Preach from 630 at TRINITY 8th April 2018
Available to listen to here
As with previous 10 Commandments talks, much as been taking from J Johns ’10’ which I highly recommend…
You Shall not Steal // 10 commandments Series // Luke 19:1-10 Zaccheus
So we have had a few weeks break but we are back today in our series on the 10 commandments.
So quick round up to get us going –
We have covered so far:
You shall have no other Gods before me
You shall have no idols
Do not take the Lord’s name in vain
Keep the Sabbath
Honour your father and mother
Do not murder
Do not commit adultery and
Today we are at: do not steal
And how are we doing with this series so far
When I kicked us off with this series I encouraged you to engage with this topic in order to seek Jesus through the commandments, thinking about how each one could help us to be closer to God, have a better relationship with God. I am sure you have all being doing that right?
Because we know, we have learned that the 10 commandments were given from God (read in Exodus 19), they have been the basis of so much since then, they even form the foundation of the legal systems of the western world, are enshrined in the heart of our governmental structures and they have set out the values at the very core of our civilisation.
And they are still there, still relevant, to help us see God’s forgiving grace found in Christ.
And when we looked at the first commandment, I said that all the other commandments revolve around that one –
Exodus 20: 2-3
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
And so today we think about You shall not steal – and why is that important to the one and only God
So, what even is stealing?
I mean in one sense it’s obvious isn’t it. If I walked up to xx and took their bag, I’d be stealing it, taking it without permission. If I went over to the pub, ordered a point and drank it and walked out without paying, I’d be stealing, right?
What about some of these?:
How many of you are in paid work?
OK ever taken a coffee break that is a bit too long – longer than your allotted time?
Ever ‘borrowed’ something from work not to bring it back?
Made personal phone calls on the work phone?
Taken a duvet day because you just don’t want to go into work?
Is that stealing?
How many of you have ever sold anything online? On Facebook pages/ ebay etc?
Have you given a completely honest description of your item? Or neglected to mention the grubby mark on one side, the tiny hole on the back because no one will notice it, or charged more for postage than it will actually cost you?
Is that stealing?
Download movies or music you haven’t paid for?
Is that stealing?
borrowed something from a friend and not given it back?
Is that stealing?
How many of you share pictures or images online?
Ever used someone else’s picture without asking? or posted something and claimed it as your own?
Is that stealing?
Sometimes we use the general understanding of the culture around us to make a decision, don’t we? Well everyone else does it so it must be ok…
That’s how the MP’s expenses scandal a few years ago blew up – the general understanding for claiming expenses for MPs seemed pretty loose and so as a result people claimed for things they shouldn’t have done.
Some of them clearly knew what they were doing and went to prison or were prosecuted as a result. Others were perhaps if we are honest, just victims of their own negligence – they just went along with the prevailing culture. Does that make what they did right? Ultimately they were taking money from the government that they were not entitled to. Where does the line of responsibility fall?
Or taxes – where to start!
How many big companies do we hear about that don’t pay tax in this country or do everything they can to pay as little tax as possible. Caffe Nero, Vodafone, GAP, Waterstones, Apple, McDonalds, Starbucks,
pay no corporation tax in the UK as they claim to have made losses in the UK despite their worldwide brands being hugely profitable.
and plenty of others paying v little tax
And what they are doing is completely legal. And everyone does it…
But is it right? Is it actually stealing?
Zaccheus – was a thief – stole from taxes – everyone did it – culture
We heard about Zaccheus in our reading. Zaccheus was a tax collector, and as such would have been pretty unpopular. I mean even now people don’t like tax collectors do they. I had a friend who worked for HMRC and was the butt of so many jokes because of it!
Back then, I think it was probably worse.
Tax collectors in Jesus’ time were not popular! Not only did they have to collect taxes – and in person, none of this taken out a source stuff we have – in person people had to see them and pay them and if they didn’t they’d be in trouble.
And not just in trouble with the TC but with the Roman regime, TCs collected taxes on behalf of the ruling Romans and as I am sure we know the Romans were hated even more than TCs.
More than that TCS were usually Jews working for the Romans, so they were seen as traitors almost, instead of fighting against oppression they were colluding with it – going along with the prevailing culture… Plus it was common knowledge that most tax collectors cheated and took more than they needed to line their own pockets. Everyone knew it, the people knew it the Romans knew it, it was part of the culture.
So Z would have been just doing what the others did. Perhaps a bit like the Caffe Nero, or Gap, Mcdonalds of the day?
Stealing from God as a concept – time / prayer / money / kindness – if we steal from others or don’t give to others are we actually stealing from God?
Leads us away from him – idolatory even
So how do we feel about those examples of let’s say dishonesty? Ive just been through?
Do we think that they all amount to stealing? Because I would suggest that in some ways yes they all are.
So here’s the thing – we might all get up in arms about stealing – morally it’s wrong, I expect we all agree on that. We’d be annoyed at someone like Z skimming off more money than he should, or at Vodafone not paying their corporation tax, but what about us?
Because I want to suggest that we steal every day and what’s worse, – we steal from God.
In Matt 25 Jesus is talking about the kingdom of God and the final judgement. He says those who offered water or food or hospitality to a stranger, effectively did it for him : Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
That’s a lovely picture isn’t it? That when we help others, especially those in need, God sees it and he knows, as if we were doing it for Jesus himself.
But Jesus goes on, in that passage… that the king would say:
41 … ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
That’s quite a challenge isn’t it – for us now. He’s basically saying if we have the opportunity to help someone in need, and we don’t do it, it is as if Jesus himself were in front of us and we are refusing to help him.
If you walk past a homeless person and don’t even say hello, if you know someone is sick or in need and you don’t bother to see how they are, if you never share from the blessings God has given to you – you are literally turning away from Jesus. I’d go as far as to say, you are stealing from God himself.
All things come from him in the first place.
David’s prayer when he’s asking people to give so he can build the temple in 1 chronicles 29
10 David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
“Praise be to you, Lord,
the God of our father Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting.
11 Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power
and the glory and the majesty and the splendor,
for everything in heaven and earth is yours.
Yours, Lord, is the kingdom;
you are exalted as head over all.
12 Wealth and honor come from you;
you are the ruler of all things.
In your hands are strength and power
to exalt and give strength to all.
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks,
and praise your glorious name.
He says that everything belongs to God…
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
2 Cor 9 – all about encouraging generosity:
8And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Everything we have is from God. You know you can think that you’ve worked hard for your money – but then if hard work was all that was required, refuse collectors, Nurses, teachers would all be millionaires.
Deut 8:17 even says:
17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…
And here’s another question – what about our time?
What do we do with our time? Are we honouring God by giving him our time?
How much of our time do we give to him?
Are we stealing time from him?
Might sound a bit strange, but…
I’d ask you what you spend most of your time on? If you did a schedule of your week –
And look we all have to work or study or eat or whatever but what else:
Might be social media in there
Watching TV or youtube
Playing sport / keeping fit
Reading (& what are you reading?)
Playing on X box
Hanging out with friends
How much of our time do we devote to God?
For example – in simplistic form, because we can be spending time with God whatever we are doing…
Do you read your bible more than you go on Instagram?
Do you pray as much as your screen time?
Do you spend time doing good for God’s kingdom as much as you play sport
Are we stealing time from God?
You know, I reminded us at the start that the commandments are all about helping us in our relationship with God, helping us to see Jesus and to walk more like him. So when we act in contradiction to them, we are being drawn away from God – the enemy, the devil is attempting to steal US away from God.
John 10.10 says :
10 The thief (ie the devil) comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I (Jesus) have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Or other versions say – in abundance…
Jesus comes to give us life in abundance.
He is generous in the extreme and he delights in doing that. It’s in his character.
The enemy is the one who wants to steal that away from us. Wants to steal us away from God, wants to draw us into lives that are not honouring to God, when we steal in any way we are effectively saying God what you’ve given me is not enough, your abundance is not enough..
The devil is the ultimate thief, so when we act in a way that could be called stealing, we are doing his work not God’s.
The devil is quite happy if we just go along with the prevailing culture because if we do that we are doing his will not God’s.
We adhere to worldly standards, not God’s.
We think about what is right in the world’s view, not God’s view.
But our example is Jesus. Always Jesus. If you are not sure about something – ask yourself: what would Jesus do, as the old saying goes…?
God sees our heart
Was there something in Z heart that he knew he needed Jesus? He climbed a tree to see him!
But before we start beating ourselves us to much for what we are not doing or are doing. Let’s go back to Zacceheus.
But what’s interesting about Zaccehus is that when he heard Jesus was coming, he wanted to see him, and so much so that he climbed a tree in order to see him.
I sometimes wonder about this – In mean he was a very wealthy man, he must have had servants who he could have asked to find him a better place to see, or even to lift him up. But there is something about this image that shows him in the same light as everyone else, humbling him – if he wanted to see Jesus, he had to put in the effort himself. His money didn’t make any difference here.
So did he, despite his way of living, despite going along with prevailing culture, did he actually recognise he needed something else in his life?
Did he recognise that money wasn’t bringing him happiness?
Did he even wonder if what he was doing was right?
And what happened?
Jesus saw him. Not only did he see him but he knew him, he called him by name. and went to Zaccheus’ house. Such a great example of who Jesus is that as we’ve seen in other examples he went to those that others hated or turned away from. Because he sees beyond the outside, and loves everyone. The bible tells us that God sees our hearts and perhaps he saw Zaccheus’? perhaps he saw something in him that others didn’t?
We should reflect God’s character – generosity/ kindness etc
Jesus is our example in life isn’t he? We want to be more like him – I hope! That’s what discipleship is all about, learning to live a life that is more like Jesus, it’s life long, a journey that continues until the day we die.
And what do we know of Jesus or of God’s character?
Jesus was compassionate
Matth 9:36: 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
He served others:
45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
He loved people – John 3:16 he embodied love
He was forgiving:
Luke 23:34, when Jesus is on the cross and proclaims: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
So instead of thinking about how to avoid stealing in our lives, why don’t we think about how much of our lives is an example of Jesus and how he would react.
what we are giving instead of stealing? how much abundance are we giving?
Not fitting in with culture
Z – Jesus showed him a different culture
Response – not just to stop but to make it right in abundance
I love Z’s response, almost before Jesus’ has said or done anything!
He stands up and says:
“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
Here’s a man who sees a different way of living. Not only does he see what he’s done wrong and want to repent of his behaviour, he gives back abundantly – 4 times what he has taken!
Not fitting in with prevailing culture now is he!?
So I’d love us this week to think about whether we are people living in the abundance of what God has given us, and sharing that example, or whether we are those going along with prevailing culture and taking what we can?
Are we Zaccheus the tax collector before he met Jesus or are we the generous Zaccheus who has understood the abundance of God?
Prayer and response….