Robert Jeffress - Respect The Property of Others - Part 2
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to "Pathway to Victory". These days economic hardship on American families is at the forefront of our minds. Rising inflation and economic uncertainty have put some people in dire situations. As a result, we're seeing an unprecedented rise in theft. So what does the Bible have to say about stealing? Well, God's opinion is clearly spelled out in the eighth commandment. My message is titled "Respect the Property of Others" on today's edition of "Pathway to Victory".
The basis, the reason we steal is because of covetousness. We're not satisfied with what we have and we think somebody else has too much and so we steal, breaking both the eighth and the Ten Commandments. Now, I know you're going to think, "Well, this is one sin I'm not guilty of. I've never stolen anything". But remember there's more than one way to commit adultery, more than one way to murder, more than one way to lie as we'll see next time. There's also more than one way to steal.
Let me mention four ways we violate this commandment. The first way is by despoiling, despoiling. I know. I wasn't familiar with that word either. I was looking up for a word to help me in my sermon outline in my alliteration and came across this word despoiling. You know what despoil means? One theologian says it's an act of violence when a man's goods are forcibly plundered and carried off. It's armed robbery. That's what despoiling is, forcibly taking from somebody else what doesn't belong to them.
How many of you have ever been the victim of a mugging or the break-in of a car or even your own home? How many of you have had that? A large number of people. You know how violated you feel when somebody invades your space. But, it's not just armed robbers who despoil people. Students who cheat on an exam, you're invading somebody else's space to take what is not yours. Employees who take home office supplies, they're invading somebody else's space to profit themselves. Did you know it's even possible to steal ideas from people without giving them credit? Claim for your own what really belongs to somebody else?
A few years ago, I received an email from a woman in Georgia. She and her husband watched "Pathway to Victory" on Saturday nights on their local TV station. She said in her email, "Imagine my surprise after listening to you Saturday night when I went into our church Sunday and heard our pastor preach your message, basically word for word. And not only that, he passed out an outline that had come directly off your website". Now, that doesn't bother me at all, you know. Everything's grist for the preacher's mill, Dr. Criswell used to say. "All originalism and no plagiarism makes for a dull preaching," but if you're gonna quote extensively from somebody, whether in a paper at school or whether in a sermon or a speech, if you're gonna do it word for word, give credit. Don't pretend it's yours if it's not yours. That's how we despoil by taking by force.
A second way that we steal is through dishonesty. This is a little more subtle, but it's misrepresenting truth in order to gain from other people. Now, in biblical times, the way you did that was to have dishonest scales and balances. In Proverbs 11:1, Solomon says: "A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, But a just weight is His delight". If you were buying a commodity from a merchant and he had a false weight or a false balance, he might tell you he's giving you a quart of oil when he's just giving you three-quarters of a quart of oil. He might tell you you're getting a pound of wheat when you're just getting a half a pound of wheat.
Now, today, we're much more sophisticated in how we misrepresent the truth. How many of you have ever received one of those phishing emails, trying to get you to surrender personal information? Amazon tells you, "Oh, we've messed up your order and we need your Social Security number". Well, it's not Amazon, or your bank telling you that you've got deficient funds. It's somebody trying to get information from you. In fact, just Friday afternoon, I was told there is a man in the country right now calling people on the phone pretending to be me and saying that I need your credit card for $500. Please give me your credit card number. Now, I wanna assure every viewer of "Pathway to Victory," I am not gonna be calling you, asking you for your credit card number, unless I really need it. But... no, no, I won't do that under any circumstances. So that's somebody misrepresenting the truth. That is dishonesty. There's another, third, way that we steal. Despoiling, being dishonest.
Thirdly, defrauding somebody. Defrauding means not paying somebody else what we owe them. It might be failing to pay a debt, a legitimate debt we have. Proverbs 3:27 to 28 say: "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it's in your power to do it. Don't say to your neighbor, 'Go, and come back tomorrow, and I will give you what you're owed.'" If you've got the ability to pay a debt, pay it. One reason we have sky-high consumer interest rates on credit cards is because people who don't pay their debts. Another, by the way, debt we owe people is not just one another but we owe the government a debt. When you refuse to pay your taxes, you are defrauding government of what belongs to them. Yes, it belongs to them. Matthew 22:21, Jesus said: "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's".
In fact, how many of you have heard the verse owe no man anything except a debt of love? You know that scripture? I bet most people don't know the context of that Scripture has to do with paying your taxes to government. In Romans 13 Paul has just talked about government being ordained by God. Listen, most people don't realize this. God created not just the church, not just the church and family. He created three institutions: the church, the family, and government. Government is just as much of a God-created organization as the church is or the family is, and he's given to each of those three organizations specific responsibilities. They aren't to get in somebody else's lane to do their responsibility; they're to keep their God-ordained responsibility, and the responsibility of government is to protect its citizens from evildoers.
And Paul says in verse 6 of Romans 13, "You also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them; tax to whom tax is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Owe no one anything except to love one another". Don't be delinquent in paying anyone, including the government, what is owed them. Another way we defraud people, not only failing to pay a debt but failing to treat employers and employees fairly.
Paul addresses this in Colossians chapters 3 and chapters 4. He says for example, workers, when you don't give your employer a full day's work for a full day's wage you're defrauding them. He says in verse 22 of Colossians 3, "In all things obey those who are over you on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than men". Here's the Jeffress paraphrase. Don't work when the boss is looking only, work when the boss isn't looking knowing that the Big Boss is always looking. That's exactly what Paul is saying. Give your employer a full day's work for a full day's wage.
But he also has a word for employers. He says in Colossians 4:1 be sure you're treating your employees with justice and fairness knowing that you have a Master in heaven. We're to be fair with our employees. We're to pay them what they're worth and what they're due. We're not to take advantage of them. A third way we defraud is not only refusing to pay our debt or refusing to treat employees and employers equitably but failing to give to God what he commands. That is a form of robbery.
You say, "Wait a minute. Can you really rob God of something? Can you really stick your gun in his face and say, 'Stick them up?'" Well, God said you can, and here's how. Malachi 3 he asked the very same question. "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me. But you say, 'How have we robbed you, God?'" God answers, "In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you". What's the remedy for it? "'Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there might be food in My house. And test Me now in this,' says the Lord of hosts, 'if I will not open the windows for you of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.'"
There's a fourth way we rob people; and that is by defaming them, robbing them of their most important possession, their reputation. Whenever we spread slander and gossip about another person, we are guilty of robbing them of their reputation. That is by the way such a serious offense that God devotes a whole commandment, the ninth commandment to that specific sin that we'll talk about next time. Let me say a word now about the cost of violating the eighth commandment. When we steal something from somebody else no matter how we do it, we are certainly robbing them of something valuable. But listen to this. We're also robbing ourselves of something very valuable. It's found in 1 Timothy 1, verse 19. Paul said be sure to keep faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.
Do you remember what a clear conscience is? Paul says it's essential if you're going to succeed in your relationship with God. Here's the definition of a clear conscience. It's the knowledge that neither God nor anybody else can accuse you of a wrong you've not attempted to make right. A clear conscience is that assurance that neither God nor anyone else can accuse you of a wrong you haven't attempted to make right. Are there certain people you try to avoid, you don't want to run into, if you see them coming you go the other way? It's because you don't have a clear conscience. You're afraid they're going to accuse you of something between you that you've not attempted to make right.
Now, lots of people who can accuse you and me of doing wrong, but the key is that we've not attempted to make right. That's what a clear conscience is. There are some people who avoid God. They don't come to church, they don't read their Bibles, they don't pray because there's a gulf between them and God. They haven't confessed. They haven't made right what is wrong between them and their Creator. When you steal from somebody and you haven't confessed it and attempted to make it right, you're going to suffer from a guilty conscience. Let me ask you this question. Do you have the assurance that when you meet God one day you won't be ashamed on the Day of Judgment as the Bible says? Are you sure that God won't be able to accuse you of any wrong that you haven't made right?
I came across this week an amazing story. I had not known it. Maybe you have. It's from the life of Davy Crockett, and we often associate with the Alamo. Many people don't know that before Davy Crockett came to Texas he was a sophomore congressman from Tennessee. And during the legislative session of 1829 to 1830, one of the primary goals of the newly-elected president, Andrew Jackson, was the passage of the Indian Removal Act. That's a nice sounding name from stealing land from the Indians, uprooting them from their southeastern homes in the Southeastern United States and relocating them to Indian territory, which is present-day Oklahoma. To make that journey, they had to travel along the Trail of Tears it was caused not only because so many Indians lost their life in the process but also because it meant the giving up of their tribal lands.
Andrew Jackson was a Tennessean. Davy Crockett was a Tennessean. So it was thought that Davy Crockett would certainly vote with the president in this matter and that because they were both Tennesseans that he would actually champion this measure by President Andrew Jackson. Davy Crockett did neither. Here's what he said about this. "It was expected of me that I was to bow to the name of Andrew Jackson and follow him in all of his motions and turnings even at the expense of my own conscience and judgment. Such a thing was new to me. His famous," or rather I should say infamous, "Indian plan was brought forward and I opposed it for the purest motives in the world. Several of my colleagues got around me and told me how they loved me but I was ruining myself. They said this was a favorite measure of the new president and I ought to go for it. I told them I believed it was wicked, an unjust measure; and that I should go against it let the cost of myself be what it might. I voted against this Indian bill and my conscience yet tells me that I have a good honest vote, one that I believe will not make me ashamed on that Day of Judgment".
Davy Crockett finished his term, was promptly defeated in his bid for reelection, came to Texas, gave his life at the Alamo for Texas independence yet when he met his Creator he met him with a clear conscience. He knew he could not be accused of stealing property that was not rightfully his. Will you be able to face God that way, knowing that there's no wrong in your life you haven't attempted to make right? "Well, pastor, I'm guilty of one if not all of those ways of stealing, taking what's not mine. What should I do"? A good answer to that is found in the story of Zacchaeus, that wee little man in Luke chapter 19. Remember his story?
Zacchaeus was a Jew, but he was a tax collector for the Romans. He had purchased the right from the Romans to collect taxes, and the Romans allowed him to charge whatever he wanted, get as much money as he could as long as he sent the right amount to Rome. And so he stole from his fellow Jews. He stole a lot of money. He was very rich, but that all changed one day when he was up in that sycamore tree and Jesus passed by and pointed him out and said, "Zacchaeus, guess what? I'm coming to your house to eat today". Zacchaeus was so excited. He invited the Lord in, other guests. We don't know what the conversation was that day, but midway in the conversation Zacchaeus stood up and said, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone," and the Greek conditional clause, the first conditional clause is and since I have defrauded, "I will give back four times as much".
That was interesting because the Old Testament law, Leviticus 6:5, only required that if you've stolen something you give what you stole back and add 20% to it. Zacchaeus said, "No, I'm going to do 400%". Remember what Jesus said when Zacchaeus made that proclamation? Jesus said to Zacchaeus, "Today salvation has come to this house". Was Jesus saying Zacchaeus purchased his salvation by giving money to the poor and making restitution? No. But what he was saying is this. Zacchaeus' willingness to make restitution was proof, was evidence that he had received the gift of salvation. Yes, if you've stolen from somebody else you can be forgiven, but with that forgiveness by God comes a responsibility; a responsibility to make restitution, to pay back what you've stolen and to go and sin no more.