First and Ten: Do Not Steal INTRO Right after I graduated from college, I worked at Meijer until I could find a ministry job. One night, I was working the U-Scan, and a lady was checking out with a Sprite, but she kept looking around in a very unusual way. She then walks up to me and says, “I‟m with Loss Prevention, and someone is robbing the store right now. I‟m pretending to buy this Sprite, so when I take off running, just cancel the order and take the Sprite back.” I‟ll confess that I thought this was one of the coolest things I could witness! I just thought it was so cool that we had people in the store disguised as shoppers, but they were really out to catch thieves! After some looking around, she took off running and left the Sprite. Just a couple minutes later, she had two teenage boys by their arms, dragging them through the front of the store. After a while, I was switched to work the front desk, and they brought back the video games and digital camera they tried to steal, and I had to sign the paperwork to return them. After a while, a couple comes up to the desk saying they got a call to come to the store, that their son was caught stealing. So, I called Loss Prevention and they took the parents to the back room. I‟m sorry, but that was awesome to watch some thieves get caught like that! Have you ever heard of the GGLF? The Garden Gnome Liberation Front? This is an actual group of people whose goal is to steal gnomes from people‟s gardens claiming that the gnomes are being enslaved in gardens. So, if you have a garden gnome, be careful. Some people may feel a little guilty about stealing, but still want to free the gnomes, so there is a prank that is becoming more and more popular. People will take the gnomes and go traveling. They take pictures of the gnomes in various locations and return them with a picture album. There is usually a note talking about how the gnome liked his vacation. This is actually where Travelocity adapted the gnome as their mascot on their commercials. We‟re in the 8th part of our series about the 10 Commandments called “First and Ten,” and this morning, we‟re looking at the command, “You shall not steal,” which includes gnomes. Stealing is more of a problem in the world than you may think. It‟s more of a problem among Christians than you may think. It‟s more of a problem in me than you may think. It‟s more of a problem in you than you may think. In 2007, the New England Patriots had a camera confiscated from them. They used the camera to illegally video tape the New York Jets‟ defensive coach giving signals so that they could steal those signals. This happened just one year after a memo was given to every NFL team reminding them of this rule. Even respected people steal. Some are even proud of it, so proud that they may name themselves after it: The Pittsburg Steelers. I apologize for the corny joke. It‟s not even the same word. WAYS WE STEAL Now, I have a couple pet peeves when it comes to stealing, and a part of me couldn‟t wait to talk about these things that many people don‟t consider stealing when they really are. When I was researching for this sermon though, I became quite convicted myself. I realized that I cannot talk about my pet peeves without talking about some of these other things… things that I have actually been guilty of myself. I want to look at some of the ways that we are found guilty of stealing. First, at the top of the list is GRAND THEFT. According to the US law, this refers to stealing over $400 worth of something. This may refer to robbing a house or stealing a car. These things are usually what we think of when we think of “You shall not steal.” Because of how obvious this is, I won‟t spend a whole lot of time talking about grand theft. Another kind of theft that many of us are guilty of is copyright theft. There are a lot of misconceptions on copyright laws. If you think this only refers to something with a copyright symbol, it goes beyond that. Anything that is original work is copyrighted. If you have a diary, it is copyrighted, and you own the copyright. You get to control who uses it and to what degree. I hear of so many people who think it‟s okay to steal copyrighted material by making a copy of a CD or of a computer program. I have even heard some say, “But it‟s Christian music, and how dare you prevent the spreading of God‟s message?” The reason is that it‟s illegal. It‟s stealing. This is no different than robbing someone‟s house. If someone is a musician for their job, they are earning money from their CD sales to provide for themselves, their spouse, and their kids. If you are making a copy of a CD for a friend, you are robbing that musician‟s family. Here at New Heights, we take precautions for these kinds of things. It is illegal to sing the songs we do on Sunday mornings without copyright permission. It is illegal to have copies of the music without permission. It is illegal to put lyrics on Power Point without permission. We have to pay an annual fee so that we can do these things. Another way we steal is by not fulfilling our obligation to our debts. Romans 13:8 says, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another.” When you buy something with a credit card, you are telling the credit card company that you will pay them back at the end of the month. If you miss a credit card payment, you are stealing, and killing your credit score. Rachel and I don‟t use credit cards anymore, but when we did, we never missed a payment. As a result, we have a perfect credit score. That score has allowed us to get car insurance much cheaper, and we are much more likely to be approved for a home loan. When your debts get so high that you need to file for bankruptcy, you are once again stealing. You‟re getting out of paying for your debts at the expense of an innocent party. If you can‟t pay for it, don‟t get it so that you won‟t end up stealing from others. Cheating on your taxes is stealing. Statistics say that 25% of Americans cheat on their taxes. That would be about 30 of you in this room. Maybe you think the government is stealing too much from you, and that may be the case, but you are no better than the government if you are stealing from them. Jesus even commanded us to pay our taxes in Mark 12:17, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.” We are also commanded to obey the laws our government sets for us as long as it doesn‟t ask us to go against Scripture: “Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” (Romans 13:5-7). Swindling is another form of stealing. How many of you have sold a car and conveniently failed to give your customer all the information they may need for the car? Maybe you left out the fact your windshield wipers don‟t work or that there is an oil leak, so you get the money for a car that has perfect windshield wipers and no oil leak. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 gives some harsh words about swindling along with some other sins: “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Employee theft is a commonly practiced form of stealing. How many of us use company stamps for personal use without paying it back? How many of us spend on-the-clock time goofing off? Your company probably does not have a problem with you taking a bathroom break or telling a quick story about your weekend, but when the average American spends 20% of their work time goofing off, we have a problem. For a 5 day workweek, that is an entire day‟s worth of salary you just stole from your company. How many of you like the TV show The Office? It‟s one of my favorite shows. A couple weeks ago, they had an episode about workplace ethics. It was quite humorous to watch Steve Carell jump up and down singing, “Let‟s get ethical, ethical.” They talked about goofing off, and Dwight said he never goofed off during working hours, but Jim times him every time he‟s not working, and I think he had 17 minutes. Jim comments that he‟s so caught up in timing Dwight that he doesn‟t do any work the entire day. What about petty theft? What about when your son or daughter is in the newspaper? You go to the newspaper stand, pay for one, but you take a few copies to give to friends? You just stole from the newspaper causing newspaper prices to rise. What about when you take a soda from the church fridge without paying $0.45? That‟s stealing, and causing the $1/week fund to be less beneficial to the youth. What about stealing a towel from a hotel? $100 million per year is stolen from hotels with this kind of stuff, and who pays for that $100 million? Not the Holiday Inn. You do through higher rates. Stealing happens very often at church, and not just with sodas. Malachi 3:8 describes one way we steal from God: “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, „How do we rob you?‟ In tithes and offerings.” When you don‟t give tithes and offerings, you are stealing from God. Another way we steal at church is by robbing others of their freedoms. The entire chapter of Colossians 2 talks about this. Look at verse 8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.” I think this is the worst robbery that happens in the world. Material things are just things, but a person‟s relationship with God is eternal. When we tell someone they can‟t worship God with rock music because TRADITIONALLY rock music is bad, we are robbing someone the chance to worship God with their heart as it is, not with their heart as others think it should be. When we say a worship service much have a certain order of worship, we rob a church of flexibility for creative and surprising teaching moments and worship moments. When we look down on someone for dressing in a different way at church, we are robbing them the feeling of freedom in Christ because these things are human traditions, not moral issues addressed in Scripture. Let‟s not rob people of their freedom in Christ from human traditions and regulations. THE HEART OF STEALING When I hear stories of people who are in desperate need doing immoral things just to survive, my heart goes out to them. When I hear of women prostituting themselves, not because they want to, but because they need to eat the next day, my heart goes out to them and wonders why churches yell, “Sinner!” and does nothing to help them. People robbing God through tithes and offerings have prevented churches from helping out the poor. My heart goes out to the people who steal for their next meal, or because they need something and can‟t afford it. Fact is though, only 10% of people who have stolen are in the lower class. 70% of them are middle class. So, although I am concerned about providing for the poor, I‟m also concerned about the hearts of people. Sometimes, our hearts are in the wrong place when it comes to what we own. The Bible says it‟s okay for us to own things, but, as we will hear in a couple weeks on the 10th Commandment, we are not to covet what others have. God has blessed us so richly, more than you know. A few years ago, I did some mission work in Costa Rica, and look at the poverty there. If you live in a house in America, you are one of the richest people in the world. It‟s okay to own what God has blessed you with, but watch where your heart is in materialism. Instead of feeling better by gaining possessions, feel better when you give things away. We have a world in desperate need. 25,000 people die everyday from starvation. Only 3,000 people died in 9/11. Truth is, there is enough food to feed the entire world twice over, but the problem is distribution. Stealing won‟t get you happiness for long, but giving to save a life does. 1 John 3:17 says, “If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?” Here is a kid named Luis that I sponsor for about a dollar a day. He is able to eat and attend school because of that measly payment. He writes me letters, and I write him letters. He is growing as a person and as a Christian. Human hearts feel good about giving and getting, but feeling good about getting only lasts a moment, but feeling good about giving lasts much longer. Your heart will try to trick you though through temptation. It may say, hey, my 4 year old son could pass as 3 to get that free meal. You know, no one will ever find out if I wanted to take that. Finders keepers, losers weepers. I deserve it after all the bad luck I‟ve had anyway. I don‟t make as much money as they do, but I work just as hard, so I deserve it. The waitress forgot to put my drink on the bill, so it‟s her fault. My job owes me anyway. Or, my favorite: God must want to bless me with this! When Adam and Eve stole the fruit from the tree, Adam blamed Eve. How many of us blame someone else when we get caught? Eve blamed Satan. How many of us have even blamed Satan for something that was ultimately our decision? WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT? Whew! So, after all that, raise your hand if you are guilty of breaking the 8th commandment. If your hand is not up, just wait until next week when we talk about lying. As guilty people, there are a few things we can do. First, we can repay. Zacchaeus was a tax collector and overtaxed many people. After just a short conversation with Jesus, guess what Zacchaeus said. “"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.” (Luke 19:8). This may include returning supplies. This may include handing an anonymous check to your company. I used to illegally download and make CDs of music. I decided to break those CDs and throw them away. Some of them I went out and bought, others I didn‟t, but I‟m very happy with my music collection right now. Second, if you really don‟t feel like you have enough money to support yourself, create a budget. Jesus said in Luke 14:28, “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?” Before you go on living life, make sure you know how much you make, how much you spend, and make sure you don‟t spend more than you make. If you want a budget sheet, I can give you a copy of the one Rachel and I use, or you can Google “personal budget sheet” and find all kinds of them. Third, be content. My whole purpose in this sermon is not to make you feel guilty, but to change where you find security in your life. How much you have does not give you ultimate security. Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20) Find your security in God. He is the giver of all good things. God has chosen to bless you with what He‟s blessed you. And, as I said, if you live in a home in America, you are better off than most of the world. You can even log on to www.globalrichlist.com and find out what percentage you fall into. A person making just $10,000/year is in the top 13% of the richest people in the world. Someone making $50,000/year is in the top 1% of the richest people in the world. God will give you what you need. Be content with that and don‟t be greedy. Jesus said in Luke 12:15, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Aim to be like Paul who said in Philippians 4:11-12, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” The author Hebrews said, “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, „Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.‟” (Hebrews 13:5). CONCLUSION Lastly, be forgiven. God offers forgiveness for all sins, big ones and small ones. He can forgive you for copying someone‟s homework, copying a CD, or even for breaking in someone‟s home. It‟s ironic that while Jesus was hanging on the cross, two robbers were hanging on crosses next to Him. They both had different attitudes towards things. Luke 23:39-43 describes the story: “One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: „Aren't you the Christ? Save yourself and us!‟ But the other criminal rebuked him. „Don't you fear God,‟ he said, „since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.‟ Then he said, „Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.‟ Jesus answered him, „I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.‟” If we‟re all guilty of breaking this 8th commandment, we should be on one of those crosses, just like those two men were. But, which robber are you? Are you going to insult Christ? Are you going to tell Him that His rules are too strict? Are you going to tell Him that He‟s not being fair? Are you going to tell Him that you disagree with Him? Or, maybe you‟re the other robber. Maybe you admit you have done wrong. Maybe instead of disagreeing with Jesus and thinking the rules are too strict, you rely on grace and forgiveness. The second thief said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” At the end of your life, do you want Jesus to be insulted by you, or do you want to ask Him to remember you when it comes time to forgive? Jesus had every right to be angry at this thief. I mean, Jesus was hanging on a cross! But, that‟s not who Jesus is, nor how He responded to that thief. “Jesus answered him, „I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.‟” You‟re faced with the choice: Do you argue about how strict Jesus is, or do you ask for His forgiveness and then go to sin no more? <pray> If you have not accepted that forgiveness before, and you‟re ready to now, come on forward. Forgiveness is the sweetest thing ever. If you want to choose to ask Jesus to remember you rather than insulting Him, and you haven‟t asked Him to remember you on that day yet, come forward as we sing a song about our love for Him and our love for others.
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