Heidi: Welcome, everyone. It’s great to be with you again. Heidi Howerton is here with my wonderful co-host, Jani Ortlund. Do you want to say hi?
Jani: Yes. Oh Heidi, I am just so happy that we’re doing this face to face even though there are seven feet between us, just to be safe.
Heidi: I love you, Jani. It’s always a joy to work with you and figure out how to go through all these different things coming at us in life alongside of you.
Jani: Yes, it’s good to have someone you can talk these things through in the midst of the loneliness of isolation, isn’t it?
Heidi: Yes, and so many decisions. I think a lot of people are just experiencing decision fatigue. Every time we go out somewhere, every time we choose to do something, you have to think, “Am I okay with this? Am I not okay with this? What do we need to do?” So I think we even are in a season where we need God to restore our souls.
This is so true, Heidi, I’m thinking of our listeners who are debating how to educate their children for this coming year. Heidi and I want you to know that we’re setting up some interviews with different people who have great wisdom and experience in this area. We hope to produce those and get them out in late August or early September.
We want you to know that however you’re choosing to educate your kids, as long as you’re seeking God’s will and following him, we think you’re doing an amazing job. So you go mom, whether you’re homeschooling or public schooling or private schooling, the Lord knows His plans for your family.
Jani: Yes, so true.
Well, we’ve been in our study on the eighth commandment. IIn our last episode we were talking about how God loves us through the eighth commandment and now we want to take some time to sit down and study how we can live the eighth commandment out.
Yes, as God loves us in this commandment, what should our response be? The commandment, you might remember says, “You shall not steal.” These are four simple words but they’re very deep and profound. The question we want to answer today is, what can we do to live out the positive side of this command before a watching and needy world? If you are committed, as Heidi and I are, to not only living a life free from stealing, but also to a life characterized by giving, what will our lives look like?
Heidi, and I want to offer at least two traits that our lives will embody: diligence, and generosity. Your thinking, “Jani, how did those two traits come out of those four words, ‘You shall not steal?'” Well, let’s think it through. Let’s talk about a life of diligence. In Ephesians 4:28, Paul says, “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.” Isn’t that beautiful? Jesus takes thieves and he sets them to work. He puts them to work with their own hands, so that not only do they make their own way in life, but they also have something to share with others. He teaches us to look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others. That’s from Philippians 2:4. I wonder what your attitude is toward hard work? I have to ask myself that. Are we, as daughters of the King of the universe, diligent to serve Christ well, wherever he has placed us, or are we frequently looking for ways to escape to pamper ourselves?
Heidi: I love Colossians 3:23-24. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the inheritance as your reward.” You are serving the Lord Christ.
Jani: Oh, that’s so good, heartily. I like that word which means “with your whole heart.” For Jesus, we’re called to live a life of diligence. Many of you know of my mother in law, Ann Ortlund. She’s with Jesus now, but she was such a godly influence over my life and taught me a lot. One of the things she taught me was that God values work, all work, and especially eternal work. First Corinthians 15:58 puts it this way, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Mom used to tell me, pay day is coming Jani. What is the labor of this life by comparison? We have only a few short years to earn our rewards and all eternity to enjoy them.
You know, dear listener, I want to die exhausted, working, serving, running my race to the very finish line of my life as I take my last breath here, and then – my next breath, collapsed into Jesus’s warm embrace and begin my true life there with him. Why not live that way?
Heidi: Jani, I just want to honor you that you do live that way. So many women gather around your table year after year, and we see you do that so faithfully. You run your race well and you work heartily as unto the Lord. And we just love to see that in you. You set a great example for the rest of us.
Jani: Thank you for that word of honor, Heidi. What do I have that I haven’t been given godly examples of and women in the generations before me? So now it’s my turn to pass it on to your generation. Let’s be women who are diligent, who obey the eighth commandment by working hard. It’s a wonderful thing that brings pleasure to the Lord.
Here’s a second way we can obey this commandment. What’s the positive side of you shall not steal? Well, it’s by living a life of generosity. The opposite of stealing is giving. A grateful heart that has been loved by God through the self accepted poverty of his only son Jesus Christ, in turn is generous to others.
Heidi: We’re told in Luke 6:30;36. “Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. Give and it will be given to you, good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Jani: …or 1 Timothy 6:17-19. “As for the rich in this present age…”and I might say here, you might feel like you’re really poor these days, but compared to most of the world’s population from Adam and Eve up to us, we are very rich. I mean, you have enough money to have a device to listen to this podcast on and you have enough good health to hear it with. So as for the rich, that’s us, in this present age, “…charge them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” We’re looking ahead again to heaven, aren’t we? What about these verses from Deuteronomy 15:7-11?
Heidi: “You shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be. You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake, for there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, you shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor in your land.”
Jani: Open wide your hand to your brother. Christians are called to live a life of generosity. We are to be generous because God has been generous to us. What do we have that we haven’t received? All of it is from God. A job, if you have one, health to pursue a job, and a heart to receive it from the Lord’s own hand, we’re to be generous, because we have experienced the redemptive generosity of God. We are to be like the God we serve and represent him well to all other people whom we meet. If all we have is from him, and for his use, then we can hold it loosely and share it as he directs because He’s the owner. We are the stewards.
You see, to live generously means we must have something to share. If we’re always working and spending to our limit, what will we have left to give? Gleaning was an Old Testament principle given to God’s children to encourage generosity and to prevent theft. Have you heard of gleaning before? God would tell his people not to harvest their fields right up to the edge, nor strip their vineyards of all the fruit. They were to leave these gleanings for the poor and for the sojourner. We see that in Leviticus. Well, I think we’ve lost the standard for generosity in our push to live life to the very edges. Are we always working, always spending, eating, exercising and vacationing to our limits?
We can’t be generous believers if we leave nothing unspent. At a time when I was pushing at every level in my life, my very dear friend and partner in ministry, Melinda Perry, she also happens to be on our board at Renewal Ministries and so is very much involved in this podcast. Melinda gave me a copy of Dr. Richard Swenson’s book called Margin, Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives.” Oh, it’s a great book, I highly recommend it. You can find this on our website in the text if you forget it. Dr. Swenson defined margin as the space that once existed between our limits and ourselves in our time budgets emotional and physical energy. But now that space has been devoured, it’s just been eaten up by our push for more. He warns us, “God is honored by funnels, dishonored by sponges. Be a conduit of his blessing, not a dead end.” Oh listener, think of yourself as a funnel, not a sponge. That’s one of the things this commandment is helping me see, I want to be more of a funnel. To be a funnel, to be generous, is to be redemptive. It’s to give someone what they neither deserve nor can earn, just as we have received from our generous Heavenly Father.
Heidi: 2 Corinthians 8:9 puts it this way, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
Jani: Wow, Jesus did that for us. He became poor. He’s our example. One of the scenes in all of literature that moves me the most is from Les Miserables where Jean ValJean is caught stealing the kind bishop’s silverware. Dear listener, I don’t know if you know this story, but if not, you might want to get the video or read the book. It’s an amazing story of redemption. When the police dragged Jean ValJean back into the bishop’s home, Monsieur Thenardier covers for this ex-convict, even calling him friend, in front of the police and sending him on his way with the silverware. Much to everyone’s shock, even the bishop adds his silver candlesticks, which were the last of his household valuables, charging Jean ValJean to use these gifts to become an honest man. The rest of the story revolves around the redemptive power of one man’s generosity to another. That’s such a beautiful picture of redemption, isn’t it? Although we are stealers and thieves at heart, we should go and give to others.
Heidi: Jani doesn’t turn the world’s philosophy upside down? We live in a world where we think” I need to get more. I need to consume more. It’s all about me. What can I do?” Even as a mom, I feel this some ways where I feel “Oh, I really want to have a job or I really want to do this. What about these gifts that you’ve given me, Lord” As you were talking, I just think whether we’re moms or different people working, God calls us to be generous and how it just flips the world’s philosophy on its head instead of making it all about me. God says, “No, I blessed you richly, so you can give to others”. I just love that idea that he’s not calling us to live a life solely focused on ourselves, but he’s calling us to live a life of service to others. So for me as a mom, I think about this commandment and about generosity and I think “Oh, Lord, I’m so weary. I spend all my day serving my kids.” And yet I hear God pause and say, “That is what I’ve called you to do. You are serving me by giving yourself generously for your kids.”
Jani: Yes. And the thing that I love is he’s not asking us to do anything that he wasn’t willing to do. Think, he left heaven. He was so rich and became poor for our sakes. He’s not loving us from a distance. He’s loving us up close.
Heidi: …and we need to be reminded of that again and again. Because what the world is telling us is something different. It tells us just take, and the Lord tells us to give.
Jani: Heidi, thank you for that.
Let’s wrap this up today with some verses from scripture as we think about how to live out this commandment to a needy world. These words are from second Corinthians 9:6-11. I’ve just taken some phrases from there. The point is this: “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you so that having all sufficiency in all things, at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
You will be enriched in every way for your generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. Let me close in prayer. Oh, Father, thank You for these words. Thank you for this commandment. Thank you for the beautiful view of what is waiting for those of us who love to live by the grace of our Lord Jesus, who gave himself up for us. Help us to be women who follow his example, in being not reluctant givers, but generous givers to those around us. Then you’ll get the glory and we’ll get the joy and it will all be so wonderful. In Jesus name. Amen.