The second way we steal is by deception. Notice Proverbs 10:2. It says, “Wealth you get by dishonesty will do you no good. But honesty can save your life.” Deception or trickery. Lies, half-truths, gimmicks, schemes, rationalization, tricks are all means that we play on people’s minds.
And you know what? We’ve just figured out ways where it doesn’t feel very bad but to cheat them. One in every fifty-two customers that leave a supermarket leave without paying for at least one item.
Conversely, they did a study and they took five hundred random products. Random products. Everything from screws to a bag of peanuts to a bag of, you know, like one hundred aspirin or vitamins are supposed to be in this bottle.
Over half of the items did not contain what the label said. They found, for example, ninety vitamins in a bottle of one hundred. Sixty screws in a package labeled one hundred. It’s estimated a three million dollar loss to customers alone.
We do it just by deception. Can I ask you a penetrating question, is your business honest? I mean, your department honest? You run it honestly?
Anybody sold a car lately? Anybody messed with an odometer? When you sold the car did you tell them the not-so-good features as well as the, “Hey, baby! You know, this is a great..” Isn’t this the game we play? “Hey, I mean it runs like a charm. You’re going to love this thing. Really haven’t had a whole lot of problem. I had a couple of minor things. Yeah, the transmission and the wheel bearing in the back. But, you know…and you know what? You know, for a just around town, you’re really going to love it.”
That’s this conversation three days early in a coffee shop. “What are you going to do, man?” “I got a new car.” “Why?” “The thing’s a piece of junk. You know, I gotta upgrade pretty soon.” “Well, what are you going to do?” “I’m going to see if I can sell it, stick the thing in the paper or something, you know.” And then this is that conversation. In other words, bad, bad. When you sell it it’s good, good. And when you make the transaction, what do we say? What? “It was a steal.” And it was. It was a steal. And it was.
And see, here’s the irony. It’s like the little tiny bit of money that I might have saved or thought I saved, I gave up a little bit of money for counting some mileage, and lied to the IRS, and I lost my peace with God. I lost the blessing of God. God doesn’t bless liars. He doesn’t bless stealers. He doesn’t bless adulterers. He blesses people who walk purely before Him.
We are giving away our birthright, we’re giving away, often, the blessing of God, for what? A few… “Wow, you sold the car for three hundred more dollars and God’s blessing is removed from your life?” You think it’s worth it? I don’t think that’s worth it.
We steal by taking. We steal by deception. And we need to just tell the truth. I was thinking of those that are students. Over half of those in school say they lie about references on their term papers. We have a whole generation of people that you can go through some colleges and you can have someone actually go to most of the classes in some sports schools we’ve just found people can take the SAT for you to get in. You just steal people’s brains. You steal their knowledge. We steal their ideas. God says, don’t go there.
The third way we steal is by defrauding. Defrauding is withholding from another person what rightly belongs to them. Proverbs 3:27 and 28 - “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it’s in your power to do it. Don’t say to your neighbor go and come back and tomorrow I’ll give it to you when you have it with you today.” When it’s in your power to do what you ought to do, what you’re responsible to do, it says, give it.
When companies withhold fair wages and benefits, they defraud their workers. Leviticus 19:13 says, “Don’t take advantage of anyone. Don’t hold back the wages of someone you’ve hired, even for a night.” When employees do less than a full day’s work, they steal from their employers. When employers don’t pay overtime that contractually agreed upon, when they don’t give benefits that the government requires, they steal from their employees.
Now, you know, we have, it’s bit of government and those laws are unjust and it shouldn’t be that way and that guy never gives a fair day’s work anyway and, you know, it all is going to even out. Hear. Rationalization. Honor God.
When we borrow and don’t pay back, it’s stealing. How many here and this gets real hairy so I’ll be real, real gentle. How many here have had a relative or a good friend borrow some money from you? Ooh, laughter. It’s only a couple hundred bucks, right? Or maybe it was to put a little money down on a house. Three or four, five thousand dollars or maybe it was more. How many people have a relative or a friend that you’ve, quote, lent some money to and they now have amnesia.
And how many of you have ever done that and find yourself with this unsettled feeling like all the family is getting together at Thanksgiving and you can’t figure out, I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go. I feel so uncomfortable. And then thought comes, because I owe Uncle Bob seven hundred and fifty bucks that I borrowed seven years ago. And he always passes the gravy like this.
Anybody owe anybody any money? Anybody owe you money? By the way, do you want to know how we rationalize it? Can I just give you a little, this is my secret to, I’m breaking the power of kleptomania in my life.
When I steal from someone else, what I learned is, it’s not a big deal. Steal from the IRS, the government, they’re not using the money any good anyway, right? Steal from Bill Gates, what’s one little copyright? The guy’s a genius, he’s got zillions of dollars, he’ll never miss it. Every time I steal from someone else, it’s not a big deal. I mean, that gas station, they’re charging too much anyway. So what if a few more things came out of a candy machine. You know what? It’s overpriced anyway. I don’t have to go back and tell the person, you know, I got seven candy bars for the price of one. It was a blessing from the Lord. It’s for my children.
I mean, see, when I steal from someone else, it’s not a big deal, they’ll never miss it. And when the guy who breaks into, maybe one of your homes, and if it’s a pretty nice house and he takes your jewelry, you know what he’s thinking? What’s a diamond necklace or what’s a nice pair of earrings, look at the nice place they have and look at the nice car. The people who rips off your car and says, you know, takes that Lexus for a run or takes the cassette deck out of it. Anybody who can afford a Lexus, they can buy another cassette deck, it’s not a big deal.
But have you ever been on the other end? Have you ever had someone steal from you? Have you ever had someone break into your home? I can still remember how livid I was. I was playing golf one day. I set my clubs out. It was a gift from the church in Texas. I mean, the little thing on the bag, you know, it wasn’t like they were super expensive but they meant a lot. I went in and sat down to have a Coke and I came out and it was gone.
I had a friend that was at a place similar to this and I had a friend that they came back from an event like this, their house was trashed, and man, everything that you could take was gone. And the lady said, “I’ve never felt so violated and so angry.”
That’s how God feels when we steal from Him and when we steal from others.
And our level of denial is we don’t think it’s a big deal when we do it, even in the little things but we think it’s a really big deal when people steal from us.
The final means of defrauding and possibly the most serious is when we steal from God. And you’re thinking, wait, wait, wait, wait, hold on. How can you steal from God, He’s got everything.
Well, follow along. Malachi 3:8 to 11. “Will a man rob God and yet you rob Me,” Scripture says. “But you ask, ‘How do we rob You?’” Answer: “In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse, the whole nation of you, because you’re robbing Me.” The nation of Israel is under the curse of God because they’re robbing Him. Here’s the solution.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this,” says the Lord, “and see if I won’t throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you won’t have room enough for it. I will prevent the pests from devouring your crops and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit,” says the Lord Almighty.
Wonder how many Christians are robbing God? Last statistic, in America, about ninety-seven percent of them. You know what? I’m not even going to go to, is the tithe for today? Alright? The tithe occurred before there was the Law. Ten percent. You’ve got it in the Law and if you add it all up, it’s way more than a tithe. You have Jesus saying to the Pharisees, hey, you should have given this with the right motive, with the right attitude. New Testament clearly teaches proportional giving. But I’ll tell you what. Ten percent of what we have, I think, belongs to God. That’s a great place to start.
Ninety-seven percent of Christians in America did not tithe last year to any charitable organization. The average born again, evangelical believer gave two point seven percent of their income. Two point seven percent. And you know what? Now, this was under the economy of Israel. God says, “Bring it into the storehouse.” Well, why?
Because I’ve got a Levitical priesthood and it’s a theocracy. You’re robbing these guys of their wages. We’ve got poor people and widows over here and if you don’t bring in your ten percent of this festival, and your ten percent happening over here, and your ten percent over here, we can’t feed the widows over here.
It’s set up in an economy so that you always remember, it’s not yours, the ninety percent or the eighty-four percent or whatever you keep. Man, I’ll tell you, the lights will come on in your life when you realize all that you have and all that you own, it does not belong to you. It is God’s. It’s God’s.
And so you can never puff your chest out and say, “I gave sixteen percent of my income last year. I sure am really doing great.” No, you gave sixteen percent of what God entrusted to you. Praise the Lord, press ahead.
And you know what? He holds you accountable for the twelve percent or the eight percent or the sixteen percent, or the seventy-eight percent you gave. And He holds you just as accountable for how you spend and do with the rest.
It’s Scripture. We have figured out a way to say, I have an ooey-gooey feeling. I’m in a small group. I go to a Bible study. I have this emotional feeling toward God. I got news for you. God is not looking for your emotional feeling. He’s looking for your obedience.
And it’s not a law. It’s not a gun to your head. Every, remember these are boundaries. Why does God give a boundary? Greed will kill you. Greed will kill your relationships. What’s the antidote to greed? Generosity.
Well, how do you be generous? Well, you start with the basic, each time God gives you x amount of dollars, you go through this process where you go, this isn’t mine. It’s painful but this isn’t mine. Who gave you the brains to earn it? God did. Who gave you the air to breathe? God did. Who provided the job? God did. Whose is it? Oooooh. Mmmmmm. God’s. Okay.
Now, just so you remember that it’s really mine, I want you to take the first portion and I’m going to do some wonderful, what I call, spiritual power. You give Me the first portion and you watch that ninety percent go way farther than the hundred percent that you had. Because I want a faith relationship with My people. It’s just like work six days and I’ll watch your six days of work go way beyond everyone else who works seven.
So, as a good beginning point so you remember as My gift to you I want you to give the first portion to Me, so you always know it’s all Mine. Aw, thank you, Lord. That’s a great reminder. I really appreciate that. And when you don’t do that, you are down a path that will bring destruction to you.
And you say, some people say, well, I can’t give. Well, how much is your credit cards over? People can’t give because they’re leveraged in debt. Why are you leveraged in debt? Because you’re greedy. Well, why are you greedy? Because you’re in a consumer mindset world. Why are you in a consumer mindset world? Because the world is telling you that you ought to dress a certain way and drive a certain thing and have this and have that. And we live beyond and you keep buying more and more stuff that you can’t afford that doesn’t bring the satisfaction to your heart. That’s why we have all these garage sales. I mean, I look at more good stuff and I think, man alive, what in the world? We have so much stuff. Why? Because we’re buying junk we don’t need.
Well, if I gave I would have to really watch my money. Yeah, duh. I’d have to maybe even go on a budget. Duh. I might have to, wait a second, we might have to eat at home more. Oh my. Might even talk around the table. Might get to know each other. Might take five minutes afterwards and even pray.
I mean, ridiculous things could happen if you were forced to say, I’m going to give God the first portion, figure out how to live on the ninety, reprioritize my life. This is a gift from God. And when you don’t do it, you are robbing God. And if you don’t give it willfully, what’s this text say? At least what He did to the Israelites. Unexpected car repair, or maybe chariot repair. Unexpected illness, jobs that go south.
See, God gently, lovingly, Hebrews 12 is this, He loves you so much that when you live and I live in disobedience, He will bring, what I call, the Velvet Vice of Love. It’s velvet on the outside because it’s always gentle from a heart of compassion. And He’ll do this to your life. [Squeezes hands together.] You know what? And get your priorities right. Get your finances in order, get your, and you know what? The more you disobey, the more painful it gets. He’ll get your attention. Why? Because He loves you. He’s not down on you. He loves you.
Because if you keep living the way you’re living, I keep living the way I’m living, I keep going into denial, and lying, and stealing, and pretending, who is it going to hurt? Me. What would a good parent do? A good parent would lovingly, spiritually spank me and allow there to be holes in my purse so that the more I try and do it my way, the less effective I would become. And the less effective I would become, I would say, “Oh Lord, I guess maybe I need your help.”
We steal, fellow kleptomaniacs, I can see you’re finally on the same page with me. We steal by seizure, by deception, by defrauding, and this last portion is very quick but this is, I like to do this. I like to do what I call a spiritual P&L on the profit and loss of stealing. I mean, your faces have told me enough and, you know what, we’re starting to connect. I’m having a lot more fun than I did week, day one or two.
Because you know what? You guys are being so much more real and so much more honest. First couple days, you know, you don’t know each other. Some of you don’t. You were giving me this. Hmmm. Oh yes, there might be someone in the room who has no other gods but God but not I. You know?
And then by about session number three, taking, you know, taking the name of the Lord in vain, it was like, man, I do that. And you’re kind of, you were all looking down like this by, you know, session three.
And, you know, then here in the last couple you just, it’s really like, you know, we’re all just a bunch of chickens in the same boat, aren’t we? We’re just all a bunch of saved sinners, loved by God, common struggles, ups and downs.
And we have a gentle Savior who brought us here, not to beat us up but to say, “Here’s the bar. And the bar is there because I love you. It’s a boundary. But I’m not fudging and I don’t grade on the curve and I’m not going to wink at your sin and I brought you here to love you.”
And for some of us it means you need to go home and do some 180s. I mean, you need to do some radical readjustments of relationship, finances, and focus. And so, on this one, this is what’s helped me. I did this, like, I’m not an accountant. But I’ve seen them do it.
So I did a profit and loss. Is the short-term gain worth the long-term pain? The short-term gain of whatever I can get from stealing. That little copyright. Or that few hundred dollars. Is it worth the long-term pain?
Is getting things worth losing peace, integrity, and God’s blessing? That’s the one that brings me. And by the way, you know, you’re human. You’re going to be tempted, right?
You’re going to be tempted to steal sometime tomorrow. And I always say, now, would I rather have this little thing done by a shortcut or would I rather have God’s blessing and His peace?
Is the feeling of looking big in unimportant people’s eyes worth looking small in God’s eyes? Because often the reason I steal someone’s idea, it’s to impress someone. Is it really worth, you know, looking powerful and important in small people’s eyes and then looking small in God’s eyes? I don’t think so.
Is a phony image and a condemning heart worth the stuff that you’re getting? You know, the reason we take it, why do we take stuff? What are we going to use it for? We’re trying to project something that’s not true. Is your lust worth the lovelessness that stealing inflicts on others? Remember, every time you steal, that other person feels the way you feel when someone steals from you.
And I always do this one. Carefully consider, you always reap what you sow, Galatians 6. Stealing always starts small but it always grows. It’s like a cancer. That’s why I think it’s so important to break the habit and especially parents with your kids. Break the habit of lying early. Break the habit of stealing.
It’s not, I can download this and even though it’s illegal and everyone else is doing it. Son, we don’t do that in our house. But it’s only ninety-nine cents. Then you pay ninety-nine cents and you go online and you get it right. We don’t do that in our house. Well, it wasn’t a lie, it was an exaggeration. We don’t do that in our house. Because they always grow.
And I guess what I looked at, when I looked at that, I said, can I really afford to steal? Can I really afford to keep stealing, and defrauding, and tricking? And I just came to the conclusion, no. And if no, then what do we do about it? God has a divine prescription guaranteed to restore fellow kleptomaniacs like myself.
If you get your pen out, you know them well but let me just give them to you. Number one is, admit your need and ask for help. It’s called, you can write one word. Repent.
The word “repent” literally means, “to have a change of mind that leads to a change of action.”
There was a thief on the cross and what did he do? He had a change of mind that led to a change of life. And what was he? He was a stealer. He was a thief. He was a kleptomaniac. “Jesus, save me. I need help.” Did he get help or not? Will God give you help or not?
God doesn’t want you walking out this door, going to lunch with your head, “Oh man, I can’t believe, man, I thought I was pretty clean on this one. Man, I really steal and I’ve been stealing software forever and company time and phone lines and copy machine and, man, I’ve rationalized. I don’t even know where to begin to be honest.”
Just begin right here. “Jesus, help me. I’m sorry. This is wrong.” Just own it.
Second is payback whatever you’ve taken, whenever possible. One of the great evidences of the work of God is restitution. Repent and then restitution. When Zacchaeus came to Christ and he had the little party, what’s the first thing he did? He got it. Lord, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to payback anyone I’ve robbed. Anyone I’ve overcharged. What? Not just what I did, four times. And what was Jesus’ response? The real thing happened in this house. Salvation has come to Zacchaeus.
Third, attack the source not simply the symptoms of stealing. Attack the source. At the source of most stealing, for most of us is not pride and the power trip. It’s greed. And the only way you overcome greed is with the antidote of generosity.
And I don’t mean just in your giving to God. Just decide, I’m going to be a generous person. I’m going to be generous with my time. I’m going to be generous how I drive. That person, you know what? They don’t deserve to be let in. I’m going to be generous. I’m going to let them in.
I’m going to be generous at the table. I’m going to be generous when I go over to lunch and, yes, I’m hungry and other people are hungry. I’m going to say, why don’t you go ahead of me?
I’m going to be generous when I get to the salad bar and I really want this and I see that, kind of, the good stuff is starting to run out. And then, you know, as we Christians do. You know? That smile. Bump that person, make sure I get that chicken before anybody else does. Right? We do it. We do it. You do it. I do it. And you know what? May the chicken be blessing to another.
And do it in the little stuff. And you just decide, I’m going to be generous in my thinking. I’m going to be generous with my time. I’m going to be generous with my stuff, I’ll be generous with my money, I’ll be generous with my God. And you know what it’ll do? It just does something to your heart. And it breaks the power of greed.
Finally, if you need stuff, work hard. Just work hard.
Just, you know, realize there is a way to get stuff and it’s not running on the inside of the spiritual track of the gymnasium. It’s just, stay outside the lines the way God said and expect the hand of the good and living God to place His hand upon you and to bless your life and to bless your hard work and be generous with what He’s given you and you will see that you will almost always have more than you ever, ever, ever need. And with it peace in your heart.