Honest and Generous Living
“Let the thief no longer steal…” (Ephesians 4:25)
Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:28
We continue to explore the transformation that takes place in the life of a person who seeks to “walk in a manner worthy of their calling” (Ephesians 4:1) – that is, to practise the ways of Christ (v. 20). The process of change is summed up by Paul in terms of “putting off” the way of life that characterised our “old self” and “putting on” the “new self,” created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (vs. 22, 24).
We have seen how this applies to honesty and anger. Christians are no longer to speak falsely with one another, nor are they to allow anger to spill over into sin (vs. 25-27). But there is more. In the verse before us, Paul identifies what for some of his readers would have called for a radical change in their way of obtaining possessions.
He writes, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (v. 28). Theft is about obtaining the possessions of another without lawful right, and usually by stealth or deceit of some kind. There are those who live by stealing; there are others who do so occasionally and without studied or deliberate intention. One way or another, stealing is about taking that which belongs to another without any right to do so.
Like the temptation to covet, the temptation to steal belongs to every culture. No one is immune to it, at times at least. In days when letters were handwritten and posted, one way that temptation showed itself was to use the stationery and postage stamps of one’s employer for personal purposes. Today, that might translate into using internet access without approval for one’s own interests. Radical Christian living is to demonstrate particular care and conscience in these and like areas.
But more than that says Paul, it is to show itself in application to “honest labour” with one’s “own hands” (see also 1 Thessalonians 4:11). We are to seek to be self-sufficient through honest work and to have enough left over to give to others in need.
From the time of creation, labour has been part of our human mandate. God didn’t put us in the world to indulge in lives of ease; he put us here to work. Since the fall of man, that work has entailed painful and sweaty labour (Genesis 3:17-19). Difficult – and dull – though it may be, it is noble. Christians are to embrace that nobility by seeking and pursuing the calling God has for them in the world.
Rather than be known as lazy and dishonest people constantly seeking to obtain what is not rightfully theirs, Christians are to stand out as industrious and generous. They are to work hard, not simply to provide enough for themselves, but to give freely to those in true need.
- Are there times when you are tempted to take and use that which is not rightly yours?
- Do you work not simply to have enough for yourself but to give generously to others?
– Andrew Young