“Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need.”
This is Paul’s third admonition of what to stop doing (put off) and start doing (put on).
From stealing to sharing. From being a taker to being a giver. “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need.” (v.28)
While there are thieves who purposely steal from others, I think Paul is talking about a deeper, more universal principle here. There are givers in the world, and there are takers.
People who work hard on the job are givers; people who are lazy on the job are takers. The workman who does not put in a hard day’s work but still accepts his wage is a taker who is ‘stealing’ from his employer. A spouse who fails to do the work required for a healthy relationship is a taker who is ‘stealing’ from the marriage. A person who takes more than gives from a friendship is stealing from that friendship.
The old nature is concerned with self. It takes. Our new nature is concerned with others. It gives. We serve a Savior and King who is the ultimate Giver. He calls us to put off the self-centeredness of the old nature, and by the renewing of our mind, put on the new nature which has a heart for serving others.
“Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you.” (Proverbs 3:27-28)
There are alot of takers in our world. In contrast to the selfishness of the takers, Christians in the workplace and in the community are called to be givers. We are called to be supportive and helpful to others whenever possible.
Being a giver is a mindset; it is a way of thinking that comes from our relationship with Jesus, who is the ultimate Giver. This is Paul’s message in Philippians 2: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
Being a giver is a battle of the heart. It’s easy to be selfish. The natural impulse is to seek your own interests, pursue your own agenda, and look out for yourself. But self-centeredness is not the way of the kingdom of God. It is not the fruit of the Spirit. It is the path of darkness.
Consider this: Jesus loves you and died for you knowing that you might not love him back. Those who have recognized and responded to God’s great gift in Christ are called to follow the example of the Savior and be a giver.
“Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!” (Psalm 119.36)