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“I Was Only Borrowing It!” (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 23, 2021 3:00 am

“I Was Only Borrowing It!” (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 23, 2021 3:00 am

The eighth commandment is short and to the point: “You shall not steal.” But it's not as simple as it seems. Learn why stealing is wrong, and find out if you could be caught red-handed! Study along with us on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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The Eighth Commandment is short and to the point. The Bible says, you shall not steal. And though we may not be out robbing banks, we might not want to plead our innocence just yet. Today on Truth for Life, Alistair Begg explains why stealing is wrong.

He also lists some of the ways we could be caught red-handed. I invite you once again to take your Bibles, and we'll turn together to the Old Testament, to the book of Exodus. Exodus 20. And the focus of our study this morning is the fifteenth verse. You shall not steal. In our visitor's book, which we have at home, which, like most of you, we forget to have people sign when they come to our house, on the nineteenth of June 1978, there is an entry against the name of a young couple, which simply reads, written in the margin, Next Sunday, maybe preach on Exodus chapter 20, verse 15. Now, if you were just to flip through the visitor's book and notice that, you would be surprised by that somewhat cryptic comment.

You would probably wonder just why it is that somebody would want for me to preach concerning the problem of stealing, and I can tell you just why. This young couple—there was a young, engaged couple—they were making their way from America to Africa. They were children of missionary parents. They were going to Africa to be married. And en route to Africa, they stopped in Scotland to visit my wife and I. And spending, I think, just two nights with us, we were looking for things for them to do, and felt that they might enjoy going to visit the Dr. David Livingston Memorial Museum, which is in Blantyre, in Lanarkshire in Scotland, and not far from our home. After all, they were from Africa.

Livingston, the great missionary explorer in Africa, we thought there probably would be a point of contact. Well, so they went on a Saturday afternoon to explore the museum, and while they were exploring the museum, somebody decided to explore their car and took access to it by the means of putting a brick through a window and then removed their possessions, including the girl's wedding dress, which she was carrying with her to be married in Africa. She did get the wedding dress back. I know you ladies are concerned about that.

She did get the dress back. Many of the other possessions went south, never to be seen again. Now, that story is simply illustrative of an endemic problem in cities all across our world. It doesn't matter which continent of the globe we put our feet down upon, but we encounter this problem of theft. They are of such dramatic proportions that thieves are making off every year with billions and billions of dollars in tax-free income. The reported figures for theft, which in themselves are astronomical, do not usually contain the figures which are even larger, which relate to theft at a high level—namely, fraud, forgery, embezzlement, bribery, and extortion. The fact is that from petty larceny to multimillion-dollar fraud, stealing in the United States of America is at an all-time high.

It is now higher than it has ever been. Now, since respect for other people's property is foundational for society, we have here yet another example of what we've been finding all the way through the study of God's law—namely, an example of the erosion of our foundations and the crumbling of our moral fabric. Here, when we turn our gaze upon this simple, straightforward statement, you shall not steal, we are once again left in absolutely no doubt as to whether we are a nation of lawbreakers or not. Now, all of that would be bad enough if there were at the same time a shared conviction concerning the wrongness of stealing. If we could go from person to person, as we might have been able to do at an earlier point in society, and say to one another, Is it you think it's wrong to steal? And people would answer, Yes, categorically so. And many times, because they had been taught so clearly the Ten Commandments, they knew that you shouldn't steal.

But today that isn't true. And the Robin Hood principle, if we may call it a principle, is prevalent all over the place. The kind of thing encapsulated in Oliver Twist, with that remarkable scene in the musical where Fagin sings that song when Oliver gets picked up by the Artful Dodger and brought up to that cavernous hovel in which the Artful Dodger lives with all of his little cronies, and Fagin sings to him, You gotta pick a pocket or two, boys. You know? Take a tip from Bill Sykes, he can nick what he likes.

But I recall, he started small. You gotta pick a pocket or two, boys. You gotta pick a pocket or two. And just steal from rich people. See, it doesn't count when you steal from rich people, they're rich. And just steal from institutions.

Because institutions are as bad as rich people are rich. Stealing may be wrong sometimes somewhere, but by and large, it's really not wrong in the minds of many. This is illustrated in a story I read just the other day concerning a schoolteacher who, in seeking to teach her children the importance of not stealing, asked the class this question, suppose you found a briefcase with half a million dollars in it, what would you do? One boy immediately raised his hand and replied, If it belonged to a poor family, I would return it.

Now that is illustrative of what we're talking about. The idea that it isn't wrong as long as no one feels it, or it's not affecting the immediate person next door to me, or somehow or another I can explain it away. And categorically, Exodus 20.15, you shall not steal.

Four questions. Question one, why is it wrong to steal? Why is it wrong to steal?

Well, the Bible tells us that it is wrong to steal, because when we steal, what we're doing is, we are abusing God's law, and we are defiling God's creation, and we are neglecting to do what his law calls us to. Inherent and underpinning this are two very important biblical principles, and they're these. Number one, the right to private property, and number two, the sovereign ownership of God over all that he has made.

The Eighth Command presupposes not that we're living together in some kind of communistic commune, but rather that we are living with the privileges of private property, which are sacrosanct to the owner of the property. So that is fundamental to the command that we have a right to have stuff that is our own. God is not concerned about whether we have stuff that is our own.

God's not a communist, if you like. But at the same time, God wants those of us who have things which are our own to understand that the only things which are our own are not really our own. Because all ownership is a derived ownership. You need to study in Genesis 1 and chapter 2, and you'll find this, that when God puts Adam and Eve in the garden, he gives them the mandate to oversee it, to take care of it, to exercise their authority over all the rest of his creation, and it is their responsibility to be stewards but not owners of what he has given them, so that all the things that we have in the same way we have as a result of God's kindness towards us. James 1 17, Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above, in whom there is no variableness, neither shadow due to turning. All that I have is God's, not mine. Forget this, ninety percent is mine and ten percent is God's.

A hundred percent is God's. It's not mine. We're looking after it for a while, but it's not mine. The reason that we're so preoccupied with it is because we regard it as the ethos of our lives, the expression of our identity in many cases, when in point of fact it's all gonna go in a garage sale one day in any case. And we're gonna leave it behind, and it's irrelevant.

Most of the stuff we've been most concerned about in the past week is a bunch of junk—elaborate junk or unelaborate junk, but it's junk. And we have yet— and this is another message altogether—we have yet, most of us, to understand Paul's injunction to Timothy, where he says, Godliness with contentment is great gain. So when we steal from another person, we do not simply steal from them or sin against them, but when we steal from somebody else, we sin against God. When we steal from somebody else, what we do is we harm them, we disregard them, and we devalue them. And in doing that, we sin against God, because it is he who has given them what they have, it is he who has given them regard, and it is because of him that they have value. So when I interfere with somebody else's property at whatever level it may be, what I'm saying is, my benefit is of more significance than your harm. My having this is of more importance than any regard that I may have for you.

And irrespective of the impact of what I do upon your life, I feel free to devalue you. And it's just not right. This is exemplified so perfectly when David, in his great prayer of confession in Psalm 51, after his sin with Bathsheba, comes before God acknowledging what he had done, and he cries out to God in the phrase, Psalm 51 4, against you and you only have I sinned.

Now, what were the facts? He'd sinned against multiple people. He'd sinned against his friends. He'd sinned against Bathsheba. He'd sinned against Bathsheba in taking her to himself, also in killing her husband. He'd violated her reputation. He had violated the sanctity of her home.

His theft was all over the place. And yet, when he expresses it before God, he says, against thee and thee only have I sinned. And when we steal, we sin against God. That's why it's wrong. Because God said, don't do it.

And he's God. We're not. Do you mean it's as simple as that?

Yeah. But why don't people do this? Well, number one, because they don't believe in a God who has authority over creation. And even if they do, they don't believe that he should have authority over us. So we need to be very clear.

We need to be clear for the sake of our children as well. We are sinning against God. It offends his holy name. It disregards his law. And it devalues his creation when we steal. That's the first question. The second question is, in what ways do we break this commandment?

In what ways do we break this commandment? I want to move through this as quickly as I can with you. You do well to take notes on this. I have 13 points under this question. All right? Here we go. I'm not going to preach a sermon on each one of them, because that would be 13 sermons worth.

But if the cap fits, put it on. In what ways do we break this commandment? Number one, we break it by blatant theft. By blatant, obvious theft. Going in somewhere where we shouldn't be and taking stuff.

As a boy in Scotland growing up, I lived in the framework at school with some of the greatest thieves and vagabonds ever seen in the west of Scotland. I don't say it because I think it's funny. I say it because it's true. It's addressed in Exodus chapter 22, the kind of thing that is mentioned there if a man steals an ox or a sheep, if a man is caught breaking into a house, and so on. That's the kind of thing—it's obvious we understand that.

We don't need to beat it to death. So we break the command by blatant theft. Secondly, we break it when we borrow and fail to return what has been borrowed.

First one is fairly obvious. The second one kind of creeps up on us, because most of us are going, ch-ch-ch-ch, we're thinking through our garage. We're going through the garage thinking tools. Then some of us go in our basement, others kind of stuff. Then we go in our libraries, we go books.

Okay? Now, if you and I make a career of borrowing stuff, which we never return, we're actually making a career of theft. We just call it borrowing.

You see, because borrowing that never gets repaid is actually theft. Oh! Hello.

Are you Mr. Dillard? Yes. I would just like to borrow this briefcase from the luggage department.

Thank you very much. No, that's not borrowing. That's stealing.

That's correct. Don't come in my library and take my books and I'll bring them back. I don't have anybody in mind. Don't look all pained like that. And I shouldn't do it to you.

Right? The wicked borrow and do not repay what they borrow. Sam 3721, a guy has helped you out. He's given you money. He made it possible for you to get over a hurdle and you still haven't paid him back. A lady did this for you and you still haven't paid it back. Are you stealing it or are you borrowing it?

What are you doing with it? That brings me to the third point. Failure to clear oneself of debt when we are able to do so is theft. I'm not talking about paying off your mortgage prematurely. I'm talking about personal relational debt, where somebody makes it possible for you or I to get out of a problem and then we refuse, even though our circumstances have now dramatically changed, to go back and to repay the debt. What we're actually doing is stealing from that individual. Oh, we may still have it in our mind that we're going to pay it back, but we're stealing from them the benefit of them having back that money in their own possession, either to help another out or to provide for their family or to do whatever else it is with.

It is just a form of stealing. Fourthly, we break this commandment when we fiddle the books, if you like, when we use false weights and measures. You get a lot of this in the Minor Prophets. I'm quoting here from Amos and from chapter 8. And there the prophet of God speaks to these people, and he calls them back to the purity of their lives. Amos chapter 8 and verse 5, "...when will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath ended, that we may market wheat, skimping the measure, boosting the price, and cheating with dishonest scales?"

Okay? So you take the bag, you fill it with more air and less chips, you increase the price, and you spend the money that you just made off the top on a big advertising campaign. It's stealing. It's the same when you're giving out any kind of service to the public. False weights and measures, the fiddling with dishonest scales, is a form of stealing. Fifthly, it is theft when we misuse our employer's property or our employer's time.

In Titus chapter 2, Paul, in instructing Titus, he says, you know, you should teach these people not to steal but to show rather that they can be fully trusted. In a book entitled The Day America Told the Truth, we learn in there that workers around America frankly admit that they spend more than twenty percent of their time at work totally, quote, "...goofing off." Twenty percent of every day is a goof-off. That works out at a four-day week, right?

If you're working a five-day week. Half the people admit to chronic malingering, calling in sick when they're not sick, and doing it regularly. The number of man-days in productivity that are lost in the United States of America as a result of this form of stealing is astronomical.

It's almost unquantifiable. And it's factored into every company's balances. They have to factor in the theft that they know will happen in the space of a year.

Because they know that their employees, no matter what they say in their salary reviews, are going to root them off. So we steal when our time is not what it should be. We steal when our work is not what it should be. We steal when we use the phone when we shouldn't. We steal when we fiddle our expense accounts. And we steal when we walk out the door with a bucket full of supplies to do a little job in our backyard, when, in point of fact, that material was only there for doing work for our employer. Sixthly, we break the eighth commandment when we just flat-out waste other people's possessions.

In Luke chapter 16 verse 1, there's the story of the rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So perhaps we rented a house, and we said, Hey, this isn't our house. We pay the rent. So what if the carpet's trashed?

So what if the hinges don't work? So what if I don't take care of the windows? What we're saying is it's okay just to steal from our landlord. We're wasting what belongs to someone else. Seventhly, we steal from others when we pay bad wages or we withhold wages, delay the payment of wages. James chapter 5 verse 4, The wages you fail to pay your workmen are crying out to you from the fields, says James. Failure to pay the workmen.

Failure to pay properly. Now, obviously, I don't live my life in the world of macroeconomics. I don't live my life in the world of business day to day. But something inside of me says, just because a guy is prepared because of his country of origin to work for very little in comparison to somebody in the United States of America, that does not validate our payment of that individual at that level.

I don't see how it does. And yet we do it. We do it on a huge national scale. We tell ourselves that we are now free of the slavery that once marked this empire and its growth. We have other kinds of slavery whereby we control people's lives, holding them in economic bondage as a result of decisions made at a high level. And why are we so good at it at that level?

Because we're jolly good at it at the small level and the local level. The Christian's supposed to be different. Eighthly, we break this commandment when as adult sons and daughters we fail to make return to our parents when they need help. When we decide that all that our parents have provided for us we can just take and forget them and their point of need, we steal from them. Proverbs 28, 24, He who robs his father and mother and says, It's not wrong, he is partner to him who destroys.

In other words, if you cheat from your mom and dad like this, and I do too, then we're robbing them, therefore we're stealing, and we're party with a murderer. That is Alistair Begg on Truth for Life. We'll hear more on this topic tomorrow. If you enjoy hearing Alistair teach the Bible, you can now read his insights and begin every day with the truth you need. His new book is titled Truth for Life, 365 Daily Devotions. This is a one-year scripture-based daily devotional. Each reading presents a passage from scripture followed by a commentary from Alistair.

The daily entry prompts you to reflect more about the text you've just read. Request the book Truth for Life, 365 Daily Devotions when you donate at truthforlife.org slash donate or call 888-588-7884. We love bringing you high quality Bible study materials like this new book from Alistair. And to go along with the devotional, you might consider buying a brand new Bible. Today from Truth for Life, you can purchase the complete English Standard Version or ESV Study Bible. This Bible comes in black leather.

There's a ribbon to mark your page. The ESV is the same translation from which Alistair teaches. Best of all, it's available for you today from Truth for Life for only $25, and the shipping is free. This is a Bible that retails for about $85, so we hope you'll take advantage of this great price.

It makes a terrific gift. You can view the Bible and purchase it online at truthforlife.org slash features. And keep in mind all of the high quality teaching materials you get from Truth for Life are always available for purchase at cost. We're able to do this because people like you give to the ministry. Your giving makes Bible teaching resources affordable for so many who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford them. So if you're able, we'd appreciate you adding a generous donation to your order today. And please remember Truth for Life in your year-end giving plans as we head toward the close of 2021. It's a time when we rely heavily on your support.

I'm Bob Lapine. The Bible doesn't only teach that stealing is wrong. It also instructs us to do something that's positive. We'll hear more about that tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-18 19:28:24 / 2023-07-18 19:37:11 / 9

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