Warning Against Theft: a Plea for Honest Work
Ephesians 4:28
Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good…

It may seem strange that such an admonition should be addressed to believers. It is no more strange than admonitions against fornication. "Flee fornication" (1 Corinthians 6:18). It is a warning against dishonesty, which often assumes insidious disguises that conceal the true character of the injury done to our neighbors.

I. THEFT IS ONE OF THOSE SINS WHICH OUGHT NOT EVEN TO BE NAMED AMONG CHRISTIANS. It springs out of the deep selfishness of the heart. It is a breach of the great commandment of love - that love "which worketh no ill to his neighbor" - and proves that the world has a great hold upon the heart that can plan the deed of dishonesty.

II. THE REMEDY PRESCRIBED TO PREVENT THEFT IS HONEST WORK. "Let him labor, working with his hands."

1. God is our Employer. He has appointed our work and he requires it at our hands (Acts 20:34; 1 Thessalonians 4:11). It ought to be part of our worship. The gospel does not forbid our making an honest gain, nor does it countenance any indifference to our mere earthly advantage. It gives no encouragement to asceticism.

2. Idleness is inconsistent with Christian life and leads to many dangers. "Idleness occasions poverty, brings men to want, increases their necessities; and then they betake themselves to indirect and unlawful means to supply them." There were persons at Thessalonica who were "working not at all, but were busybodies" (2 Thessalonians 3:11). Christianity gives no encouragement to monkish idleness. It was designed for a busy world.

3. It must be honest work. "Working with his hands the thing which is good." We may not steal, either to enrich others or ourselves. We may not seek our own advantage by oppression or injury to others, or by the gain of callings dishonoring to our Christian profession. "The matter of our alms must be goods righteously gotten; otherwise it is robbery, not righteousness."

4. It is work for the benefit of others as well as ourselves. "That he may have to give to him that needeth." We are not to amass wealth for our own enjoyment, but that we may supply the necessities of others. There are some who cannot work. Their wants we are bound to supply, for no man liveth to himself. "The righteous man giveth and spareth not" (Proverbs 21:26). "Who would not rather be a laborer than a loiterer, seeing the sluggard is so miserable a wretch, but the just man so-happy and able to do good works?" -T.C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.

WEB: Let him who stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need.

Theft of Various Kinds
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