV)

This little prayer is amazing when you think about it. First, it is a prayer that God be involved in our work. Our work is important enough that we ought to ask God to establish it. Second, our work is tied to the favor of God. If you have a job and you are doing well at it then that is God’s favor!


  • God’s favor can be expressed to us in the way we work!
  • There is no greater satisfaction than being under the favor of God.
  • Hence, we ought to work well because it satisfies us both in matching our design and in experiencing the favor of God.


[IV. Conclusion] The eighth commandment is only four words. Those words communicate that we should not take things that do not belong to us. But they also reveal God’s desire that we should labor well.


  • We ought to work well because work is part of God’s original design.
  • We ought to work well because our work is salt and light to our culture. It contributes to the redemption of creation in a holistic way.
  • We ought to work well because it satisfies our innermost being.


How do we do that? Maybe some of you are thinking, “Pastor, you don’t know what a miserable place I have to work at. Everyday it’s like going into Purgatory (if there were such a place).”


I know that, either through the nature of the work or through supervisors who are too demanding, work can be toilsome and downright miserable. This is because of the fallen condition – both our own and those with whom we work.


Let me conclude with some direction that I believe is from the Lord.


  1. Be confirmed in your own mind that work is a calling from God and that working well is an expression of His favor.
  2. Did you know that God answers prayer? He does! Pray for an occupation that more precisely matches your gifts. We did not have time to develop this theme this morning, but God desires that you work in the vocation in which you are gifted. If you are working in an area where you are not gifted or less gifted, then you will experience dissatisfaction. Until the Lord answers that prayer know that he will. Hope will lift your spirit! Knowing that your current job is temporary will make a difference.
  3. Prayer requires our cooperation. Don’t just pray, but formulate a plan to actively seek other employment and be seeking such during the hours you are not working.


Finally, one does not need to get paid to experience the blessings of work. Rearing children is the greatest work of all and mothers do not get paid monetarily for their labor, only the deep satisfaction of seeing their children grow into maturity and experiencing their love. Motherhood is a calling of most women (though not all) and it is hard work. If you are a mother, enjoy your work and pray Moses’ prayer for yourself. Fathers, pray Moses’ prayer for your wives!


Every line of work is for the redemption of the created order and we have the privilege of being co-redeemers with the Lord. Every job is significant and important. What you do is important! So, let us work heartily as unto the Lord!