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Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Sweat Equity

Craig Smith - Sweat Equity

Craig Smith - Sweat Equity
TOPICS: The Big Ten

Hey, welcome to Mission Hills. So good to have you with us today. If you’re just joining us, you should know we’re in the midst of a series on the Ten Commandments. And even if you’re brand new to church, you’re probably not going, “The Ten what?” Because we’ve all heard about them, right? These are probably the most famous religious rules in the world. But what a lot of people don’t know about the Ten Commandments is what they’re actually supposed to do. A lot of people seem to think the Ten Commandments are really designed to get on God’s good side, to create a relationship with God. And one of the things we’ve been saying throughout this series is that’s just not the case at all. In fact, the reality is that no relationship is created by following the rules. We don’t get a relationship with God or with anybody by following the rules.

I’m not married to my wife, Coletta, of 28 years because I don’t date other women, I’m not married to her because I don’t entertain attraction to other women, even in my own mind. I’m married to her because we made a commitment to each other. We basically took a step of faith, we said, “I choose to trust you and trust life with you.” That’s where the relationship comes from.

The rules don’t create the relationship, they regulate it. They keep it moving in the right direction and they keep it centered where all the good things can be found in that relationship. And that’s the case with God and the Ten Commandments as well. They don’t create a relationship with God, but they do regulate it. They keep it moving in the right direction, and they keep us centered where we can experience all the good things in the relationship that God really wants to pour into our lives.

Now, today, we’re going to be digging into the eighth commandment. And the eighth commandment is probably the one commandment that we are most familiar with on a day-to-day basis because the reality is our lives are filled with things that are a constant reminder of the need for the eighth commandment. How many of us have any of these? They’re keys, right? But you know what they really are? They’re things designed to keep other people from taking our stuff and making it their stuff without our permission. That’s what they are, right?

And that’s old-fashioned, so let’s talk a little bit more modern. Any of us have any passwords in our lives? Any of us have so many passwords that you had to create a password-protected document to contain all of your passwords? Anybody ever forgotten the password to your password document? We got pin numbers, right? We have thumbprint scanners, we have facial recognition on our phones. And all that exist for the same purpose. It all exists to make it harder for other people to take our stuff and make it their stuff without our permission.

Some people go to extremes. I found out recently that there are people who line their wallets with aluminum foil to keep people from stealing their credit cards with a scanner. I’m not sure that’s a thing. It feels, I could be wrong, but it feels just like one step removed from wearing a tinfoil hat to keep the lizard people from reading your mind. But I could be wrong. I mean about the wallet part not the lizard people part. Although I could be wrong about that too. It’s been a weird couple of years. I don’t know.

The point is we go to extremes because the reality is we have to work hard to keep people from taking our stuff, don’t we? We have to work hard to keep people taking our stuff. That’s really what the eighth commandment is about. Only instead of taking aim at other people, it takes aim at us, and so it’s says, don’t be the kind of person that other people have to worry about. If you want to look at it with me, the eighth commandment is found in Exodus chapter 20, verse 15. Very straightforward commandment. One of the shortest of the commandments. It says, “You shall not steal.” You shall not steal.

And nobody goes, “What now?” We understand what that means. There’s no complex theology behind it, there’s no deep word study. I don’t have to go to the original Hebrew or anything like that to unpack what this means. We get it. It’s basically don’t take other people’s stuff. Don’t take their stuff and make it your stuff without their permission. Just don’t do it. In the original Hebrew, actually, it’s so simple that it’s only two words, no stealing. Don’t do it.

But in spite of how easy it is to understand, it’s apparently pretty hard to follow because stealing is a huge issue. It always has been. And it’s no less an issue in the modern world than it was in the ancient world. How about this, identity theft cost U.S. citizens $56 billion in 2020, $56 billion. That’s basically $188 from every person in the United States. It’s huge. And that’s modern. Let’s talk about old-fashioned. Let’s talk about actually taking stuff, right? Theft, good old-fashioned theft cost U.S. citizens, cost U.S. companies $62 billion in 2019. It was less last year because the stores were all closed.

But the year before that, it cost $62 billion. That’s like taking $8 from every man, woman, and child on the planet. And a lot of that, honestly, is shoplifting, and a lot of that is fraud. But here’s an interesting statistic, employees steal 5.5 times the average shoplifter. I know that’s true because I used to work for an electronics retailer. We were constantly having to do inventory to find out what stuff had gone missing. But the vast majority of the stuff that went missing went missing from the stock room, not the sales floor. Massive problem.

How about this one, the IRS estimates that cheating on taxes cost the U.S. more than a trillion dollars each year. A trillion dollars. To put that in perspective, pre-COVID, because COVID messed everything up. Pre-COVID, the U.S. deficit, the difference between what we spent and what we brought in as a nation was less than a trillion dollars, which means that if everybody just paid what they owe on taxes, we wouldn’t have a national deficit. We wouldn’t have to have complex controversial debates in Washington about whether or not to raise the debt limit on our country because there wouldn’t be a debt. People cheating on tax, it’s a huge issue.

Now, I know, I should say this, I know that cheating on taxes, there are some people going, “I don’t know if that’s really theft.” And there’s a couple of reasons. One of them is because we’re like, “Well, I just didn’t give them something. It’s not like I went into the Federal Reserve and took a bunch of cash and made off with it, right? I didn’t take anything.” And then the other reason is because it’s the federal government, right? We’re like, “Do you know what those guys do with the money we give them? I’m actually being virtuous by not giving them more money to do bad things with, right?”

So it doesn’t feel like theft, but unfortunately, the Apostle Paul had kind of a disturbing thing to say to the Christians living in Rome, which by the way, a bad government by every imagination by every way you think about it. He said this, he said, “Give to everyone what you owe them. If you owe taxes, pay taxes. If revenue, then revenue, if respect, then respect, if honor, then honor. ” Kind of an uncomfortable couple of ideas there. The first one is this idea I think that he raises here that stealing isn’t just going and taking other people’s things. Stealing is also not giving something that we owe. And we have to think about it a little bit more holistically. Stealing is taking what others own or withholding what we owe. You hear me, church? Biblically, we find both of those concepts to be exactly the same. Stealing is taking what others own or withholding what we owe. The Bible treats both of those as theft. The Bible actually says we even do it to God.

In the Book of Malachi, God is speaking to his people, says this. He says, “Will a mere mortal rob God? And yet, you rob me.” But you ask, “How are we robbing you?” I mean, they’re asking the question, they’re like, “It’s not like we’re going to the temple and taking gold things out of the temple and selling them at the pawnshop. It’s not like we’re knocking over the priests and taking the offerings they were taking back.” And they said, “We’re not doing… How are we robbing you?” And he says this, “In tithes and offerings.” Meaning, by withholding them. “By not giving tithes and offerings, you are robbing me.” So, clearly, the Bible considers stealing to be both taking what others own but also withholding what we owe.

And so there’s a pretty important question I think we need to ask ourselves, and it’s this, who am I stealing from by withholding what I owe? Who am I stealing from by withholding what I owe? There are people that are withholding child support, there are people that are withholding back taxes, there are people that are withholding employee pay for a variety of reasons.

We have an interesting thing in our culture, and this might be a little bit controversial, but I think it needs to be addressed a little bit. In our culture, we have bankruptcy laws. And what happens is you can amass a certain amount of debt. You can go into bankruptcy, and that means you don’t have to pay back what you owe. And that’s a legal issue. I acknowledge it’s a legal issue, but there’s an ethical issue, there’s a biblical issue we still have to wrestle with, which is, if I owed that, is it really right? Is it righteous not to ever pay it back just because the court said I didn’t have to?

I heard recently about a man who did something kind of way above and beyond. I’ve never heard of this being done, but I can’t help but think that God applauds this. He was running a company, he ran into some really hard times. He started to have to withhold employee pay, he wasn’t able to make payroll, he went into debt trying to keep things going. But eventually, it all came crashing down, he was accruing massive interest on the debt. And so he declared bankruptcy so that he wasn’t constantly mounting up more and more interest on that debt. And then he spent the next 15 years paying off everything. Even though he didn’t have to according to the government, he spent 15 years making sure his employees got everything that was owed, making sure all these creditors got everything he was owed. And I think God must applaud that kind of a thing.

So we need to answer this question for ourselves. What am I stealing from someone by withholding something that I owe? And by the way, too, the other interesting thing about this passage here in Romans, the other uncomfortable idea is that, apparently, we can steal more than just stuff, right? We can steal more than just stuff. Because he starts off with money, he starts off with with taxes, he starts off with revenue, but then he moves to honor and respect. He says you can steal from somebody by withholding honor and respect that’s due to them because of the position they’re in. That’s a little uncomfortable, isn’t it? And let’s just dig into that for a second. Who am I withholding or stealing honor from? Who am I withholding or stealing respect from? I worry about that as a pastor and as a Christian leader in this country because I see the political division, I understand the political division. I totally get the political division. What really concerns me is the way that we treat people on the other side. We don’t give honor, we don’t give…the way we talk about people.

Do a Facebook audit of your own stuff. Look back on the way you’ve talked about some of these issues or in other kinds of social media, or just think back on conversations you’ve had with people about government leaders, especially ones that are on the other side of the aisle, and ask yourself, “Have I given them honor, and have I given them respect in the way that I’ve talked about them?” And understand, this is important to understand. Honor and respect are not the same thing as agreement or affection. You don’t have to agree with them, and you don’t have to have affection for them. But we can disagree with somebody and still honor them as human beings. We can disagree with somebody, strongly disagree, completely disagree and still respect them in the way that we communicate about them. As Christians, we’ve got to lead the way in raising the bar on the level of public discourse, how we talk about people we disagree with. Because when we don’t, honestly, according to Scripture, we’re breaking the eighth commandment.

So these are important questions, who am I withholding or stealing honor from? Who am I withholding or stealing respect from? But actually, we have to go a little bit beyond that if we’re gonna talk about the idea that if in fact we can steal more than just stuff. We have to go a little bit beyond even that stuff that’s mentioned there in Romans as well. So here at Mission Hills, whenever we talk about being generous with our stuff, we always talk about three things, three things of value that we have that we’re called to be generous with. Our time, our talent, and our treasure. So, let’s just ask that question when it comes to the eighth commandment too, starting off with whose time have I stolen? Whose time have I stolen?

It’s one of the most valuable things we have, right? You can work a little harder and make a little bit extra money, but you cannot get more time. It’s one of those valuable things we have and yet we steal time from people all the, well, time. Anybody ever cut in line? No, not you guys. Well, no. I mean, I knew the person, they invited me in. Yeah. But do you remember the last time you were in line and that happened to somebody in front of you? Like, “What are you doing?” And they’re like, “It’s okay. I know them.” “Could not care less. Your relationship is irrelevant to me.”

The reason we get upset about it when it happens is because they’re taking our time. They just made us be in line longer. They’ve stolen time for us. Or we take parking spaces that we know somebody else is waiting for, but we got there a little faster than they did. They’re just not as good a driver as we are, that’s the real problem. But we’re taking time, we’re making them circle it. I’ve realized recently, to be perfectly honest with you, that I’ve stolen my wife’s time because I am messy. I am. And I want you to be really clear on this. I do not expect my wife to clean up my mess. I do not. But she often does it because her timetable is different than mine. I was totally gonna do that, and I really was. But she wants it cleaner faster and so she ends up doing it. But what I’m doing is I’m wasting her time by leaving that mess. I’m stealing her time.

Employees are doing it a lot right now. We’re in the midst of what we call the big resignation. Massive number of people are either they have quit their jobs or they’re thinking about quitting their jobs. And what happens is their heart’s not in it, they’re not really doing a lot of the work. But they’re not giving their employer their notice, which means the employer can’t be looking for somebody else to fill that spot. So when they do leave, now the employer is left with that lag as they’re trying to find a person who, and honestly, if it’s been known for a long time they’re gonna be leaving by not announcing that, they were stealing that employer’s time.

Employers do it too, though. Employers know that certain people aren’t gonna work out, they’re not gonna be in that position for long, but they don’t say it, they start looking first. We’re gonna find the person, then we’ll replace them, which means that that poor employee cannot begin looking for another job. That’s time theft. Whose time have I stolen? We also need to ask the question, whose talent have I stolen? How do you steal somebody’s talent? Easy. You take their ideas and you make them your own. Happens all the time.

One of the reasons, interestingly enough, one of the reasons it often comes up in the list when people ask why is the great resignation happening? Why are so many people thinking about leaving? One of the things that’s high on the list is people go, “Because my boss keeps taking my ideas and taking credit for them. If it’s a good idea, my boss will take credit for the idea. If it’s a bad idea that he had, he’ll blame me for it.” But that taking credit for good ideas, that’s stealing talent. It’s absolutely stealing talent.

I used to teach in a seminary. And the last couple years at the seminary, we had this new system where when you submitted a paper, you had to submit it electronically. And the reason they wanted to submit it electronically was because there was a service that they used, every paper got run through this thing to find out if they were plagiarizing from some other source out there. Stealing other people’s ideas is rampant in academic settings. By the way, one time, I got a paper that came back with a 72% content had been stolen from somewhere else. I was like, “I gotta check this out.” And I checked out. They stole it from me. They were citing a paper.

Now, in their defense, they had given me credit. They had said, “The imminent Dr. Craig Smith says this.” I’m like, “That’s not gonna get you a better grade.” Well, a little bit of a better one, but not a lot of one. But like 70% of this paper was quotations of something I had written, but a lot of times were not even giving the citations. We’re just taking people’s ideas in school and making them our own. It’s happening at work. It happens in ministry. It’s the craziest thing. You think it would never happen in church, but I know pastors who’ve been let go because they’re preaching other pastors’ sermons without giving them any credit for it. I actually…one time I spoke at a big youth event, it was called Teen Serve. And I opened up the session that I had with them. I was there for a week.

I opened it up with this talk that I would do to start with a story of the time that my dad came into my room one morning on a Saturday and took me to Kings Island, it’s an amusement park in Ohio, to ride my first adult roller coaster. It’s just a kind of a significant event in my life, and so I had this talk where I would tell that story. And it was kind of wild and crazy and it was a lot of fun. And then at the end of it, I would transition into the adventure of following Jesus.

And I did that at this Teen Serve thing to open it up and they filmed it and they asked, “Hey, can we put a clip of that on YouTube?” I said, “Yeah. That’s fine.” And then I didn’t speak with them for several more years, but a few years later, I came back and I did a week with them. And one of the leaders came up to me the first day and he said, “Hey, you remember a few years ago you were with us and you told that story about riding the beast?” I was like, “Yeah.” He goes, “Last year the speaker we hired started off the session with that story.” I was like, “He had a story about a roller coaster?” He’s like, “No, he had a story about that roller coaster.” He had that story. He told it almost word for word. He totally ripped it off. And I’m like, “That guy is an idiot.” Because not only did he rip it off, but he ripped it off from a YouTube video posted by the very conference that he was speaking at. He didn’t even do his homework. But it happens, we steal other people’s talents. We need to ask that question, whose talent am I stealing?

And then let’s just talk about the one that we’re probably most familiar with when we think about the third commandment. Let’s ask whose treasurer am I stealing? Whose treasure have I stolen?

Now, this is really old-fashioned, but back in the day, we used to listen to music on something called tapes. Now, a tape, for those of you who had no idea, a tape was this little thing you actually had tape in and sometimes the tape would get loose, you’d have to stick a pencil in there and you’d twist it to tighten it up. And a lot of you are like, “You’re lying.” No, totally true, right? Can I get an amen from people who know? Amen. You had to do this, right? But the thing about these tapes, they were super easy to copy. Super easy to copy. And then we moved to CDs. Now, CD was this little disc with… It’s old-fashioned now. I got to explain it. With a silver coating, had little micro things and lasers would read it, but they were also pretty easy to copy.

Danny Oertli, our weekend executive pastor here, he remembers doing concerts and sitting at his CD table having kids come up and go, “Okay. You buy it and then I’ll copy it.” He’s like, “I’m right here.” We didn’t even see it for what it was worth, they didn’t see it for what it was. Nowadays, we don’t do it that way. Nowadays, what we do is we share passwords. We share passwords to Netflix, and Hulu, and Amazon, right? People who are not part of the family and the way those passwords are supposed to be, they’re people way outside the family. That’s how we do it now, but we’re stealing treasure.

How about this one, the average employee today wastes between 1.5 and three hours a day on personal business on work time, a day. It adds up to about $1.5 trillion a year actually. And what I mean by this is these are people who are scrolling Facebook, posting on Instagram, they’re making travel plans. They’re just browsing the internet, personal shopping on Amazon, or, this is the big right now, a huge number of those people are actually looking for other jobs on company time on a company computer using company paid-for internet. That’s theft, there’s no other way to talk about it. It’s theft.

And the reality is that God speaks about theft in pretty serious terms. Obviously, it made the Big Ten, so that means it’s pretty high on the list. But God actually speaks about theft in consistently hard terms or big terms that, honestly, I think a lot of people are surprised by. Check this out. This is from the Book of Hosea. He says, “Hear the word of the Lord you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you.” So, he’s speaking to his own people, to God’s people.

“Against you who live in the land, there is no faithfulness, there’s no love. There is no acknowledgement of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying, and murder.” And at this point, we’re all like, yeah, that’s all serious stuff, right? You understand why God is upset. You understand why there’s a charge. That’s all serious stuff. Cursing, lying, murder. And then he says stealing and adultery. You see, he’s saying stealing right in there between murder and adultery. And we go, “Yeah. Murder and adultery, those are clearly a big deal. But stealing? Come on. Is it that big a deal?” Apparently, to God, it is. He says they break all bounds and bloodshed follows bloodshed.

God consistently talks about stealing as though it’s far more serious than we naturally think that it is. And so the question is why? Why does God consider stealing to be such an issue? And I think the answer is this, it’s because stealing hurts everyone that God loves. Stealing hurts everyone that God loves. And when I say everyone, because we can understand how stealing hurts the one who’s being stolen from. But the reality is that stealing also hurts those who do it. Stealing also hurts us. We don’t always understand that.

In fact, sometimes the reality is, because of our sin nature, there’s a little thrill that comes from stealing. There’s a little thrill that comes from getting something that we didn’t pay for. Bible acknowledges that Proverbs 20:17 says, “Food gained by fraud tastes sweet.” That’s that thrill, “but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.” It didn’t stay that way for long. It starts off with a little thrill, but it ends up in pain. Proverbs 1:19 says, “Such are the paths of all who go after ill-gotten gain, it takes away the life of those who get it.” It takes away the life of those who are stealing. Why is that? Why does stealing take away the life of those who are doing it? And the answer is this is because stealing undermines what it means to be human. Stealing undermines what it means to be human.

By the way, that word undermines is such an interesting word in English. It literally means to mine under. It literally refers to back when they started originally mining things out of the ground and a lot of what happened is they’d find something outside of a village and they would start mining and they’d dig into the ground and then they’d continue to follow a vein. And eventually, the mine would end up being underneath the houses and buildings of the village. And nobody really thought much about it until all of a sudden one day the village would just fall into this giant hole.

Because when you mine underneath the foundations, what you’re really doing is you’re undermining the foundations on which everything sits. And so I say stealing undermines what it means to be human in the same way. It actually erodes the foundations of the very essence of what it means to be human. And what I mean by that, well, if you go back to Genesis chapter two, a lot of people know the story. God made Adam and Eve and he put them in the Garden of Eden. And I don’t know what you think of when you think about the Garden of Eden, I think a lot of people think of a luxury spa. They were just hanging out, kangaroos giving them massages and things like that, I guess. But that’s not the picture the Bible paints, actually, the Bible says this. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” To work it and take care of it. God made human beings to work. From the very beginning, that was what we did. It’s part of what it means to be human.

All the way back in Genesis one, it says, they created us in his image to rule and subdue, and those are hard work words. God created us to work hard. And a lot of people don’t get that. They’re like, “Well, wait a minute, I thought hard work was the curse that came from the fall. I thought when Adam and Eve sinned, then God said, ‘Okay, now you’re gonna have to work hard.'” But that’s not what the Bible teaches at all. The Bible says hard work was there from the beginning. When Adam and Eve sinned, what entered in was futile work, useless work. He said, “Because you’ve sinned, now you’re gonna work hard, but you’re gonna have very little to show for it. You’re gonna plow and you’re gonna plant but you’re gonna get thorns and thistles. Stuff you do is going to not last, the stuff you do is going to fall apart. And at the end of the day, you’re gonna work hard, but you’re not gonna have all that much to show for it.” That was the curse, futility, not hard work. Hard work was there from the very beginning. And because that was our original part of our created intent, we actually find deep satisfaction in working hard. Working hard is powerful.

And in fact, this is important to understand, doing good work is good for us. Do you hear me church? Doing good work is good for us. It actually feeds our souls in ways that we often forget about. Doing good work is good for us. It’s probably why the Book of Ecclesiastes says this about hard work. It says, “A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil.” And the Hebrew word translated there as toil means hard work. He says there’s nothing better for a human being than actually to find satisfaction in their hard work, because it’s deeply satisfying. It feeds the soul.

I remember back when Coletta and I were first married, we bought a house in Cincinnati, Ohio. We scraped it to get all the money together to put the down payment on this very, very small little house. And it was small. The kitchen, you could fit one person in the kitchen. Anybody else have a house like that when you first got married? It was awesome. We were close, by necessity. And it had a dining room, although, honestly, you could not put a table in this thing. I don’t know how they got away with calling it a dining room, I think it was back before everybody could check this kind of stuff. It would be labeled fraud now. You could maybe put this table in the dining room, we could stand around. If we didn’t… Yeah, that’s it. But we could afford it and we were thrilled with it.

And then we hadn’t been there very long and it became clear that God was probably gonna be moving us. And now the housing market in Cincinnati, Ohio was not appreciating in the way that Denver housing markets have been appreciating. So we hadn’t been in the house very long and we knew if we had to sell that house, we were gonna take a bath on it. We absolutely couldn’t afford that, and so we kinda looked at the house and we went, you know what, it’s got this weird garage. It’s a two-car garage, but it was super narrow, you actually had to park cars end-to-end. It’s not a two-car garage, because it just creates all kinds of marital conflict, trying to figure out who’s gonna be getting out first in the morning, and then you were wrong about that, and then you got to, you know, somebody’s gotta pull out and then you’re moving.

So we were like, “This doesn’t work, so let’s just do this, let’s make it a one-car garage. We’ll put a wall in it, we’ll raise the floor to the level of the rest of the house. We’ll knock out the wall between the dining room and this garage area, we’ll put in some windows, we’ll have a real dining room, and then we can expand the kitchen a little bit.” And so we leaned into that for several months, and we couldn’t afford to pay anybody, we did it ourselves. We put in what we call sweat equity.

And not long after we had done all that, God moved us. We had to sell the house and we had to move to Colorado, which the housing market in Colorado was a massive shock. But because of our sweat equity in that other house, we were able to sell it at enough of a profit to put a small down payment on a house here. One of the best financial things we’ve ever done. It was the first step, honestly, in moving us to a place where we were able to begin to be more and more generous because we were doing okay financially. But it all went back to that sweat equity.

Let me tell you something, there’s very few things in my life that I’m prouder of than the work that we did on that house, on Rose Lane in Cincinnati, Ohio. Sweat equity is… It’s good for us. It’s powerful. It’s deeply, deeply satisfying. But when we steal what happens is we’re actually undermining our ability to begin to do the very kind of work that we find fulfilling, that we find energizing, that we find satisfying. We’re robbing ourselves of joy by theft.

And there’s one other issue with theft. One other reason I think why God deals with it so strongly and warns against it so heavily. And it’s because God knows that stealing keeps us from crossing the finish line of the eighth commandment. When we steal, it keeps us from crossing the finish line of the eighth commandment. Now, if you’ve been with us throughout this series, then you probably remember that we’ve said consistently throughout this series that each of the commandments is a first step, it’s not a finish line. Each of the commandments gets us moving in the right direction, but it’s not the highest standard that God is calling us to. It’s just a first step.

And so the question becomes, well, what is the finish line of the eighth commandment? If it’s not just to not take other people’s stuff and make it our own, if it’s not just to not take what others own or withhold what we owe, what is the finish line? Where is God ultimately trying to get us to be able to go? And this is what Paul says to the church in the City of Ephesus. He says, “Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer.” That’s eighth commandment right there. Just follow the eighth commandment. “But they must work. Doing something useful with their own hands.” In the original Greek there it’s literally doing something good with their own because he’s saying when they do work, it’s good, it’s good for them. He’s acknowledging that sense in which doing good work is good for us. But that’s not the finish line.

And so, he gives us the finishing, he says, “So that they may have something to share with those in need.” Isn’t that interesting? He says they need to stop stealing, they need to do good things, it’s good for them. But the ultimate goal is so that they can have something to share with those in need. And I know when we start talking about something like this, when we start talking about generosity, sometimes people get a little confused. They’re like, well, wait a minute, though. I would think it’d be easier to be generous with something you didn’t work hard for, right? Things we work hard for, aren’t we gonna hold on to them tighter? Isn’t that the whole Robin Hood story? He didn’t have to work all that hard for it, so, he was happy to give it away. But honestly, that’s fiction. The reality is, there aren’t very many generous thieves out there.

Something interesting that when people steal things, when they reach out and grab a hold of what somebody else owns, they have a really hard time letting it go. And my guess, because I’ve had this experience, and my guess is you’ve had the same experience in your life. Probably the most generous people in your life are also the hardest working, weren’t they?

We see that time and time and time again, the people who are most generous are the people who work the hardest for what they have. And yet, they don’t seem all that concerned with hanging on to it. They’re happy to give it to those who have need. Maybe, I don’t know, but maybe it’s because when they’re busy with their hands doing, working, their hands aren’t so busy being clinched on what they’ve already had, what they’ve already earned. I don’t know. I just know that the most generous people I know are also the hardest working. And that’s the ultimate finish line.

We work hard so that we have something so we can share it with others, we can care for others. Which means, follow me on this, church, this is so interesting. The prohibition against theft is actually an invitation to love. The prohibition against theft is ultimately an invitation to love, to take care of others who truly have need. So, a couple of questions to wrestle with, number one, we’ve already touched on this, but I wanna encourage you to spend some time this week wrestling with it. How am I stealing time, talent, or treasure? Or honor, or respect? How am I stealing it from the individuals in my life? From God? How am I taking what’s others’, or withholding, what I owe to others?

Second question is this, what do I need to do to make it right? The bible gives us two concepts there that are important, the first is repentance. When we realize we’re doing this, the first thing we need to do is we need to repent. That means to basically stop doing it. Turn away from it. Acknowledge what we’ve done is wrong, and I’m not gonna continue in that direction. It’s a commitment to move in the direction of righteousness. So, we start with repentance. But the Bible also talks about restitution, talks about making it right, it talks about returning what we’ve stolen.

The Bible uses a number of different standards for that. And so I don’t think there’s one that you have to consider, but the Bible says, at the very least you got to give back what’s been taken. But also the Bible says you might need to go a little beyond that. The Bible uses standards from a fifth more to four or five times more. Some of us may remember the famous story in the Gospels with a man named Zacchaeus. You might remember Zacchaeus, the wee little man. A little Sunday school joke for those of us who grew up in Sunday school.

Zacchaeus was a thief, he was a tax collector. But that was common parlance for a thief in those days. And Jesus invited him into a relationship before he cleaned up his act. His relationship doesn’t start with the rules, it starts with an invitation and accepting an invitation. So it’s trust, faith. Jesus said, “I wanna have dinner at your house. We’re gonna be friends.” And in response to that invitation, in response to that relationship, Zacchaeus said, “If I’ve stolen anything from anybody, I’ll pay it back four times.” It’s an Old Testament principle. That’s restitution.

And here’s what’s powerful. See, when we make restitution, what we’re actually doing is we’re filling back in the mine that we’ve dug underneath the foundations of who we are as people made in the image of God. We’re filling it back in, and maybe it’s because every time you dig a hole and you try to put the dirt back in, the hole never gets fully filled, right? Maybe that’s what the restitution part is there, to make sure we’re fully filling it back in. I don’t know. But what do I need to do to make it right? Then third question is just this, because this is the finish line. What can I do to share my time, talent, and treasure with those in need? Because that’s the finish line. So, what can I do to share what I have of value with those who are truly in need? Would you pray with me?

God, we thank you for your word. It’s a simple word today, but it’s a challenging one. I think we all recognize that when we consider it biblically there are things we have taken that others own, and there are things that we have withheld that we owe. There’s probably none of us who walk away from this feeling like, “Yeah. I’m good with that eighth commandment. Got that one down part.” I know I’m not. And so we come to you and we ask for forgiveness for the ways that your spirit is revealing to us that we’ve broken that eighth commandment. We turn away from it, we ask for forgiveness and we’re grateful to know that we have that forgiveness because you are generous.

You have crossed that finish line, Lord. You’ve given what you didn’t owe in the gift of your Son who died on the cross to pay the price of our sin in all the ways that we fall short. It’s because of your generosity, Lord, we can trust that we’re forgiven. But we ask for strength through your Holy Spirit to figure out where we might need to make restitution, to repair damage that’s been done, and to set the stage for moving towards the finish line of being generous. And, Lord, we ask for your Spirit to stir in us and show us what it looks like, for each of us individually, practically, to take a next step this week towards being generous, to sharing our time, talent, and treasure, our honor, our respect, all those things with those who are in need. Lord, as your people, we pray for those who are listening to this message who don’t have a relationship with you.

Maybe those who are listening to this and maybe it’s you that you’ve always thought of a relationship with God as being based on the rules. And maybe for the first time you’ve heard that it actually, it starts with faith. God is inviting you into a relationship with him. And because of his generosity, he sent his own Son to die to pay the price for all the wrong that you’ve done that would separate you from him. Jesus died to pay it all off. Three days later he rose from the dead. And now he offers each of us forgiveness, a relationship with God, and eternal life. And it all comes from that moment of choosing to say yes to Jesus. If you’ve never done that, I wanna encourage you to do it right now. I’ll tell you what to say. You don’t have to say it out loud, you can say it loud, you can say it in your heart. It doesn’t matter. God hears you, but you’re gonna have a conversation, something like this. Just say this to God. Say:

God, I’ve done wrong, I’ve sinned. I admit it and I’m sorry. Thank you for your generosity. Jesus, thank you for coming and dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I do believe that you rose from the dead. And I understand that you’re offering me forgiveness, a relationship with God, and eternal life. So I’m ready to say yes to Jesus. Jesus, I’m putting my trust in you. I’m gonna follow you from here on out. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.

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