Dr. Ed Young - Truths, Morals and Character
For three different sessions, three weeks, we've been on Mount Sinai, remember? That's the one Moses went up. Eight different times, he got up there and stayed 40 days and 40 nights. We've only been there three weeks. And God spoke to him those ten powerful words, we call it the Decalogue, we call it the Ten Commandments. A lot of people think, "Well, they're old-fashioned, they're archaic". Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you something. They are just as relevant and practical today for you and me as they were for those Israelites who just got out of slavery in that day.
So, we've looked at these commandments. We looked at the first four and discovered that they relate to how we, you and I, relate to God. That's where you start, isn't it? How do we do business with God? How does God do business with us? It starts with the vertical. And we decided that when anything is wrong in your life or my life, it's not working, it doesn't make sense, I've bottomed out, I have questions about his will, we always go, bang, that's where we look, isn't it, vertically? You look up first, and I've discovered that when I get this relationship right with God through Christ, it's amazing how, in time, all of these other relationships, all these other problems, begin to have meaning, understanding, and significance.
So, we started vertically with the first four, we looked at the next three, and now we come to the last three commandments. We've gotten through honoring parents, we've gotten through murder, we've gotten through adultery, you say, "Well, we've gotten through all the tough ones, what are these last three"? Very simple, you don't steal, you know, that doesn't bother us too much. God says don't steal, okay, don't lie. Well, maybe a little bit. Don't covet, by the way, is that simple enough for everybody? There's nobody saying, "I want you to interpret that one about lying". Lying means not to tell the truth. Anybody want a sub-definition of lying? This is truth, this is not telling the truth, and you take truth and you don't tell the truth, it's called a lie.
Stealing, "I'd like some interpretation". If you and I take something that doesn't belong to us, that's stealing. It's not yours, it's mine, it's somebody else's, God says don't steal. The last one, boy, we really seemingly get off easy here, don't covet. Covet means to passionately long for something. Don't covet your neighbor's car. To covet doesn't mean you want a car like your neighbor, it means you want your neighbor's car. So, maybe we could skip through coveting and these last three. You know, the choir and orchestra, when they perform for us, usually they start off, "Da-da-da-da-da," very minor, very passionate, and then it builds to a crescendo, have you noticed?
Normally, bang, you end up, and it looks like God would have handled the commandments like that. He's start off easy, maybe with these last three, you know, stealing, lying, coveting, that's, you know, but he ends up with these last three. And instead of it being something that really we don't relate to, I think you'll say, "You know, it may have been a good idea for us not to go to church today". Stealing, did you ever see "The Sting," "The Flim-Flam Man," "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"? Movies, in real life the con-artists are the aristocrats, the sophistication element of crime in America. How much they take off of innocent people come these corporations and business deals. Nobody knows, but I assure you it's billions and billions of dollars. Professional, intelligent, highly precisionized. It's called stealing. It's called stealing, stealing.
Little lady had a big farm, she was elderly, lived by herself, had help a couple of days a week with some of the cattle and little stuff she had left. She wasn't thinking as clearly as usual, as she had for so many years, and one night, a man was hitchhiking down the highway in front, and he saw the house, and he went in, and broke in, and stole different things while she was asleep, around about $600. He left, and they caught him, he was tried, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for breaking and entering.
Months went by, a real-estate man from the city saw that farm, a lot of acreage, found out a little old lady lived there by herself, no family immediately in the area. He went to the town and got another local real-estate man who knew that little old lady. Her family had been there forever. And the man said, "I'd like to go buy that farm".
And so, the local real-estate guy and the big-city real-estate guy who saw in the land the potential for development and a shopping center to make a skillion dollars, and they go in there, and they talk to the little lady about church, and about, you know, this real-estate man in the city went to the same church the little old lady had gone, and her family had gone, and the man from out of town, he went to a church of another denomination, but they related to her so beautifully around coffee, until finally the out-of-town real-estate guy wanted to buy her property, and he offered her about 50% under the market value by any standards of the property, 50% under the price. She had no idea, she called her brother who was in Montreal, he said, "Well, whatever you wanna do, Dorothy". Called the daughter who was in California, she said, "Mom, I don't know about all that". So, she sold the property easily 50% under market value. The two real-estate men said, "Boy, did we make a good deal".
Ladies and gentlemen, I wanna ask you a very sobering question. When they got to heaven and the guy who stole $600 because he was hungry, and had nothing, and served seven years in the slammer, is God gonna think harder on him, or on the honest, wheeling, dealing, businesspeople who robbed her of tens of thousands of dollars? Who do you think was the biggest thief? God says don't steal. You say, "Well, you know, I don't steal". Did you know that about 2% of the profits are taken away from every restaurant in the country because people take condiments, sugar, mustard, ketchup? I know none of us have ever done that, I mean, I'll be just preaching to the choir. Stealing, taking something that's not yours.
Most companies and corporations, the biggest problem they have with the bottom line is the employers take away. They pad the expense account, they take away pencils, pens, and some people say, "Oh, they've got plenty of it, they don't miss it, they don't care". And it adds up, and it adds up, and it adds up, and it adds up. "Well, I got some money coming in, the government won't know anything about this. I will not report this. By the way, they throw away all that money anyway, and they're all crooks, and so I'm not gonna report this". Ah, what kind of stealing is that?
I remember when I was in college, one semester, hard course, tough, a lot of exacting things you had to learn. One test determined the grade. He handed out this test, he said, "I want you to take this test home and give it to yourself and grade yourself". And all my buddies looked around and said, "Whoo, boy, boy, we'll take this dang test home, and we'll, you know, take it on our own," and somebody, some crazy student said, "Professor, we'd like to ask a question. What about cheating"? Take the test at home by yourself. Grade the test yourself and bring it back in. What about cheating? You know what the professor said? He said, "Well, you can certainly do that, but you'll know that you'll live the rest of your life with a thief".
Ooh, that dropped most of our letter grades about a whole notch. Don't steal, "They have plenty," it doesn't matter. "I need it," it doesn't matter. We get things three ways, we work for it, we earn it, we inherit it, it's given to us, or we steal. And some people have a built-in way of stealing. Professions steal, doctors, you go to a doctor and they say, "Well, we better test you for in-grown toenails. We'll have to scan that for $2,000. Your insurance will cover it, but we want to protect ourselves".
Stealing, a plumber, electrician. I had a friend that had to get some air-conditioning work done, he had three different bidders come, and they were talking about $35,000, $36,000, but he knew somebody who knew a young man who worked for another air-conditioning company, and brought him in, he fixed the whole thing for about $800. But who's gonna crawl in the attic? Who knows who was honest or not? They seemed to be honest. They smile, they had on the uniform, the truck, a big company, stealing. All the vocations, lawyers, my goodness. Some lawyers have to live to be 400 years old in order to cover all the hours they bill for their customers. Stealing, God says don't steal. You got that one?
Then God says don't lie. And look at this lying that we have. At age four, 90% of children have learned the concept of lying. My boys were prodigies, they learned earlier than that. An estimated 60% of adults cannot have a ten-minute conversation without lying at least once. Within ten minutes, the average of three lies were told. Americans average lying 11 times a week. A little low for this crowd, I'd say. Twelve percent of adults admit to lying regularly. Twenty percent of women admit to telling harmless half-truths occasionally. Thirty-one percent of people admit to lying on their resume.
You remember in 2001, George O'Leary was made head football coach at Notre Dame? The goal of his life as a coach. In his resume, he had written down, years before by the way, that he'd played football at the University of Massachusetts, was a three-year letterman, so somebody checked back to see about his career at this university and discovered he never played a down for the university, never played football. They fired him, he was head football coach of Notre Dame for one day because he lied on his resume. Six lies are told by men daily to their partner, boss, or colleagues. Three lies are told daily by women to their husbands, bosses, or colleagues. Sixty percent were outright deception, 70% of liars claim they would tell their lies again.
If we lie, we let a half-truth go by. Well, it looks like we got a problem with lying, a big problem with lying, and boy how we love gossip, but here's something about gossip, folks. It is tasty, gossip is so sweet, but it's still poison, it's still poison. We always have to ask, "Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it necessary"? And don't cover it with prayer. "Oh, I want you to pray for Billy. Let me tell you what's going on with Billy". More godliness is done through false piousity than you'll ever imagine in the church. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it necessary?
A member of our church, a few months back, was eating at Loobies. And a man came up to him after and said, "You go to church"? He said, "Yes," he said, "Where do you go"? He said, "Second Baptist," he said, "I wouldn't go to that church for anything". And this man, whom I know quite well said, "Well, why"? He said, "Well, that pastor, he's got that big jet plane he flies around in," and my friend says, "Well, he doesn't have a plane, our church, we don't have an airplane". He said, "Oh, you just don't know. I saw it in a hanger down there at Hobby. I can take you to it. He does have a plane". He said, "No..." "Yes, he does, I know where it is, I can take you exactly to it".
And this man told me he stood him down that I guess I had Air Force One, Junior hung up out there, and he said, "I know you don't have a plane". I said, "Look, go back and find that man, and find out where that plane is, because my helicopter is probably next to it". For somebody who didn't half-listen, we don't have any of that. But the bottom line is, when it's slanderous, we get half-truths. Remember the Battle of Waterloo in your history? Napoleon is battling Wellington about 1810, I think, and they were, nobody knew when the whole future of Europe was at stake. And England was anxiously waiting to see if Wellington would defeat Napoleon, and the battle was taking place, and they had no communication.
The only communication they had were those pinafores that they would use, and so, sure enough, the battle was over, and somebody stood on the bank there in France and gave the signals, the signals all the way to England, and he said, "Wellington defeated," and the fog set in. News went all over England, "We've lost, General Wellington has lost. We've lost, General Wellington has lost". It went all over England, then the fog lifted, and the man sending signals, he says, "Wellington defeated the enemy". Totally different story. God says tell the whole truth. To tell a half-truth or to be silent sometimes is lying. "Well, I don't want to get involved". Tell the truth, it's freeing, it's liberating, it's life-giving.
God says be honest, tell the truth. I got a friend who says, "You know, I never lie," I said, "That's a great asset". He said, "Unless I'm under real pressure". The last thing he says, don't covet. Don't covet, and I thought, "Well, this is one I escape on. I don't covet, I rejoice in people's success, what they do, that's just not a part of me". Then I realize that down underneath coveting, and it's a sin you can't see. Most of the other commandments, we break 'em, you know, it's pretty obvious, boy, this one you don't see. You covet what is not yours, you don't see it.
And then I thought about identity theft. That's a big thing. In 2017, there were 17,000,0200 reported identity thefts. We know what that is, some kind of cyber crime that they take your bank card, your credit card, your driver's license, your social security, and they assume your identity, and they take a lot of money out. Identity theft is a big, big thing in our world today. How many of you, in one way or another, have been involved? I have, in that, lift your hand. My goodness, it's really something, isn't it?
Identity theft, by the way, is this a new crime, sort of a new crime in recent days? You think it is? Not really, you know where it goes back to? The Garden of Eden, yeah. Identity theft involves all three of these sins we're talking about, stealing, lying, and coveting. And it goes all the way back to the garden. The lie was what the devil, the snake, told Eve. "Man, you won't die, you'll be like God," that's the lie. That's the lie right up front. And what was stolen? Eve said, "That sure does look good in that tree". We think it's an apple, we don't know what it was, and Satan says, "You mean you can't eat from that tree"?
Now, Adam and Eve had everything. They had the whole shooting match, everything, everybody, they had all the world, all of it. They were to be stewards of it. They were in charge of it. That was their whole portfolio, the world, except that one little tree. And so, she stole from that tree. She took from God what she did not have, what she wanted. And what was behind all this? Covetousness, they wanted to steal God's identity. They wanted to be God, know good and evil. And, ladies and gentlemen, that's what we do when we steal, when we lie, when we cheat, when we break God's rule, when we sin. We want to be God, we want to take God's identity. We want to run our own life. We think, you think, I think when we sin, I know more about life than God does.
How arrogant can you get? How arrogant all of us are. I know more than God. Adam and Eve wanted to be God, they didn't qualify. They didn't have the stuff, the equipment, the givenness to be God. And when you and I try to say, "Boy, God, you should have done this and you shouldn't have done this, you should have let this person live, you should have let that person die," we can't make those calls, folks, and someday in eternity, we'll look back and we'll understand that God is God and you and I are not God, and we try to steal his identity and play God, it's always a disaster in the end. What's the opposite of covetousness? The word covetous, remember, means to be passionate about something. What's the opposite of being covetous? It's being contented, isn't it? To be content.
A 14-year-old boy wrote this, listen. "It was spring, but it was summer I wanted. The warm days and the great outdoors. It was summer, but it was fall I wanted. The colorful leaves and the cool, dry air. It was fall, but it was winter I wanted. The beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season. It was winter, but it was spring I wanted, the warmth and the blooming of nature. I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted. The freedom and the respect. I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted. To be mature and sophisticated. I was middle-aged, but it was 30 I wanted. The youth and the free-spirit. I was retired, but it was middle-age that I wanted. The presence of mind without limitations. My life is now over, but I never got what I wanted".
You know what Paul said about all this, about being covetous? He said, and by the way, while he was in jail, he said, "I know how to abound". He said I know how to be on top of the mountain. I know how to feel the sun at my back, the wind at my back, and the sun in my face. He said I know how to abound. I know how to be joyful and happy. He said I also know how to bottom out. I know how to be abased. I know how to lose everything, I'm in jail when I'm writing this. But Paul said because of Jesus Christ, when I'm on top or in the bottom, I know how to be contented. That's what Christ does for us, folks. That's what he does for us. Let me tell you something. We'll never be contented, never be contented as long as these last three deadly sins operate every so subtlety in your life and in my life. These three little concluding sins are the great commandments from Almighty God.