In the spring of 1993, we rented a two bedroom apartment for about three months during the time it took to complete the construction of our new house. It was an adventure squeezing everyone and everything into a crowded space but we managed.
The apartment complex was a single row of two-story townhouses with a shared roofline between all of the apartments. Each apartment had a small access panel in the ceiling of an upstairs closet where you could enter the attic. We paid no attention to the access since we had no need to get into the attic. We piled our boxes of packed belongings all the way to the ceiling in the closet, stuffing it as full as possible so that we wouldn’t be taking up valuable floor space in the bedrooms.
One day we got a call from the landlord asking if we had noticed anything missing in our apartment. We responded with, “No, why?” It so happened that a thief had broken into the complex and had taken advantage of the open attic connection between the apartments, entering through the various access panels in the closets. However, in his foolish attempt, he managed to fall through the sheet rock ceiling in the apartment next to ours.
Upon hearing the story, I checked the access panel in our apartment and lo and behold it had indeed been removed. Fortunately, the boxes were stacked so high and tight in our closet that the thief couldn’t get in. Ha, ha! Thank you Lord for small blessings!
Ephesians 4:28 (ESV)
28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
It is an interesting reason that Paul gave the Ephesians for not stealing. He didn’t say, “Don’t steal, it’s wrong; work and earn money so that you can buy your own stuff.” No, he said, “Don’t be a thief, earn an honest living so that you have something to share with somebody else.”
As a gentle reminder, everything in scripture must be read in context. Read the entire chapter of Ephesians 4 or at least the section from verse 17 to the end of the chapter.
Paul was addressing the church, people who claimed to have some interest in following the teachings of Jesus. He was giving specific instructions about how to live, or in some cases, how not to live. He used phrases like, “Don’t live like the Gentiles,” simply meaning people whose god is the world and money. They are full of indulgence and greed. They are insensitive, deceitful, and dishonest.
Don’t be that guy who on the surface looks like an honest businessman but in reality takes advantage of the old and poor by selling them products and services they don’t need and therefore robs them of their financial means to survive. If you do, then you are a thief.
No, he reminds his readers, we are followers of Christ; we can do better than that. Instead we work harder to earn extra money so that we can help those people who are truly destitute.
It’s a lesson in opposites. Instead of taking, you should be giving.
Mugs held high!! Here’s to a productive day at work and prayers for the needy!