I want you to consider God’s diagnosis of what is going on inside your heart. I know enough of your background to say that I would be surprised to read in the paper that you were arrested and charged with retail theft. I know that you would bristle at the thought of that. However there are other ways to steal.
Just like Jesus taught that hatred is heart murder and lust is heart adultery (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28), he also taught that stealing is more than stuffing a DVD into your shirt at Wal-Mart. Listen:
For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification. So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, emphasis mine)
It is that word “defraud” that I want you to see. You could substitute the words “cheat” or “swindle” or “con.” I honestly think that you fall into this category for these reasons:
- You stole from your employer because he had to go without services he hired you to perform. Instead having you, a trained staff member, complete a task, he had to get a less-than-satisfactory job done when you were not there to carry your portion of the load.
- You stole from your girlfriend when you became “too physical.” You may claim that you did not go “all the way,” but any sexual pleasure you get from her robs her and her future husband (even if you think that future husband is you) of something that belongs only to them.
- You stole from your parents and your church because as a member of both of those families you selfishly kept back simple service that should have been theirs because you thought you were too busy to serve (busy playing games and doing what pleased you).
I do not intend to judge you, but God’s word is the best judge of any of us. What does this text say? Because you have repeatedly turned from the instruction you grew up with, I give you the words of the Holy Spirit written about Jordan through the apostle Paul: Jordan “is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.”
You may question what I am about to say, but I think I have your attention now. There is a solution to this problem. Jesus did not die for victims of other people’s sins. He died for sinners. If you think the things you are going through right now are the fault of someone else, I am not going to be able to help you. But if you are one of those sinners, I can offer you hope for a solution. Jesus died to rescue sinners from their sins. Thieves are sinners. Jesus died to rescue thieves from their stealing. Here is one text that gives the way out:
He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. (Ephesians 4:28)
Here is the bottom line. You need to find your pleasure in a better place. Follow the logic of the text I just gave you:
- You do not stop being a thief when you stop stealing, but when you start doing something useful with your hands.
- You do not start doing something useful with your hands until you have an internal desire to share with those in need.
I will take you elsewhere in Scripture to show you that you will not have that internal desire until there is a fundamental internal transformation that only comes when you run from the judgment you deserve to the mercy provided by the one who died to rescue people like you from things like stealing.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:16-21)
The gospel of the Redeemer who conquered sin and death turns thieves into givers. It makes you do useful things with your hands for the good of others who need what you do.
My call to you, Jordan: run to the only one who can not only rescue you from the judgment you deserve, but to the only one who can rescue you from yourself.