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Monday, August 17, 2015

The Eighth Commandment

Exodus 20:15

Introduction
            I like to plan ahead.  Whether it is with my wife and kids, or with my extended family, or with the staff of our church or other church leaders, we will often look at our calendars together and plan ahead.  Collaborating and syncing calendars and schedules has become a lot easier with the use of computers and smart phones, but back in the day, we would sit down with an actual calendar and write in our plans.  If something was still tentative, you would write it with a pencil in case something changed and you needed to go back and erase it.  But once something was firm, you would write it in pen—signifying it would not change. 
            God has His plans for us too.  And of all His plans, the Ten Commandments must surely be permanent.  The Ten Commandments were written—not with pencil or pen, but—by the very finger of God on stone tablets as a permanent record of God’s instructions.  The Commandments were placed inside the most sacred object in ancient Israel, the famous Ark of the Covenant.  They were given to the Israelites and handed down through the generations to us today to teach us how to live a good life, pleasing to God in a healthy community of faith.
            There has been much debate about the 10 commandments in recent years.  Christians and secularist argue whether the Commandments should be displayed in public places like schools or courthouses.  Lost in all this controversy is the sad fact that most people in our country—including the Christians who are most zealously in favor of displaying the Ten Commandments—don’t even know the commandments.
            All summer, I have been challenging you to memorize the Ten Commandments.  Do you know them yet?  Let’s see how you do.  Can you fill in the blanks in the list below?  Let’s try.
 
The Ten Commandments: 
1.     Do not _______ any God except the Lord.
2.     Do not ____ _____ of any kind.
3.     Do not ______ the ____ of the Lord.
4.     Remember to _______ the _______ ___ and keep it holy.
5.     Honor your ______ and ______.
6.     Do not ______.
7.     Do not commit ________.
8.     Do not _____.
9.     Do not _______ _______ against your neighbor.
10.  Do not _____.
 
Good!  Keep working on it.  You still have a few more weeks to complete the challenge.

Today we will look at the Eighth Commandment as found in Exodus 20:15
15 “You must not steal.”

A Straight Forward Comamndment
            This commandment is so straight forward it’s hard to imagine anyone can’t understand it.  According to Dictinary.com, to steal is – to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, especially secretly or by force.  For instance, “A pickpocket stole his watch.”  It could also be to appropriate (ideas, credit, words, etc.) without right or acknowledgment.  So plagiarism is a form of stealing..  I heard that Conan O’Brien was recently accused of stealing jokes he read on twitter and using them in his show.  Don't steal.  It's wrong.
 
Reputations
            What about stealing someone’s reputation?  Well, that’s a great question.  Proverbs 22:1 – "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."
            A person’s reputation is—their good name—is very valuable.  The Bible says it’s more valuable than silver or gold.  Now, unless you are a thief, you probably wouldn’t think of stealing someone’s silver or gold.  However, if you talk bad about someone behind their back you are damaging their reputation.  If you gossip, you are damaging their reputation.   By damaging their reputation, you are stealing one of their most valuable assets.  It’s like you have broken into the home and cracked open their safe and stolen some of the gold or silver jewelry.
            How many have ever gossiped or talked about someone behind their back?  You probable didn’t think of it as stealing, but in a sense that’s what you were doing.  What does that make you?  What do you call someone who steals?  A thief.
            If that seems a little harsh, consider Romans 1:29, where it describes how wicked people are.  It says, “Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip.”  Notice it lists gossip in the same company as greed, hate, and murder.  If you gossip or slander or talk badly about people behind their back, you are a thief who steals the most precious asset a person has and you are breaking the Eighth Commandment.  Stop!
 
Stealing from God
Here’s another great question--do we ever steal from God?  Yes.  Sometimes we do.  We steal from God when we money when we do not give a proper offering to God at the church.  Listen to what Malachi 3:8 says, “Should people cheat God? Yet you have cheated me!  “But you ask, ‘What do you mean? When did we ever cheat you?’  “You have cheated me of the tithes and offerings due to me.
            John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, said it this way:  “Do you not know that God entrusted you with that money (all above what buys necessities for your families) to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to help the stranger, the widow, the fatherless; and, indeed, as far as it will go, to relieve the wants of all mankind? How can you, how dare you, defraud the Lord, by applying it to any other purpose?” 
            We must always remember that the money we have is not really ours to do with as we please.  It belongs to God, along with everything we have and even our lives.  The basic financial principle about giving throughout Scripture is that you should give 10% of your income to God through the church.  This is the same principle Jesus taught his disciples to follow.  Really, if we are Christians and have given our lives to God, we have already chosen to give up everything for him.  So we are not giving just 10%, but 100%.  Fortunately, God allows us to keep 90% for ourselves and place 10% in our offerings at the church.
            However, according to research in 2012 by the Barna Group[i], only 12% of born again Christians in America qualify as tithers.  (That is, the total amount they give to the church divided by their household income was 10% or more).  That means out of every 100 Christians, only 12 are actually tithers.  The rest are stealing from God.
            And what is the result of this?  Churches all over America are anemic, weak, underfunded, under maintained, and do not have the resources they need to do all the ministries God wants us to do. 
            And we really have no excuse.  We live in one of the most prosperous nations in the world.  According to UN reports[ii], nearly half the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day.  The median US household income is around $138 per day (or $50,500 per year) and yet we still think we cannot afford to give a proper tithe as God asks.
 
Conclusion
            Now, I command you, in the name of the Lord, to stop stealing!  Ephesians 4:28 says, “If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need.”  James 2:10 says, “For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws.”
           When we think we are righteous or better than others, the Ten Commandments point out that we are all guilty of breaking God’s law.  In our hearts, we are murderers, adulterous, thieves.  We are sinners.  And Romans 6:23 says, “The consequences of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
            So let me end by inviting you to stop, turn away from your sin, and ask Jesus to forgive and save you.  Take hold of the power of the Holy Spirit that you might live a new life according to God’s will.


[i] https://www.barna.org/component/content/article/36-homepage-main-promo/606-barna-update-02-19-2013#.VczbIflViko
[ii] www.un.org/en/globalissues/briefingpapers/.../vitalstats.shtml