Hands Off!

William C. Brownson

READ : Ephesians 4:25-28

You shall not steal. (Ex. 20:15)

Here God lays the hand of his loving authority on another vital area of human experience—our economic life. He wills to be Lord in the way we acquire and distribute property and carry on trade and commerce.

This command clearly underlines the right to own property. What I steal evidently belonged to someone else first. Possessing property is a God-given privilege, protected by his sanctions. Think of all the good things this right offers us: incentive to work (so as to buy), stimulus to learn (to gain employable skills), development of character (in the use of wealth), and best of all, having something to give.

God’s commandment forbids not only the work of pickpockets, thieves and burglars—the “have-nots” taking from the “haves.” The Bible more often emphasizes crimes of the rich against the poor: withholding wages, using false weights and balances, charging excessive interest, selling the needy for profit—whatever unjustly enriches some at the expense of others.

Paul offers a happy alternative to theft, “Thieves must give up stealing, rather let them labor and work honestly . . . so as to have something to share with the needy” (Eph. 4:28). Won by the self-giving love of the Lord, we are to become workers and givers instead of idlers and takers. God says about stealing, “Hands off!” For his people, the word is “Hands out!”—in generous love!


Lord, your grace makes us givers instead of takers!