“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” (Exodus 20:17)
As you can see, these commands have to do with not taking and not desiring other people’s stuff. Now, why does God care about our attitude toward other people’s stuff? He obviously cares about it, because he devoted 20% of the ten commandments to this subject. Why?
In another place in the Old Testament, God summarized the law this way:
God is after our hearts. Just as the 6th and 7th commandments addressed the gods of power and sex that most men run hard after, the 8th and 10th commandments address our love of money and possessions.
In later verses (and really throughout the whole Bible), God will command that men not steal and pay restitution when they do (Exodus 22:1), that men compensate others when we damage what is theirs (Exodus 22:5), that men not cheat each other in business dealings (Deuteronomy 25:13– back in that time, weights were used for measuring out whatever goods were being exchanged. Dishonest men would carry two sets of weights – one for buying and one for selling – in order to make more profit for themselves), that men must care for the poor (Leviticus 19:10), and so forth. Again, I ask, “Why?”
Because God is the great Giver. Everything we have comes from Him, even the ability to earn a living at all. (Deuteronomy 8:18)
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:17-19)
Who are the “rich in this present age”? Read David Platt’s book Radical and you will know the answer. 🙂 The fact is, that compared with many parts of the world, if you have a roof over your head, clothes to wear, and money in the bank for more than today’s food…you’re rich.
So how are we to live? We are not to set our “hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” Who provides us with everything to enjoy? God is our provider. We are also to “do good.” We are “to be rich in good works.” We are “to be generous and ready to share.” In doing this we store up treasure for ourselves “as a good foundation for the future.” Jesus explained that this treasure we store up is treasure in heaven. (Matthew 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 18:22) This treasure lasts forever and can never be stolen. (Matthew 6:19-21)
As I pointed out earlier, we are also to make restitution when we do take what belongs to someone else. This is what Zacchaeus did in Luke 19. Why did Zacchaeus make four-fold restitution? Go back again to the law of Israel in Exodus 22:1 for the answer to that one. Four-fold restitution is what the law required.
Jesus said that money and possessions can become an idol. (Luke 16:13)
We are to be content with what the Giver has given us. (Hebrews 13:5) Our trust should be in the Lord as our Provider, and not in wealth or possessions. One of the ministries I work with (TheHopeLine) was $80,000 in the hole a week ago, due to some unforeseen expenses. That ministry received an unexpected gift from a corporate donor of $100,000 this week. God takes care of our needs.
We are to work hard. (Ephesians 4:28) And, notice the motivation for working hard and earning money. So that we can hoard nice things for ourselves? No. So that we can “have something to share with anyone in need.” We are to be generous and cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:6-15) because we are to imitate the Lord, who is the ultimate generous Giver. (2 Corinthians 8:9)
We all need to grow in our generosity and in our understanding of the hold that money and material possessions can have on us. Praying that God will conform us both more to His image as we rely on His provision and use it to bless and serve others and not ourselves!