Ephesians 4:28 Don’t Steal; Work & Give

by | Jun 9, 2023 | Ephesians, New Testament

Keep in mind the overall context of this letter.
These thoughts do not stand alone, but are an extension of what Paul said God was doing in them.
See especially Ephesians 4:1 and 4:24

I. Stealing, Laboring, Giving V. 28

A. The Negative Command: “Discontinue Stealing”

1. Stealing was and is a common practice among many ungodly cultures.
2. The Ephesian Christians had grown up in a culture where stealing was practiced.
3. Though now Christians, they were still going through the process of sanctification .
4. They were forgiven, saved, and on their way to heaven, but there were areas of their lives where they still thought and acted like Unbelievers.

a. NOTE- We can become “culturized” into thinking that certain behaviors are O.K.
b. Something becomes a common practice; it is tolerated, expected, or justified by the thought of “everyone else is doing it”, or, “it’s not that big of a deal”, etc.
c. It is the difference between societal mores (which are relative) & Christian living.
d. They were still learning what it means to be a Christian. Going thru sanctification.

5. Justification (which is immediate) doesn’t bring immediate complete righteous behavior.

a. Some sins seem to be taken away immediately. We lose our desire for them.
b. Other sins become a lifelong battle with slow but discernible improvement.

6. Hence the admonition: “Let him who is stealing, steal no longer”.
7. Over time, these Christians would come to increasingly realize the wrongness of stealing. Paul was both instructing them about the sinfulness of stealing, and urging them to depart from stealing.

8. What is stealing?

a. Klepto- to take away by theft, to take away by stealth.
b. The intentional taking of that which belongs to another.

9. It includes the following ideas and applications:

a. The taking of material items.
b. The stealing of time from an employer.
c. Unlawfully using company resources for personal gain.
d. Illegal bookkeeping practices
e. False advertising or deceitful business dealings. Misleading offers/promises.
f. Not paying taxes either b/c of selfishness or disagreement w/government policies.

i. Matthew 22:21 “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”

g. Unlawful downloads of computer software, music, or videos.
h. In whatever way we are doing these things, we are commanded to “steal no longer”.

B. The Positive Command: “Rather, Let Him Labor”

1. Labor- grow weary, tired, exhausted. Not just “do some work”, but to put forth effort.
2. The scriptures are not just prohibitive. They also exhort to productive living.
3. Of all people, the Christian has the highest motivation to be productive in life.

a. We have a divine imperative. We labor because God says it is good to be productive. He had enabled us to provide for ourselves and others.
b. We have an eternal perspective. If the motivation of our labor is spiritual and includes honoring God, our spiritual treasure can never be lost, though our finances might be lost. We don’t work just to make money, but to please and honor God.
c. We have a divine enabling. God equips, enables, and motivates us to Godly living.

i. Philippians 2:12b, 13 “…work out your own salvation with fear & trembling; 13for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
ii. Remember that God is seeking to prompt you to “put on Christ”, which includes having a productive life thru laboring. (Remember 4:24; also, 2:10)

d. May we not have a mentality that the world owes us a living.

i. Some people have a legitimate need for financial assistance.
ii. Others prefer to have the system support them because they are lazy.
iii. Warren Wiersbe– Every Jewish rabbi was taught a trade, for, said the rabbis, “If you do not teach your son a trade, you teach him to be a thief.” The men that God called in the Scriptures were busy working when their call came. Moses was caring for sheep; Gideon was threshing wheat; David was minding his father’s flock; and the first four disciples were either casting nets or mending them. Jesus Himself was a carpenter.

C. The Motivation: “That He May Give To Those In Need”

1. The Bible doesn’t just tell us what to do, w/o telling us why to do it.
2. The Scriptures seek to reason with us & motivate us, not dominate us into submission.
3. Christians are to work not only to provide for themselves, but to be able to bless others.
4. Acts 20:33-35 33I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel. 34Yes, you yourselves know that these hands have provided for my necessities, & for those who were with me. 35I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed (makarios)to give than to receive.’”

5. This quote isn’t found in the Gospels, but probably spoken to Paul by the risen Christ.
6. The very nature of Jesus was and is to give to others and to be generous.
7. Not enough for a Christian to stop stealing. They might do that out fear of being caught.
8. Not enough to work for a living. Unbelievers do that to gain earthly riches.
9. The highest goal is to work to be able to bless those in need. Generosity. Freely giving.
10. That is the very nature of Jesus, and is noticeable as being extraordinary.
11. 2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.
12. Sacrificial giving is at the core of the Christian faith.

a. It is true that many unbelievers are very generous, but not for the Gospel’s sake.
b. The Christian gives in the name of Jesus, for the sake of His Kingdom, and being motivated by the Spirit of God to sacrificially give to bless others. (Remember 4:24)

13. John Piper– “You can steal to have, work to have, or work to give.” (paraphrase)

D. Additional Motivation For Not Stealing

1. When Christians steal, it brings pain to God. (see Ephesians 4:30)
2. Additionally, it brings pain to you, because the Holy Spirit indwells the Believer.

a. Turn to 1 Corinthians 3:16
b. When the Christian steals, they grieve the Spirit w/in them, & feel that grief.
c. Exception- Unless that Christian has allowed their heart to become calloused through the repetitive and regular practice of sin.
d. If the practice of stealing doesn’t grieve one’s heart, their salvation is questionable.
e. Read 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; also, Galatians 5:19-21
f. Though the Christian struggles, is tempted, & may give into stealing, they feel conviction of sin that increasingly leads them out of stealing and into holiness.