READ : Ephesians 4:25-32
Let the thief no longer steal. (v. 28)
A farmer friend in Iowa told me he lost the keys to his house sometime in the mid 1980s. He said he never bothered to get a new set made because he never locked his house! Ah, if only life could be like that everywhere.
“Let the thief no longer steal.” Ephesians calls for a community in which people do not take what does not belong to them. But Ephesians adds an interesting twist: “. . . rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” I like how Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message: “Did you use to make ends meet by stealing? Well, no more! Get an honest job so that you can help others who can't work.”
Ephesians replaces stealing with giving to the needy. Theft and giving cannot co-exist. If I give what I have stolen, then the real giver is not me; it's the person from whom I stole. In order to be able to give to the needy, I must labor honestly so that my gift is actually that—my gift.
This Ephesians passage reminds us that the early church welcomed into her fellowship members of the criminal class, to whom theft was the ordinary means of livelihood. But the passage applies equally well to us, for in one way or another we have all stolen. “Well, no more!” From now on we do honest work, and we share with those in need.
Lord, help me to work hard and to give generously. Amen.