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About this series
God's Boundaries for Abundant Living
Psychologists tell us that boundaries provide security, protection, and self-esteem. Long before psychology, God provided ten clear boundaries to protect His people from harm and give them the highest values ever recorded on the earth. "God's Boundaries for Abundant Living" gives a fresh look at the Ten Commandments and will help you discover God's boundaries for your highest, best and most abundant living.More from this series
As I was actually studying the Ten Commandments for the first time at an in depth level. And I took, every time that the Greek or Hebrew word for “stealing” pops up. Any place it happened, Old or New Testament, I did a survey and for weeks and weeks, I studied it.
Because I thought that, basically, stealing was, like, for armed robbers. You know, diamonds, you know, people who, you know, steal jewelry out of penthouses, embezzlers, fraud. I just thought it was, you know, muggers down in Central Park. I thought stealing was for people who bop people over the head or people who cooked the books.
You know what I mean? Those are people that have kleptomania. But I thought, you know, these commands are tough to take. I thought when I got to number eight I would skate free but I was wrong.
As I was studying this passage, I learned that the meaning of the word “steal” is much broader. In fact, some of the uses are in Genesis 30, it’s “to take from another,” “to snatch away.” Where Jacob is ripped off by Laban.
Or it can mean to take advantage of someone unjustly. All throughout the Old Testament, stealing means to rob the poor or the widow or the orphan. You can steal by unlawful laws. Or by unjust decisions that exploit them.
Stealing isn’t just grabbing or taking. It’s cheating, bribing, extorting, or even grafting. It means, at times, that where you don’t take something, you can steal by withholding what is due to another in Proverbs 3 and Malachi 3.
It’s when you don’t pay people the fair wage that they deserve. It’s when you owe someone something and you have it and you don’t deliver it. It’s stealing.
It literally can be, you can steal by bereaving another. It’s used, literally, of a bear who is robbed or bereaved of her cubs. It’s also used of Absalom. And he didn’t steal money, he stole people’s hearts. He stole the heart of the people from his father.
Stealing can involve, not just tangible, but intangible things like loyalty and affection and stuff that belongs to others.
And, finally, stealing can mean defrauding. Trickery. You can never actually take something but you can actually deceive another’s heart or mind to get unfair advantage and you steal and behind all the stealing is, you want to get something for nothing. That’s the heart of it. You want to get something for nothing.
And so, I was studying this and praying and sometimes, you don’t know how it works, but my system is, I get up real early in the morning and I study for a few hours and then every Wednesday I take all day and study.
And then my goal is by Thursday afternoon, my outline is done, I give it to my assistant by two o’clock. She comes up with all the notes. Then I can, sort of, cook on it. Take Friday off, don’t have to think about it, my mind is free.
Get up early, for a couple three hours, look over those notes, decide on the final illustrations, really feel good, spend the day with my family, go into Saturday night church couple three hours early, and then get my heart ready. Pray through the message and go through it in my mind.
Well, that system works really well unless you get stuck on, like, Wednesday. And I’m studying and I’m stuck. I mean, I’ve got all these verses, all these books, all these commentaries, all these notes. And it won’t come together because there’s a process where God births a message in a teacher or a pastor. And it’s like, there’s a stillbirth. I can’t get it out.
And so when this happens, at times, I begin to get anxious and I’ll wake up at 1:11 and then I’ll wake up at 2:17 and then I’ll wake up at 3:15 and then you get thinking, I’m not going to sleep much. So if you’re not going to sleep you might as well pray. So I got up, got my briefcase open, and I start going over it and over it. And I’m just stuck.
And then I said, “Lord. I’m, it’s Wednesday. Do you understand it’s Wednesday, Lord? I mean, I know you made the days and by the way, tomorrow at two o’clock I gotta turn this outline in and I don’t want to put junk… I mean, this is, I mean, all Scripture is important but I got a feeling like doing these commands is, like, really important. You put them in stone. I’d like to, at least, get them, like, on paper. You know, pretty good.”
And I can’t get through. And so I remember saying, “Lord, if there’s anything in my life or my heart that is keeping me from hearing your voice on this message, would you show me? I mean, I’ll just deal with it.”
Now, I’ve been up at 1:11, I’ve been up at 2:17. This, we’re on round three. So, it’s not that I’m getting more noble, I’m getting more tired. And I realize, you know, I don’t want to fight God. And I sat quietly and I’d like to say it took hours for anything to come to my mind. It took minutes.
“Hey, Chip. You know that trip you took to Phoenix several months ago?”
“The one where you followed your son, took him to college?”
“Remember how you arranged a big meeting with a pastor of the big church and you did some interviewing?”
“You remember that, you know, the mileage, you know, when you filled out your taxes here just recently that the mileage for that, you accounted as a business trip?”
I said, “Well, yeah, I did business there and spent a couple days working with that guy and, yeah.”
And, you know, this is an inaudible voice. This is, you know how God speaks to you.
“So, would you have gone and met with that pastor at this particular time if your son wasn’t going to that particular college?”
“Maybe. Just kidding, Lord. No.”
“So you really arranged that time because this, it’s just like finding golf balls, isn’t it? You’re always trying to get something for nothing. You’re always trying to figure a way to, you know, kill three birds with one stone. Two is never good enough for you.
“So, you went there, in fact, didn’t you even, you know, put a couple hotel bills as a possible tax deduction?”
“Well, you’re getting really picky now, aren’t you, Lord?”
And I just, my conscience I thought, you know? God, if that’s the problem, I’m sorry. I’m wrong. And, you know, I just thought, you know, I’d kill two birds with one stone and I wanted to meet with that guy anyway and it was a really good meeting and it really helped me and it would have been a hundred percent, you know?
And it’s not like I was reimbursed. I was just saying that it was an un-reimbursed business expense and it’s a small percentage and this can’t really be that big a deal, is it Lord?
“Yeah, it is. It’s called stealing. It’s what you’ve been, it’s what you’ve been studying.”
And so I said, “I’m sorry. Okay, I repent, I confess, I’ll make it right tomorrow morning. Would you speak to me, I need to finish this message.”
And He did and the outline came together and there was peace restored to my soul and so the CPA there in San Jose does it for a number of Christian organizations and he did our church and a number of big organizations and so I called him.
And, “Hey, Dave, how you doing?”
He said, “Oh, great, Chip!”
And, you know, he starts to do the, hey, good to see you. And I said, “No Dave. This isn’t, like, social.” I said, “This is confession.”
And I said, “Have you turned in my taxes yet?”
And he said, “No. The fifteenth, we send them all out at one time.”
I said, “Well, I’ve got one kind of deduction, un-reimbursed business expense and, you know, it might be a technicality,” I’m still trying to fudge a little bit, “and I’m not sure if it really counts but God showed me last night, and I don’t want it. Okay?”
And I explained to him what I did and why and the primary purpose of the trip, in my heart was this. And he said, “You know what? It’s interesting. Your conscience is lining up very accurately with IRS protocol and rules.”
“So it is sin, huh?” He said, “Yep, you got it.” I said, “Well, Dave, forgive me for the poor testimony and I’d like you to mark those off.” And he said, “By the way, Chip.” He said, “Here’s how we calculate it, just for your information. You write that in, if it’s not over x amount of dollars.” And he went through all this formula. And when he got to the end and showed me how much money I saved it was like, what is it about the human heart that is so dark?
What is it about the human heart that is always trying to get something for nothing? What is it about the human heart that is always trying to fudge? What is it about the human heart? Here I’m a pastor of a church and I’m trying to figure somehow, someway to write off a few miles on a trip and a couple, you know, thirty-nine to fifty-nine dollar… And you only get a certain small percentage of that. And I sacrificed the peace of God, a full night’s sleep, and alienation from my Father to try and cut a little corner.
Has anyone else ever done that? See, that’s what it means to be a kleptomaniac. Klepto is the Greek word for “to steal.” And what I would like to do with you, you can see in your handout here. We’ve given you the meaning of the eighth command. The purpose of the eighth command is this.
The purpose is that God wants you to know that He values people and their right to own an possess personal property so highly that He put a divine boundary around what belongs to others.
Now, as much as we are warned about materialism. As much as we are warned about not letting our life become revolving around work. When we earn and when we come up with ideas and when we trust God and when we step out and that results in personal property or personal ideas or patents.
And we have earned them and worked for them and they become our property because we have worked, by the grace of God, to produce something, God takes a big border or boundary around that property and He says, that belongs to you and I’m going to tell other people they can’t mess with what rightly belongs to you.
And I’m going to say to you, you can’t mess with what rightly belongs to them. So much so that the eighth command is to act as a flashing light on the dashboard of our conscience saying, don’t take it. Don’t take it. That’s the theme. Don’t take it if it doesn’t belong to you. Respect others’ property. Respect others’ ideas. Respect the laws that protect them. Don’t steal them, don’t receive them, don’t plagiarize them, don’t defraud them.
The idea of stealing, don’t take and don’t receive anything that rightly belongs to another. And if you’re still thinking that I’m the only kleptomaniac in the room, that would mean, don’t take their money, don’t take their product, don’t take their copyrights, don’t take illegal discounts, don’t take another’s reputation, don’t take their ideas, don’t take supplies from work, don’t use phone lines that don’t belong to you, don’t use copy machines that don’t belong to you, don’t use time that doesn’t belong to you.
Don’t use or take anything without permission that doesn’t belong to you.
If your employer paid for the pencils, they’re his pencils. If he’s paying for the phone line, it’s his phone line. If he pays you for x amount of hours and you have x amount of time for lunch, the beginning of that time and the end of that time is your time and the five minutes before or the ten or fifteen minutes you come late, you are stealing from your employer.
When Bill Gates, who we all know has lots of money, makes little copyrights about software that he created and you say, he’s got billions of dollars and my buddy has it and I take it and I put it on my machine because Bill will never know the difference, I’m stealing.
When I download music off my computer that someone else has worked and created a song because I now have the technology to do it and I don’t pay the copyrights to the people who made the song or who wrote it, I’m stealing.
When I take software from our company that works on my company computer and, you know what, it would be so nice, and by the way, I could do some work at home… and I download it on my personal computer and I even do some work at home, I’m stealing.
Now, if you want to ask your employer, can I use that, can I do that, I could do a little bit more work at home. When you take, or when you receive, anything that belongs to another person, you steal.
And your faces are telling me what probably is accurate. I’m mildly relieved but discouraged for you, there’s other kleptomaniacs in the room. I probably, there is probably not a, you know what, I think we’re in a room of thieves.
You see, as long as we make stealing people who wear ski masks, and break in homes, and people that are doing devious things like snatching purses, then we’re pretty clean on the eighth command.
But when you study Scripture what you find is, the heart of the eighth command is not simply about taking. It involves taking, receiving, not just things but anything that belongs to another person.
On the bottom of your notes it says, “The roots of kleptomania.” Why do we do it? You know, we’re going to face it and I’m going to give you some Biblical material about how it works but why do we do it?
I want to give you three reasons. The first one is greed. It’s the insatiable desire to get something for nothing. And I will not ask you because you only have to go about once to get this.
But, you know, why in the world have almost everyone in this room, at some time, driven an hour and a half or two hours or three hours and heard a very boring one and a half hour presentation to get something that when we got it we thought, this is a joke.
What was it in you that really thought that you were so special that someone sent you a little envelope, “Act now, call within the next three days.” And they were really going to give you ten thousand dollars, a new car, or a high fidelity stereo system.
And then when the little person comes out with the little plastic bag, the high fidelity stereo system, before Japanese used to make good products. Remember that? And the little speakers that didn’t work? And they hand you this little box and you’re thinking, you’ve been caught at least twice because you got luggage and a radio system.
What’s behind that? Why do I have to try and figure out how to line up a ministry opportunity when I’m taking my son to college? Why couldn’t I say, I love my son, it’s a great college, it costs money. Why don’t I put gas in the car, why don’t I just accept there’s so many miles to get there? Has God provided for my needs? He provides for my needs. What is it about me that’s trying to figure out a loophole? It’s called greed. And it’s in your spiritual veins and it’s in mine.
The second reason that we steal is laziness. It’s the inherent desire to take a shortcut, to cut a corner, to get the product without the process. It started, for many of you, in elementary school. Remember the P. E. teacher, when they had P.E.? For some of you.
Remember the P.E. teacher would say, “Okay, we’re going to warm up. Here’s the gymnasium. I want everyone to run around the outside of the basketball court. I need to walk down to the office, make sure we do at least ten laps.”
And he stands there with the whistle in his mouth and everyone very carefully runs around, ooh, be very careful with that here. You know? And you go right around the edge, right? And then, pretty soon, as he doesn’t look you cut just the little bit of the corner. Then he walks out of the room, right? And he goes down to the principal’s office.
Three laps later, we got everyone doing a circle inside of the box.
I got news for you people, we got full blown born-again, Bible believing, “I love God, I want to raise a Christian family,” evangelical Christians doing circles inside the box when it comes to integrity. When it comes to being honest. When it comes to stealing. When it comes to telling the truth.
We are lazy. Inherent in the fall, we are lazy. And I’m looking for a shortcut, and you’re looking for a shortcut, and I know we have all kind of really nifty words that rationalize it. But I steal because I’m greedy. I steal because I’m lazy. And finally, I steal because of pride. There’s an adrenaline pumping adventure. There’s a power that comes to just see if you can pull it off.
And now, for some of you, you came from really, really good homes and this never entered your mind and for you I’m very thankful. But I decided when I was teaching this the very first time, we had a staff and it was a church that grew very rapidly and there’s about a core of us, we ended up with about ten or twelve pastors that we did about a ten year run and then we added another ten or twelve pastors or so after that.
And so I went to the guys I knew. I mean, we’d been together for a long time. I said, “Guys,” in staff meeting, “Anybody here ever steal anything?” And it was like we’re converted pagans. “Yeah, yeah.” I mean, everybody in the room had stole.
And I said, “Well, what?” And this one guy from North Carolina said, “I remember when my brother and I did it. We went into this hardware store and you know the axe handles, they’re full, you know the big long axe handles?” He said, “We didn’t even know what it was.” I said, “Well what did you do?” He says, “We took the axe handle and we put it down our pants leg and we walked out like this.” And I said, “Well, why did you do that?” He said, “See if we could.” I said, “Well, what did you do with the axe handle?” He said, “We didn’t know it was the axe handle. We just threw it in the creek.”
What is it about thrill of just seeing if you can get away with it?
I had another guy who came from a very difficult home and an abusive situation and he had more stories than I could ever use. He said, “But we played a game. My brothers and sisters and I and the people I ran with. We would see, the winner of the game was who could get the biggest object out of the mini-mart without being caught.” Just how big of object could you get out of the mini-mart when the guy wasn’t watching? I mean, you know, like a pack of gum, I mean you didn’t even get in the running. And I said, “Well what did you do with the stuff?” He said, “We threw it in the dumpster.”
And you know what? That sounds so crude and how could anyone do that? But you know something? A lot of stealing occurs sheerly out of the, can I get away with it?
In ancient cultures, for example, in Sparta? In Sparta it was never considered even stealing unless you got caught. In fact, in the country of Sparta, if you stole and you didn’t get caught, then you could brag and you were esteemed for how nifty and smart you were in pulling the thing off.
The Canaanite gods, that the actual gods that they worshipped, stole. They would steal here, steal here, steal and it was applauded.
So when this comes in to God’s people’s minds and heart and He says, don’t take. Don’t receive anything, any idea that belongs to someone else, it was a revolutionary concept.
Well, you ask yourself, like I do, how do we overcome this? How do we change? How do you overcome being a kleptomaniac?
And I understand that, at least I pray, that most everybody listening to my voice is saying, you know what? It’s not like I’m taking big stuff. And I know I’m not doing, are you ready for this? I know I’m not doing anything worse than anybody else. Everybody at work does it. Everyone leaves early but I work really, really hard and sometimes I do things at home and I’m sure I make up for it. I’m sure it balances…
Save it. Save it. If we’re going to break this internal pulsating desire to get something for nothing, whether rooted in greed, laziness, or pride, number one, we gotta face how we steal.
Number two, we’ve gotta break down the defense mechanisms that we have gotten very good at, even as believers.
And then number three, we need to follow God’s divine prescription.
And what I’d like to do in the remainder of our time is, okay, step one, let’s face the facts. Then step two, what’s God’s prescription? Weigh it out. And let’s walk out of here as people who, in every way say, “We’re going to be honest. We’re not going to steal.”
So let’s face up to the facts. Let me give you about three different ways, specifically, that we steal. These were drawn right from Scripture.
We steal, first, by seizure. It’s called taking. Notice Ephesians 4:28. “Let him who steals steal no longer but rather let him labor with his hands, performing with his own hands what is good in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.”
We steal by seizure. We just take stuff. One point two million times a year, muggers, robbers, and bandits take by force from fellow Americans, leaving a third of them injured. Less dramatically, employees help themselves to company supplies without permission. Auto parts, tools, staplers, postage meters, pens, pencils, notebooks, gasoline, oil, food. And padding expense accounts.
We take by seizure. Retailers lose an estimated, and this is a little bit older statistic now, ten billion a year in theft. Sixty percent by employees. We take. Stealing by seizure.
Copyrights with regard to software. How many people have written a term paper and someone else did ninety percent of the research and all you need to do is put a little footnote to say who really wrote it. But that little footnote doesn’t get on the paper. And you act like you wrote it. It’s called stealing.
Our common, among Christians, is what I call long-term borrowing. I wonder, I went, when I did this, I actually did this because I knew it was coming up. I wonder how many garden tools, in your garage, belong to someone else. I wonder, if you opened your cupboards, how many punch bowls or serving platters belong to someone else. Imagine if you went through your library, meticulously, how many books or how many tapes or how many cassettes, or how many CDs would belong to someone else? Imagine if you went through your closet, how many sweatshirts or where we were, wetsuits, or ladders, or wheelbarrows, or pieces of sports equipment are in your house that belong to someone else. But we’re born again believers so we just borrowed it.
But when you borrow it and it’s been seven years? Three years? I actually, you know what, I was so convicted, I went out to my garage and I started inspecting. And then I went to my library and I just started looking through books and thought…I found, I found a set of tapes and it had a little note on them. I hadn’t even listened to them and a guy, about, it was about three years ago, had loaned me these tapes. I really needed to hear these.
Either I needed to say, “Thank you, I don’t want the tapes.” And they were real precious. You ever have someone say, “Now, I want to give these to you. I mean, they mean a lot to me. And if you’ll listen to them.”And down deep you’re thinking, “I don’t want to listen to those right now.” But instead of saying to someone, “You know, I really appreciate it. Got a stack of stuff I’m listening to, you know, I’ll pray and think about it, get back to you.” We take it, you know, thinking I don’t want to make the guy feel bad. Then it’s on my shelf for three years.
Long-term borrowing, I’m going to suggest, is stealing. It’s just stealing. It’s not yours. You’ve seized it. I don’t mean it’s been willful and malicious. But you’ve seized it. I’ve seized it.
God says, make a list. Go through your garage. Go through your cupboards. If you broke it, replace it.
And by the way. I had a real opportunity for a testimony of the Lord. I returned tapes to one guy and wrote him a note and I had some garden equipment of an unbelieving neighbor and I didn’t even know it was in there.
And I just brought this over and then when I looked at it, it was like, oh my lands. You know, I don’t know if he messed it up this badly or me and I thought, man, I just took the thing, went down to the hardware store and I got myself a new rake or whatever the thing was and I bought a new one and I took the new one to him and I got this beautiful piece of machinery that’s been in my garage for about three or six months.
And you know what I got to tell him? I’m sorry that, I don’t know how it got this way but here you go. I’m doing a little series in our church on the Ten Commandments and the eighth command says, don’t take it.
And I took it. I didn’t mean to take it. I didn’t willfully take it. I didn’t maliciously take it. But I took it. And what belongs to you has been here for a long, long time and somehow it got messed up while it was in my garage. So you deserve a new one.
You know what the look is on an unbeliever’s face when someone does that? Well, one, this guy is nuts. That’s okay. And second was, maybe there are some Christians out there that actually believe what they say.
Boy, wouldn’t it, can you imagine if you went through your garage and your library and your drawers? Wouldn’t it be neat if, you know, I hope it’s not scores of, but wouldn’t it be kind of neat if people got notes next week and materials returned, and books given back, and punchbowls returned, and wheelbarrows with, you know, a new tire on the front and they go, what’s this all about? I forgot all about it, ahh!
And you say, “Well, it’s yours. And God just showed me I ought to give it back to you.”
And then you ask forgiveness and make restitution.
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 listening to praise tapes. 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.