A Grand Larceny

David Burchard Doctrine, Exposition, Politics Leave a Comment

God hates stealing. He hates thievery. This is clear from Exodus 20:15 and Romans 13:9. Thou shall not steal. Don’t take, by force or by fraud, by strong muscles or slick tricks, what is not yours!

In this Bible study, we want to love what God loves and hate what God hates.

My job as a teacher is not to leave here having not offended you. It isn’t to leave here with you liking me more. My job is to make God’s Word as clear as I can, and to point you to the way of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

So let’s begin our night of considering this commandment, don’t steal, with a consideration of God.

Psalm 24:1-2 reads, “The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it. For He has founded it upon the seas and established it upon the rivers.”

What has God done? He has created the world, the land, the seas, the rivers, and every living thing. He is the Creator of everyone and everything.

What then is God’s relationship to everyone and everything that he has made? He is the owner. He has ownership rights, to do with what he has made whatever he wants to do. He has the ownership rights to demand whatever he will, to expect whatever he will, to use however he will, to give or takeaway however he will.

Every single individual and institution in this world exists at his pleasure, and is bound to do his pleasure alone.

Now, this brings us to our first application point of the night. Remember, we are considering God’s command, do not steal. What is theft? To steal from someone is to take as your own that which belongs to them, through force or deceit. And what did Psalm 24 tell us? You are not your own. You belong to God. Your breaths are all his. And he demands that you use each breath, every fiber of your being, to the praise of his glory, to display his unmatched majesty and awesomeness.

Have you used each breath of your life to enjoy him, to celebrate him, to honor him? No, you have not! You are a thief, a thief who has stolen from the One who sees and knows all, from the One with all power, from the One who is jealous, who never lets the guilty go unpunished.

And so you must die. You have sinned against a holy God, and the good consequence of your sin is your death in hellfire forever. Do not think you will get away from this judge. He is no joke. He is no pushover. He is not slack. He cannot be duped. There is no escape.

Except… Except…

There is no escape from the wrath of God against you EXCEPT in the Lord Jesus Christ, God the Son, who died in the place of and for the sin of all who would turn to him in faith for salvation. He rose again and sits now on the throne of heaven, ready to receive all who would run to him for escape from the wrath of God, all who would seek pardon for their sins in him alone, all who know that in him is their only hope, that in him alone is eternal life.

Will you run to Jesus? Will you believe in the sinless One, who took the sin of all his people upon himself at the cross? Will you believe in the crucified and risen King of kings, your Maker, your Judge, the only Savior of sinners? Will you be saved?

Do not be a fool.

So, recognizing that we are not our own, but belong to our Maker, the first point tonight is that we are sinners against God who need to be saved by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone.

Again, our text tonight is, “You shall not steal.” We have seen that all of us as individuals are guilty of theft, even if we’ve never chored a bike seat. We have all robbed God of the honor and obedience he is due. But our guilt does not end there.

I would be failing you if I did not also point out that God in his Word charges your very government with theft. Being guilty of theft, God demands repentance from your government, and from all who allow it to thrive on thievery. Repentance from sin and faith in the true King is always the remedy to our problems, for us and for our governments.

I recognize that I’ve just made a bold claim, and it is my duty to show you from God’s Word why it is true. I don’t expect you to agree simply because I say it is so. But, if I can show you that it is what God says, then you have no option but to agree and have it shape your life. When God speaks on a matter, the importance of our preferences dissolves, and we are left to simply say, “Thank you, yes sir.”

Your government, and my government too, is guilty of stealing the goods and responsibilities of its people. That is my charge. And this is why it is true.

As I said earlier, God has made every individual and institution. Therefore he owns every individual and institution, and they are all accountable to him for their obedience or disobedience. And under his Kingship, he has given individuals and institutions real ownership of goods and responsibilities. In Acts 5, we see that Ananias and Sapphira’s stuff was their stuff, at least until God killed them dead. Your stuff is your stuff. It does not belong to another person or group.

This is true of governments, too. God has made governments and given to them specific responsibilities and goods. So we hear Jesus say in Matthew 22:21 that we are to give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. And what belongs to Caesar? The sword. The sword belongs to Caesar, a sword to be wielded in punishing evildoers, organizing defense from foreign foes, and bestowing honor upon the honorable.

Romans 13:3  “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil…”

Romans 13:4 “But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for [the government] does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”

1 Peter 2:14 “Governors [are] sent by [God] for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.”

Punish bad guys, fight off invaders, knight heroes with a tap on each shoulder. This is the job of government.

From Romans 13, we also see that God has allowed governments to tax people so that they can do these three things well. They are told by God to do these things, they are uniquely made able to do these things by God, and they can justly tax for these things, insofar as those taxes are charges for right services rightly provided. Any other activity taken up by a government is an act of theft, stealing from another the responsibility given to that other by God himself. Any tax that funds such unlawful activity is theft, stealing money from others for wrongful services wrongly provided—and most often, these unlawful, thieving taxes don’t even provide a good or service directly to the person taxed. Activity and taxation not given to the government by God is wrongfully taken by the government by force and trickery, and so is stealing, condemned by God.

This is why socialism is sin. This is why most of the activity of your government, and mine, is sin.

And this isn’t just important for your voting. If I hold a knife to Joe’s throat and take the shirt off his back, and then give you the shirt, and you saw the whole thing, should you take that shirt? No. To do so is to back the robbery, and God in Romans 1 charges those who encourage sin with sin. So if your government steals from its citizens in the form of taxation, and offers that stolen money to you in the form of “welfare benefits”, ought you to take it? No. That money is not the government’s to give, and it is not yours to possess, for it is still rightfully belonging to another, the man or woman from whom it was taken. That is stolen money. Just because it is given a nice name, and the folks with the most strength in society say it is ok to have, DOES NOT MAKE IT OK.

What does the Bible say about those who are on benefits in this country?

For those who are able, they are to get jobs, whatever jobs they’re able to secure.

This is what God says.

1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 “But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life and attend to your own business and work with your hands, just as we commanded you, so that you will behave properly toward outsiders and not be in any need.”

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12 “For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.”

For those who are unable to get jobs because of age and ill-health, they are to be cared for by their families. If there is no family, then the church. If they do not belong to the church and there is no family, then it falls to the charity of friends and neighbors.

This is what God says.

1 Timothy 5
“Honor widows who are widows indeed; but if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God. Now she who is a widow indeed and who has been left alone, has fixed her hope on God and continues in entreaties and prayers night and day. But she who gives herself to wanton pleasure is dead even while she lives. Prescribe these things as well, so that they may be above reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. But refuse to put younger widows on the list, for when they feel sensual desires in disregard of Christ, they want to get married, thus incurring condemnation, because they have set aside their previous pledge. At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach; for some have already turned aside to follow Satan. If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed.”

Christian, God has commanded you to not be a thief. The path he would call you to walk is one that leads away from stealing and toward honest, quiet living.

This is what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6.

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

As I said at the beginning, each one of us is guilty of stealing, from God, and from fellow man. We are guilty sinners who deserve the wrath of God. Turn to Jesus, the crucified and risen King, for by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone there is forgiveness of sin and eternal life with God.

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