Heidi: Hello, everyone. Welcome to our podcast today. It is so good to be with you. Heidi Howerton is here with Jani Ortlund, and Jani. it is just such different times in our world right now, isn’t it?
Jani: Oh, it really is, Heidi. I know our listeners are feeling that as much as you and I are.
Heidi: Yes, from big world things going on even to our small worlds where now it’s August and parents are deciding what to do with school or they’re starting to send their kids to school or homeschool. I just wanted you to know, dear listener, that I am right there along with you this morning. I brought all three of my children to Jani’s house to record so we wanted to give you a heads up that if you hear little feet patter or noise in the background, those are my kids.
Oh and Heidi, I just want our listeners to know how much I respect you as a mom. You really worked hard to get here today and I thank you. You got those three kids ready, you’ve settled them upstairs, you packed all the necessary things that they would need, so thank you. Our listeners thank you as well.
It’s a joy Jani. Thank you for that love and encouragement.
Jani: Well, today we get to go back to our study of the 10 Commandments. We’re going to talk about the eighth commandment in the next two to three podcasts, and then hopefully, we’re going to take a few “Ask Jani” questions about educational questions, what kind of schooling? How do we decide how to school and educate our children?
For today, we’re going to begin the eighth commandment from Exodus chapter 20:15, “You shall not steal.” Wow, four simple words, but they’re full of significance, full of meaning for individual lives. They can be explored in depth in your own life and also with any children, you’re teaching the 10 Commandments to. Let me start this way with an illustration from my own life. Trisha Lewis was my best friend in the earliest years of my childhood. She lived next door to me and was a whole year older than I was. We played together almost every day. When she told me our stuffed animals and dolls got up and played together at night while we were sleeping, of course, I believed her because she was a whole year older. After all, when you’re five and just starting kindergarten and your best friend is a first grader, she seemed very smart. Well, we had a lot of fun days playing together, so many happy hours. But one day I ruined it. If you grew up in my generation, you knew how very important Pop Beads were to a little Girl. Heidi Have you ever heard of Pop Beads?
Heidi: I have never heard of them Jani.
Jani: Well, Pop Beads were those little plastic pastel beads that we used for necklaces and bracelets and they would pop together. You could pull them apart making any pattern you wanted any size you wanted. Oh, how I love them. Trisha had her own slew of Pop Beads and little Jani Giles had none. Oh, how I wanted some. Well, you probably can imagine what happened. Trisha, if you’re listening to this podcast, please forgive me. I never fessed up to you. Yes, one day while I was alone in Trisha room, I stole some. I put a bunch into of my pockets and then I told her, “Oh, I think I hear my mom calling. I better go home.” So I had to lie on top of stealing, five years old and already a thief. The problem was, I couldn’t even wear them. Tricia would see them or my mom would and surely I’d get into trouble. I wonder, do you have a childhood memory of stealing maybe a cookie, aquarter, a toy, a test answer? Heidi, do you have any childhood memories?
Heidi: Oh, I read that question Jani as I was preparing today and I do and just those memories make me sick to my stomach. I remember being a little girl in the grocery store and they used to fill these big barrels with candy and I would come by just take one. I think my conscious knew that that was wrong and yet that is always inside of us and it still makes me want to hide under my bed today. Just thinking about the story makes me sick to my stomach, how easy it is to steal or think about stealing and as a child do it and and how sad is.
Jani: Yes, if it weren’t easy, God wouldn’t have written this command to help guide us. And if only stealing were confined to childhood Heidi. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that is dead to the shame of thievery. We live our daily lives in the psychological conditions that make stealing unshocking. Think of all of our cultural theft. As I was preparing for today, and reading some wise pasto’rs writings on this commandment, here’s some of the cultural theft that they helped me see is out there: What about tax theft? We falsify our returns thinking our taxes are too high anyhow, the government is stealing from us. Some prominent voices have said that if everyone paid what they truly owed in taxes, the national debt would disappear. That’s amazing to me. Along with tax theft, we have customs theft. We choose not to disclose various purchases when we returned to America from foreign countries. Or what about computer theft? We pilfer copyrighted software and CDs, or employee theft? This kind of thievery is so rampant we hardly notice it anymore. We steal our employers time and property. You see when we fail to put in a full day’s work, or even call in sick when we just want a day off, we’re stealing. We use business phones for personal business. We use office time for personal emails, surfing the internet or playing solitaire, robbing our employees of our productivity. We steal office supplies from paperclips to staplers. Well, what about management theft? Sometimes we as managers or employers demand longer hours and more work than the contract allows. Or sometimes we pay inadequate wages. What about plagiarism? We use someone else’s ideas without attribution, which robs someone of his creativity and hard work. This is one that I struggle with, time theft. We steal someone’s time when we keep them waiting for us because I’m late for an appointment. Or what about reputational theft? We gossip and slander stealing someone’s good name. Or finally, what about giving theft? We withhold our tithes, God says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.” (Malachi 3:8) Oh, all these kind of different thefts. Heidi, I have a Shakespeare quote here. I don’t often quote from Shakespeare but I think this relates to stealing someone’s good name, reputational theft. Would you read that quote for our listeners?
Heidi: “Good name in man and woman, dear my lord, is the immediate jewel of their souls. Who steals my purse steals trash; ’tis something, nothing; ‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slaved to thousands; but he that filches from me my good name. Robs me of that which not enriches him, and makes me poor indeed.”
Jani: I wonder how many of our listeners have suffered reputational theft? It’s very painful. That quote was from Othello Act Three. Well, as we think through this list of management theft, employee theft, computer theft, custom stuff, tax theft, plagiarism, time theft, I mean, we could go on. Truly, we have all sinned and fall short of God’s glory. In fact, we’re so fallen, we hardly recognize our sinfulness. We feel sorry for ourselves and tell ourselves how unfair our lives are. Our souls grow accustomed to thoughts that make stealing plausible. You see, we live with an ownership mentality that doesn’t recognize the roots of stealing deep down in our souls, so that robbing God and others somehow feels justified. Oh how we need the Lord Jesus here. God knows that stealing eats away at our inner man. It deadens our sense of the love of God because we don’t wait on God to provide for us. It destroys our own self respect, because when you steal, you can’t be proud of what you gained. You see, stealing leads to emptiness, and isolation. No wonder God said, “You shall not steal.” He’s loving us in this commandment. He comes to us in the eighth commandment with deep, godly love saying, dear daughter, I have established certain boundaries in your life together. “I love you and delight to provide for you. Live within the distribution system that I have ordained for your life.”
Heidi: Jani that reminds me of a Bible verse I once meditated on. I love this. It’s Psalm 16:5-6, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” I think of that talking about the boundaries that he set for us, “Iindeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Jani: We need to be reminded of that, don’t we? We need to ask the Lord when we’re struggling with envy or a desire to really take something that we shouldn’t. We can ask the Lord, “Father help me to see how much I have. Help me to concentrate on that rather than what I don’t have.” That’s such a good verse. You see, God loves us in this commandment by coming to us in simplicity, and telling us that stealing in any of its various forms, is rebellion against His providence. You know there are other scriptures as well that shed light on this commandment. This commandment goes beyond prohibiting taking something that doesn’t belong to me. It teaches us that we must respect and protect another’s property as if it were my own. Well, let’s think through a few verses on how scripture illuminates the eighth commandment. First of all, Scripture teaches that each one of us must bear our own weight. Heidi would you read 1 Timothy 5:8?
Heidi: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”
Jani: Wow. We’re to provide for our own families. Ephesians 4:28 puts it this way, “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” You go from being a stealer, a thief to sharing. Each one must bear his own weight. That’s one way God helps us through this commandment.
Another principle that we can see how God loves us in this commandment is this: there are no “finders keepers, losers weepers” in the Bible. Remember how you used to say that as a child? If my sister put down the toys she was playing with and I wanted it, I would grab it and say”Finders keepers, losers weepers!”
Heidi: Mychildren just asked me about that the other day they said”Mmom in the show we heard ‘finders keepers, losers weepers.’ What does that mean?” I said, “Oh, that’s something that the Howerton’s do not do.”
Jani: Good for you. Well, the Bible talks about that. In Deuteronomy 22:1-4. I’ve pulled out some phrases there. “You shall not see your brother’s ox or sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother…or with any loss thing of your brothers, which he loses and you find, you may not ignore it.”
Heidi: One time I was reading this verse in the Bible, Jani, and I was praying I thought, does that mean that when my neighbor’s dog is wandering in my yard, I have to take it back to them? But it’s true. The Holy Spirit brings up those little things in our mind to say “Okay, Yes, Lord, I can do that.”
Yes, that’s right. Or how about Exodus 23:4-5? This again is showing that there are no “finders keepers, losers weepers” in the Bible. “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, (or should we say or his dog?) you shall bring it back to him”. Of course the Old Testament would never say dog because dogs weren’t as respected back then and valuable, but they are today. It’s a piece of property that your neighbor owns. “If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.” Isn’t that amazing? You may be thinking as I am. “Oh Jani, does that say even my enemies?” My enemies, ox or donkey, or in today’s world dog? But that’s how God loves us. He is on a massive rescue operation to make his enemies his friends through the dying love of Jesus Christ. And he’s asking us to embrace that and model his love for us to the world around us. Here’s another way that the Bible sheds light on this eighth commandment, “You shall not steal.” We’re told to give others what we owe them.
Romans 13:7-8 says, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to him taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Oh no man anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves has fulfilled the law.”
Jani: Owe no man anything. To me, that’s the New Testament version of “Thou shall not steal” or you shall not steal. Owe no man anything. Do you realize that you can steal by not giving someone what you owe him? Taxes? We’ve talked about revenue, but even respect or honor these verses in the New Testament talk about that, even forgiveness. Whoa, what debts have I accumulated? This has really been convicting to me as I’ve studied for it, Heidi. Well, let’s go with one more way that the New Testament sheds light on “Thou shall not steal.”It teaches us to refrain from greedy lawsuits.
Heidi: First Corinthians 6:7-8, “To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud-even your own brothers!”
Jani: We live in a culture of greed and self promotion. Whatever else may happen, I must get what it’s due me, it’s owed to me. It’s my right. I deserve it. At least that’s what the commercials tell me and I tend to believe them. But think of the cost to society. If you have friends or maybe relatives who are in the medical practice, you know how the threat of lawsuit has forced them to quit their calling, because they could not afford the rising costs of malpractice insurance. Ray and I were faced with this kind of decision one Spring. I had become really sick with a nasty infection that wasn’t responding to antibiotics. So my doctor put me in the hospital. After three days of double doses of strong medicines, my fever was finally beginning to subside. I was hoping to go home in a day or two, when a very busy nurse inadvertently gave me someone else’s IV, which just happened to be insulin. Over the next three hours, I went into insulin shock and was really very sick for a few days.
Heidi: Oh, Jani, that’s so hard.
Jani: It was very scary. I was already feeling so rotten. I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew something was coming over me. I remember when the nurse came in and saw it, she immediately ripped down the bag and called the doctor. I was really surprised, Heidi, when one of the nurses at our hospital, who also happened to be a friend from our church, asked Ray and me to please sue the hospital so management would see how overworked their staff was. And you know what? I was even more surprised at my initial reaction. Hmm, my mind started wandering on that as I meditated over what that could look like. Let’s see now. We could pay off our mini van and maybe set up a college fund. Oh, maybe take the kids to Disney World. Many people insinuated we could go for broke. But after some deep soul searching, we decided this kind of lawsuit would not be money we could spend with a clear conscience. I had survived with no long lasting side effects other than a delicate vein. So we ended up agreeing that the hospital would cover my expenses and we left it at that. You see, God loves us in this command by showing us that we’re to be givers, not takers. What kind of God would say “You shall not steal?” A generous, lavish, extravagant God. He is a God who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. (1 Timothy 6:17) Romans 8:32 puts it this way, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
As we close today, I just want to ask you to do this. Think with me what this world would be like with no locks on our homes, on our cars, on our bicycles? Think if you lost your purse and you didn’t have to worry about canceling bank accounts and charge cards and what if we didn’t have to worry about identity theft or cheating at school or IRS audits or security gates? You know what that would be? That would be heaven on earth. It would be a world of love. And that, my dear friend, is how God is calling us to live as citizens of heaven, even while we remain here on Earth. Part of his redeeming power in his children and one of the ways he restores our soul is that he turns greedy, grasping, fearful hoarders into generous, honest, trustworthy givers. Oh, what a loving God we see here in this commandment.