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“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs.” Ephesians 4:28
I didn’t think that I would get to be sharing this so soon. Yesterday, in our Sunday morning Equip class, this verse was shared. And the minute I heard it, I wrote it down. It’s not like this is the first time I’ve heard this verse. It was used in a movie about a boy who found a chimpanzee because the boy was having some problems. And his mom would read Scripture, and this was one of the verses. I’ve heard it time and time again. But yesterday was different.
Why was it different? Because recently in Malachi, I heard You, God, using it differently. You were speaking to the Levites, to the ones who were chosen and anointed to lead the people to You, those who were to set the example of true worship. And this is the question You posed to them, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me. But you say, ‘Wherein have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse: for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation.” So maybe there is a bigger truth at stake here than just not taking that which is not physically ours. Maybe we can be guilty of taking that which is not spiritually or emotionally ours to take.
Now the reason that I’m thinking on this again today, is because of where You have me in Scripture. I’m meditating on Zechariah 5 today, not because I flipped through looking for kinds of robbing, but because this is where You and I are today in our Scripture time together. Yesterday was Zechariah 4, today is Zechariah 5. I’m going through the prophets so I can meditate on You better and Your qualities. I’m starting at Malachi because he was the closest prophet in time proximity to the Messiah coming in Christ. And I’m going back from there. So I think it’s pretty divine timing that today is when You choose to speak to me about stealing again and swearing falsely by Your name.
Zechariah 5:3 speaks of a curse again, just like in Malachi. This curse was spreading across the earth. Here’s the curse, “for everyone that steals shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that swears shall be cut off as on that side according to it.” There was this flying roll or scroll I guess in this vision. It was a curse being pronounced. You continued, “‘I will bring it forth,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that swears falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.’” This is way bigger than “Thou shalt not go to Wal-mart and shoplift.” Of course we shouldn’t. But there is more to it than that most basic of notions.
How can I rob You, Lord? I can rob You like the priests were robbing You, by robbing You of Your glory and of the true praise that is due You. I can rob You of my worship and the worship of those around me by distracting them or misleading them. I can rob You of the resources I should be giving back to You so that You can reinvest them in Your kingdom. I can rob You of my love. I can rob You of the right to be my Lord and Master. I can rob You of my life. I can rob You of Your value in my own eyes and the eyes of those I influence.
And in robbing You I can rob others. I can rob others of their worth as I rob You of Yours. The thing is that You don’t really become less. You are always worthy. But I rob You of that place and acknowledgement in my eyes and the eyes of others. Others don’t truly become less because I rob them of their worth and value in my eyes and maybe theirs, but I rob them of seeing and knowing and experiencing their value and therefore I rob You of Your rightful place in their lives. I can rob people of time. I can rob people of lots of their dignity.
It’s interesting that in Zechariah, the problem is both stealing and swearing. Maybe the problem is that both of these actions are taking life into our own hands and having to be in control ourselves. So first we rob You, God, of control of our lives that You created for Your glory. And we don’t stop there. We swear, we speak our “own being” into existence, or so we think. This is the Hebrew word shaba. It means to be complete. Well that sounds good, doesn’t it? But it’s not good here. The completeness is being found in oneself and what one desires. It’s not a completeness in You. It’s a completeness apart from You. It’s and idea of “seven[ing] oneself”, like repeating a declaration seven times so as to make it true or come to pass. It’s taking our life into our own hands and robbing You of control and interaction and fellowship. It’s about relying on myself instead of relying on You.
What’s Your advice? “Let the person who stole, steal no more. Let the person who thinks they have control, hand that control over to Me. Repent and turn back to Me. Give me back what is rightfully Mine. I love You and I can do far more for You and in You than You could ever imagine. Stop robbing Yourself. Stop lying to Yourself. Surrender Yourself to the Perfect and Complete One who can make You perfect and complete.”
It’s so easy to find myself robbing You, Lord, without even trying. Thank You for taking the time to warn me. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to steal no more. Thank You for Your desire to make Yourself complete in me because it’s right and pure and true and holy but also because of love, because You are Love itself. Lord, I want You to be in control so that people see You and not me. I don’t want to rob You in any way of Your glory and Your love or anything. I don’t want to usurp Your authority. I want You to have Your way. So teach me every day, more and more, how to give You what rightfully belongs to You. Let it be my joy to steward what is Yours. Let it be my joy to care for and help others care for what is theirs by honoring the lives that You have given them.
I suppose it’s better for me to sum things up with Your words, Jesus, and not mine. “You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, defraud not, honor your father and mother.” And the rich young man answered, “Master, all these things have I observed from my youth.” “Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: go your way, sell whatsoever you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.’” Could this be robbing God, summed up in the words of Jesus? Could my holding back from fully trusting You in everything be the travesty here? Could the travesty be to be loved so much by a God who wants to take care of my every need and walk with me in the midst of it and I don’t want that enough to follow? Could it be about robbing You of truly being God in my life? Lord, I don’t want to miss out on that love or that relationship. I’ll sell it all, Lord, just to have You and to follow You. I don’t want to be a thief, Lord, I want to be an heir, and child of the living God. It’s hard, God. But with You, all things are possible, even for a thief to become a son.