"What Belogns To Our Neighbor"
(Delivered Sunday, November 16, 2003 at Bethany Bible Church. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotes are taken from the New King James Version.)
We're continuing our study of the ten commandments; and this morning, we examine the eighth commandment, "You shall not steal" (Exodus 20:15; also Deuteronomy 5:19).
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I sometimes get a kick out of looking up a word or an idea in Roget's Thesaurus, to see the different ways it can be stated; and when I consulted the thesaurus on the verb "steal", I was not disappointed. To "steal" can also be, among other things, to thieve, rob, purloin, pilfer, filch, lift, prig, bag, nim, crib, cabbage, palm, convey away, carry off, abduct, make off with, walk off with, run off with, spirit away, seize, plunder, pillage, rifle, sack, loot, ransack, spoil, strip, sweep, gut, forage, pirate, maraud, swindle, peculate, embezzle, sponge, mulet, rook, bilk, pluck, pigeon, skin, fleece, diddle, and defraud. There are nicer ways of putting it, of course: you can abstract, or appropriate, or simply obtain under false pretenses. If you know a little Latin, you can refer to it as a disregard for the distinction between meum and tuum (that is, between what is 'mine' and what is 'thine'). You can put a very positive spin on it and call it living by one's wits. Or you can just relegate the act to the hand, and refer to it as being sticky-fingered, or light-fingered, or (one that I never found in a thesaurus, but that I remember hearing as a kid) 'buying something with a five-finger discount'.
I'm not sure of this, but I suspect that the reason there are so many "cute" synonyms for this particular sin is because it usually isn't taken very seriously. But the fact is that God takes it so seriously that He has seen fit to prohibit it in one of His ten basic rules for life. He has told us in His word that among the sins that would prohibit someone from inheriting the kingdom of God is the sin of theft (1 Cor. 6:9-10). He has warned us that it will be one of the characteristics of the end-times - a time in which it will be said that the ungodly "did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts" (Rev. 9:21).
We sometimes look at some forms of theft as rather innocent and harmless - like when a group of little boys steal apples from the neighbor's tree. But have you ever considered that it was just such an act of theft that led to the fall of humanity? God told the first man, "Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Gen. 2:16-17). But the serpent tempted Adam's wife in the garden; and "when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate" (3:6). Dreadful ruin was brought upon the perfect world in which God placed man as a result of this single act of theft.
An act of theft also brought grievous trouble upon the people of Israel as soon as they had entered the promised land that God had given to them. God had commanded their leader Joshua to attack and completely destroy the city of Jericho. Nothing was to be kept; and whatever precious metal they found was to be consecrated to the Lord (Josh. 6:18-19). But when they attacked the city and destroyed it as God had commanded, a man named Achan spotted a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a large wedge of gold. In disobedience to God, Achan coveted these things, took them, and hid them in the ground in his tent. As a result of this one act of theft, God removed His hand of blessing from Israel, allowed its armies to suffer humiliating defeat in their next military effort, and told them,
Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you (7:11-12).
God's hand of blessing was removed from Israel until the thief was found by Joshua and was put to death for his sin. God demonstrated to Israel, early in its history, His hatred of theft!
Not only did an act of theft tragically mark the beginnings of the nation of Israel in its land; but a similar tragic stain marked the beginning of the church. The Holy Spirit had moved upon the hearts of many believers in the newly-formed church to sell their goods and bring the proceeds of the sale to the feet of the apostles. The money was to be used to meet the needs of the poor among them; and so many freely and glad-heartedly sold lands and houses to provide what was needed. But one couple, Ananias and Sapphira, sold some of their possessions and conspired together to lie about it; only bringing a portion of what they pretended to be giving. It was all theirs to begin with; and they could pledge as much as they wished and give as much as they wished to pledge - but, as Peter had said, Satan filled their hearts to "lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land" for themselves (Acts 5:3). They basically made a pledge to God, and then "stole" what they pledged to give; and as a result, they both fell over dead and great fear came upon the church and all who heard about it. Again, God demonstrated, early in the history of the church, that He takes the sin of theft very seriously!
Have you ever considered the fact that, when our Savior was nailed to the cross, He hung beside two robbers - one on His right and one on His left? (Matthew 27:38). And have you ever considered that one of those robbers turned and rebuked the other, after he had mocked the Savior, saying, "Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong?" (Luke 23:40-41). No doubt, the Holy Spirit was at work in the heart of that repentant thief; and he was finally taking his sin as seriously as God Himself takes it.
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This commandment follows shortly after the commandment against murder - which is given to protect the life of our neighbor. And it follows immediately after the commandment against adultery - which is given to protect the family and life-relationships of our neighbor. This commandment against stealing - which is given to protect the justice done to our neighbor - intentionally follows these other commandments; because it is a commandment to protect our neighbor's right to own and use what God has given him for the preservation, advancement and comfort of his own life and the lives of his wife, children and loved ones.
We may be able to soften the condemning power of this commandment, when we call stealing by its multitude of other 'nicer' names. And when we do, we may even find it easier to justify stealing in one case than we do in another. We can call it, "Simply taking what ought to be mine anyway"; or "Making things even and fair;" or "Taking what isn't going to be missed by someone who has enough anyway." But there's something universally applicable about the simple words, "You shall not steal." Its a straightforward statement with no qualifiers. No matter how we may define it or justify, stealing is always a sinful act that God sees and forbids.
Let's consider this commandment in detail. And let's begin by considering ...
1. WHAT CAUSES SOMEONE TO STEAL?
I remember seeing a scene from the old Bob Newhart television show many years ago. As you might remember, he played a psychologist; and he was counseling a chronic kleptomaniac played by Henry Winkler. In his first session with the man, Newhart asked him, "Now, tell me; why do you take things that don't belong to you?" Winkler's character, as if the reason should be obvious, replied, "Because I want them." It's hard to argue with that the logic of that answer. But the reality is that the cause of this sin runs much deeper than simply "wanting" things that don't belong to us. We still have to account for why it is that someone "wants" something that doesn't belong to them in the first place.
I suggest that stealing begins with a state of discontent in the heart that expresses itself in covetousness. Jesus once taught us to beware of "covetousness" or "greed", "for one's life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses" (Luke 12:15). The false belief - one that the values and priorities of the world around us are so eager to encourage - is that ultimate happiness and fulfillment in life comes through having possessions. And this state of not 'possessing' the possessions we think will make us happy, and seeing that others 'possess' them instead of us - or seeing that others 'possess' the things that we believe can help us get the possessions that "ought" to be ours - causes us to envy others, and to have an inordinate desire for what God has given to them.
And along with that discontent and envy in the heart is a distrust in the providence of God. God Himself has promised to provide for us everything that we need if we trust in Him. Jesus says, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you" (Matthew 6:33). Paul promises, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19). He writes, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). Theft arises in someone's heart when they refuse to trust God's promises, or to wait on the divine time-table of God's provision. It arises when someone says, "God may care about other people's needs; but He doesn't seem to care about mine. He may be there for others; but He doesn't seem to be there for me. If I'm going to have what I need, then I'm going to have to take matters in my own hand. I'm not going to be content anymore with what God has given me; and I'm not going to wait around any longer for His provision. And I'm not going to accept it when He says 'no' to what I ask. I'm taking the short-cut. I'm going to take what I need now!"
We see this played-out all the time in human experience. The apostle James writes;
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures (James 4:1-3).
Now if we're completely honest, we all have to admit to having these impulses from time to time. Some of us may even have them very strongly. But ordinarily, a sense of the obligation to love our neighbor and to respect his or her rights stops us from acting on such impulses. A failure to love our neighbor is, then, another cause for theft. The apostle Paul wrote,
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness," "You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10).
If I love God, then I'll be content with what He has given me and will trust Him for all my needs. And if I love my neighbor, I'll respect and protect what God has given him. When I steal from my neighbor, I'm loving my neighbor's things more than I love him.
Psychologists tell us that, in some rare cases, a pattern of theft occurs not so much because the thief feels he or she actually needs anything, but because there's a perverse and arrogant thrill in doing something impulsive and illegal without getting caught. This kind of theft is the gratification of a perverse and inordinate kind of self-love. But for the most part, I suggest that the reasons "theft" can arise in our hearts can be boiled down to these four: (1) a discontent with what God has given us; (2) a resentment for what He has given to someone else; (3) a refusal to trust God and wait for His provision; and (4) a failure to love one's neighbor as one's self.
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This leads us to consider the question ...
2. WHY IS STEALING WRONG?
The first and most obvious reason that stealing is wrong is because God has forbidden it. God said to Israel, "You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD. You shall not cheat your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning" (Lev. 19:11-13). We really don't need any more explanation for why stealing is wrong than the fact that God has forbidden it.
But I believe that behind the fact that God has forbidden stealing is a crucial truth concerning who He Himself is. Whenever I've talked to kids about the ten commandments, I've always found it helpful to point to the unchanging character of God that stands as the absolute reason for the commandment. All the ten commandments are what they are because God is who He is. And one of the absolute reason for this commandment - a reason that will never change, and that stands true in every situation in life that we could ever encounter - is God's unchanging character as the ultimate source and giver of all good things in life. If anyone legitimately has any good thing as their own, it's because God Himself is the ultimate giver of it.
In another context, the apostle James makes this affirmation about the character of God: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning" (James 1:17). He is the Creator and rightful Owner of all things; and He gives whatever He wishes to give of those good things to whomever He chooses to give them. When speaking of his position and authority as a prophet, John the Baptist said, "A man can have nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven" (John 3:27). In another context, Paul asked the Corinthian believers, "... What do you have that you did not receive?" (1 Corinthians 4:7). And so, when a man legitimately possesses the good things of this life - when he has a wife, or a house, or wealth, or goods, or a position of authority, skill, strength, or any other thing that a man can rightly call his own - it is God, the source of all good things, that ultimately that gave those good things to him.
Whatever someone legitimately has is given to him on loan by God. And for that reason, his God-given right of possession should be respected by the others around him. Those who steal from him are, in a very real sense, raising their fist against the One who gave those things to him!
Another aspect of the character of God that makes stealing always wrong is the fact that God alone is to be our ultimate source of satisfaction and fulfillment. If we try to gain satisfaction and fulfillment through taking what belongs to someone else, we're turning ourselves away from the only real Source of satisfaction and fulfillment.
The apostle Paul wrote about this practical aspect of God's character. He said,
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men into destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:6-10).
Similarly, he wrote to Timothy and said,
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives to us richly all things to enjoy (v. 17).
God alone is to be our ultimate source of satisfaction and fulfillment. He alone CAN be! And so, this is yet another reason why stealing is always wrong. When we take something to ourselves that God has seen fit to give into the legitimate possession of someone else, we're - in essence - setting those things in the place in our heart that God alone should occupy.
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Now when most people think of stealing, they think of the "breaking and entering" kind of stealing, or the "stick 'em up" kind of stealing. And this naturally leads many to think that they haven't stolen; and that this commandment is for other people - not for themselves.
This leads us to a third question we must answer from the Bible:
3. WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT WAYS WE MIGHT STEAL?
The Bible teaches us that there are far more ways we can steal from others than by open burglary and hold-ups. The guilt for theft can occur, for example, whenever we knowingly buy goods or property that someone else stole. Proverbs 29:24 says, "Whoever is a partner with a thief hates his own life; He swears to tell the truth, but reveals nothing". Someone who knowingly buys or uses "fenced" good stands guilty of theft - even if he testifies that he doesn't know where the goods came from. As men and women of God, we have a duty before God to operate with integrity; and to be careful about buying things at discounts that are 'too good to be true' - lest we become the willing enablers of thieves.
We're also guilty of theft when we're dishonest in our business dealings; and deceive people to spend more of their money than is fair and just. In biblical times, merchants often had a special set of scales and special weights set aside, that put business dealings to their advantage without the other person knowing it. But the Bible says, "Dishonest scales are an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight" (Prov. 11:1). It says, "Diverse weights and diverse measures, they are both alike, an abomination to the LORD" (Prov. 20:10). In a similar way, the Bible tells us that someone can actually rob a seller of goods by belittling the goods he really wants and intends to buy; "'It is good for nothing,' cries the buyer; but when he has gone his way, then he boasts" (Prov. 20:14). God watches our hearts when we're in the midst of our business dealings; and He isn't satisfied when we justify theft with the argument, "Hey; that's just the way business is done!"
The Bible tells us of another way we can steal. It says, "The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives" (Psalm 37:21). Have you ever borrowed something - such as money, or books, or a tool - from a neighbor or a friend, and kept it longer than you needed? Or have you ever borrowed something from someone, and returned it secretly broken or damaged without replacing it or paying for the repairs? The Bible says, "... If a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it becomes injured or dies, the owner of it not being with it, he shall surely make it good" (Exodus 22:14).
The Biblical principle that says, "The wicked borrows and does not repay," speaks to another very prevalent form of stealing in our culture. We steal from others when we misuse credit, and respond to our indebtedness by filing bankruptcy. Bankruptcy is a very popular way of solving one's financial problems today; and there are even some who misuse credit with the knowledge in the back of their minds that they can always use bankruptcy as a way out. But such irresponsibility is not only foolish, but is also a positive form of theft. Even God does not put up with our making such promises to Him and failing to keep them. The Book of Ecclesiastes says, "When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed - better not to vow than to vow and not pay" (Eccl. 5:4-5).
The Bible has much to say about theft in the workplace. It tells us that employers steal from their employees when they refuse to pay them fairly, or when they unjustly withhold the pay that is due. This can even be done by simply being slow to pay. Deuteronomy 24:14-15 says, "You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether one of our brethren or one of the aliens who is in your land within your gates. Each day you shall give him his wages, and not let the sun go down on it, for he is poor and has set his heart on it; lest he cry against you to the LORD, and it be sin to you." (By the way; as a very practical matter, this is a reminder to all of us who are Christians that we be sure to pay our bills honestly and on time!) And this sort of stealing can also be done through hiring someone's labor under the false promise of paying them. James writes, "Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth" (James 5:4).
But theft in the workplace can also come from the other direction. Employees can steal from their employers. They can steal by sneaking goods and materials home from the workplace without permission - like the auto factory worker in the old Johnny Cash song who snuck car parts home in his lunch box, and built his car 'one piece at a time; and it didn't cost him a dime.' Paul tells Titus; "Exhort bondservants to be obedient to their own masters, to be well pleasing in all things, not answering back;" and he specifies, "not pilfering" [that is, not thieving in bits and pieces from your workplace], but showing all good fidelity, that they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things" (Titus 2:9-10).
Employees can also can steal on the time-card, by not faithfully working when their employer has contracted for their time; or by falsifying or fudging their reported hours of work. Paul writes that bondservants are to "be obedient to those who are your masters according to he flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free" (Ephesians 6:5-9).
God's word forbids many other forms of stealing from other people. For example, it mentions such forms of stealing as cheating on our taxes. Paul wrote, "Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor" (Romans 13:7). The Bible also forbids stealing through the use of extortion. When the Roman soldiers asked John the Baptist what they sold do to repent before the coming of the Messiah, he told them, "Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages" (Luke 3:14). The Bible also forbids the use of fraudulent lawsuits. The New International Version translates Proverbs 21:6 this way: "A fortune made by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a deadly snare." The New King James Version translates it in even harsher terms; saying that it is, "the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death."
And it's very important to remember that God's principles about stealing apply not only to tangible money or physical objects but also to intangible things that we use in a technological age - such as stealing someone's written thoughts through plagiarism, or stealing someone's creative or electronic property through making copies of copyrighted restricted materials, or programs, or CDs and tapes.
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Those are ways that the Bible tells us that someone can steal from other people. But there's another area where theft happens; and that's when a man steals from God Himself. For example, God has said to Israel,
"Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this," says the LORD of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such a blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it" (Malachi 3:8-10).
The Bible tells us that another way people robbed from God was through not giving Him the honor He called for on His appointed Sabbath day. The Bible tells us that God caused the people to be in exile in Babylon for a certain, specific amount of time; "to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years" (2 Chronicles 36:21). Imagine! The people of Israel stole God's Sabbath day from Him; so He made them go into exile for seventy years in order to - in part - claim His Sabbaths back!
A third way the Bible describes people robbing from God is when they steal away from Him the glory that belongs only to Him. The Bible tells us - in one of the more horrifying stories of the Scriptures - that, when King Herod Agrippa stood before the crowds to speak, and when they all cried out repeatedly, "The voice of a god and not of a man!", he became prideful; and he eagerly received such praises to himself. But we're told, "Then immediately an angel of the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God. And he was eaten by worms and died" (Acts 12:20-23). Similarly, Daniel tells us that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, walked about in his royal palace saying, "Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?" (Dan. 4:30). And immediately, a voice from heaven rebuked him; and he was driven from men and became like an animal for seven years - grazing grass like an ox in his own field - until he learned that "the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses" (v. 32).
No thief who steals from God gets away with his theft - even if the thief is a mighty king. To steal from another man what God has given to him is a great evil. But to steal from God what belongs only to God is an unspeakably greater evil!
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This leads us, in conclusion, to the question:
4. WHAT ARE WE TO DO INSTEAD OF STEALING?
One of the things that is implied in the eighth commandment is that we should cultivate a reverential respect for the private property of others. "Private property" is a biblical concept inherent in the eighth commandment; and it is a principle that should be held to and honored by His people. Therefore, what a man or woman legitimately owns should be considered his or her gift from God; and his or her full right to possess and use that gift must be fully honored. Therefore, God's word tells us that whatever is stolen from another, or whatever of another's is lost, should be replaced and restored. The Bible commands that, "If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep" (Exodus 22:1).
Secondly, each one should work to provide for his own needs. Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers because he heard that some were pretending to be Christians while living in a "disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread" (2 Thessalonians 3:11-12). As much as is possible, each believing, able-bodied man should work to provide for his own needs and the needs of his own family in a productive and industrious way.
Related to that is a third thing; that an attitude of giving should replace an attitude of taking. The apostle Paul commanded, "Let him who stole steal no longer ..." And as is often the case in the Scripture, we're not commanded to cease from a sinful practice without replacing it with a godly practice; so Paul adds, "... but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need" (Eph. 4:28). Jesus Christ is able to transform us from self-centered thieves into a others-focused benefactors of others.
And fourth, we should ask God's help in cultivating an attitude of contentment and confident trust in Him as our Provider and as the source of our ultimate satisfaction and fulfillment. The writer of Hebrews says, "Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.' So we may boldly say; 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?'" (Heb. 13:5-6). We should be like the apostle Paul, who testified, "I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned the secret to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:12-13).
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Let me close by reminding you of a much-loved and encouraging story from the Gospel of Luke, that - I believe - wonderfully illustrates what it looks like to repent of the breaking of the eighth commandment. Luke tells us that Jesus was passing through the city of Jericho:
Now behold, there was a rich man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner." Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost" (Luke 19:2-10).
Zacchaeus was a tax collector - a despised man among the Jewish people, because he collected taxes from them for the Roman government. He was seen by his own people as a traitor and a thief; and especially so, because he was a chief tax collector. And indeed he truly was a thief; because, as a tax collector, he made himself rich through extortion and fraud. But Jesus desired to eat at this sinner's house; and that's to show us that Jesus loves sinners and came "to seek and to save that which is lost". And as a result, Zacchaeus turned away from his life-time of theft. He repented in practical and demonstrable ways in response to Jesus' pardoning love. And Jesus declared that salvation came to the house of a despised tax collector that day; and there is - even as we speak - a pardoned thief in heaven named Zacchaeus.
Has the Holy Spirit spoken to you this morning, and revealed to you that you have broken His eighth commandment in some way? If He has, please understand that it is a sin that He takes very seriously. But also know that it is a sin that the Son of God has willingly paid for on the cross. Be encouraged by the story of that famous tax collector who is now in Paradise - along with the repentant thief on the cross beside Jesusą, and along with all the other former-thieves that Jesus has forgiven and washed clean throughout the centuries. Confess your theft to the Lord immediately; repent of it by - with His help - restoring what you have taken or replacing what was lost; and trust confidently in the full forgiveness He purchased for you with His own life. Then, you can exchange the guilt of your theft for the free gift of forgiveness.
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