What is the Meaning of Ephesians 4.28-30

“How to Stop Stealing”

Ephesians 4:28

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 4.28-30

Ephesians 4 …. Our text will be 4:28. And the topic will be stealing. I had every intention of dealing with speech in verses 29 and 30, but we’ll have to wait till next for our speech. We’ll see this morning the similarities between verses 28 and verse 29, though. But first let’s read verses 28 to 30.

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Let’s read Ephesians 4:28-30 28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

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There are similarities between verses 28 and 29. And you could mark these in your Bible.

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First, notice that Paul writes about particular parts of our bodies. In verse 28, he discusses the hands of the thief. In verse 29 he discusses our mouths. Parts of our bodies are under discussion.

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Second, the word “good” occurs in both verses. Verse 28, “performing with his hands what is good.” As well as in verse 29, let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such word as is good for edification.

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Third, the idea of giving or sharing is in both verses. And this is something more clearly seen in the original text. Notice the end of verse 28… One who steals must no longer still but instead he must labor performing with his own hands what is good so that he will have something to …. Here is a word for giving or sharing … “So that he will have something to share with one who has need.”

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As well in the verse 29, our speech is to edify somebody else so that it will give grace to those who hear. And the word give their looks very similar to the word in verse 28 for share in the original text. In fact, they look exactly the same except for the word share in verse 28 has a little 4 letter addition at the beginning of the word, indicating a sharing of just a portion.

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Fourth, there is a focus of what is needed by somebody else. The one who steals verse 28 is no longer to steal but he is to share …at the end of verse 28… with the “one who has need.” And in verse 29 as well with our speech. We are to speak a word that is good for edification according to the “need.”

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And just to get some of the technical side of things out of the way in the New American Standard you have according to the need “of the moment.” And the phrase “of the moment” is in italics which is telling you that it is not in the original Greek language. I would cross that out and add instead “according to the need “of other believers.” And the reason for that is believers are in focus in verse 25, were we are instructed not to speak falsehood to one another but to speak truth to one another … at the end of verse 25 “for we are members of one another.” You can see the context focus is believers.

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And in that original first century church, they were heavily dependent on one another because of the strong possibility that at some point many might go without much of life’s basic necessities. And at the end of verse 29, the focus is on the one receiving the edifying word. Speak only the word that is good for edification according to the need so that he will give grace to those who hear. People need grace.

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So you can see how these verses are similar. We must have a giving mindset, both in our work and in our speech. So first morning we will deal with theft in verse 29. And then next week in verses 29-30 we will deal with unwholesome speech.

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But first, from verse 28, to stop stealing, work to give. In order to stop stealing, God’s plan for stopping the sin of stealing is instead to work with your hands so that you can have something to give.

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Now, this abilities assumes something. And, all of what we have been speaking of the last two weeks assumes something. This all assumes this whole book up to this point. Solving the sin of stealing assumes the gospel.

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In other words, there is no helping somebody stop stealing without the gospel. If someone does not believe that Jesus is God and that His death on the cross is powerful to take away sins from before God and that somebody does not believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, there is no hope for that person. Yes, that person may turn over a new leaf and not steal for a season, but either he will turn back to theft or he will find some other sin to replace it with. You can’t just leave an empty vacuum in the heart. You can’t just put off stealing and not put on something else.

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So our ability to lay aside falsehood in verse 25 and our ability in verse 26 to be angry and yet not sin and our ability not to steal and our ability verse 29 not to speak unwholesome words…. All of this assumes the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ in the person’s life.

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If a person has not responded to Christ in repentance and trust and if he hasn’t ask Jesus to save him from his sins, that person will not have power to overcome sin.

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And also this not only assumes the gospel, but it assumes your activity. If you have trusted Christ and you have a heart that is regenerated, then you must actively do certain things. God knows the human heart. You must respond with purposed and planned activities in order to overcome certain sins.

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And so after having received the gospel of Jesus Christ and repented of sin, to overcome the sin of stealing, one must have an active plan of working a good job with his hands in order to give to those who have need. To stop stealing, work in order to give.

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  1. To Stop Stealing, Work to Give (Eph. 4:28)
    1. Put off: Stealing

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Statistics on Stealing

According to shopliftingprevention.org/, in America, more than the $13 billion worth of goods are stolen from retailers every year. That’s $35 million per day.

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One out of every 11 people in America are shoplifters. But only around a third have been caught within the last five years.

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89% of kids say they know other kids who shoplift. And 66% of kids say they hang out with those kids.

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The most-shoplifted items in the United States definitely do not include things that are needed. However, the theft that Paul was addressing was theft for the sake of need. Our passage in verse 28 is more than likely referring to a common worker who would steal things from his employer.

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But in Paul’s day, when a worker was out of work there was no welfare system to bail him out. And based on his wages, he was unlikely to be able to save money for when he did not have to work. And so, when he was out of work or about to be out of work, he would feel forced to steal in order to maintain his family. Christians were very tempted to do this to keep their family alive. This is clearly someone who has a need.

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[1]But in our day, people steal not because they need something. According to the National Retail Federation, the most shoplifted items in the United States are not those that are needed. The most shoplifted items are chewing gum, Advil, the weight-loss drug Alli, cellphones, Claritin, Rogaine, Red Bull energy drinks, Dyson vacuums, Bumble and Bumble hair products, Cover Girl cosmetics, Crest Whitestrips, and deodorant.

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So the average shoplifter today is not like the average thief in Ephesus when the Christians were tempted to steal in order to survive. The thief today is not someone stealing bread for his hungry kids, but as one author put it he is more like “an over-caffeinated, pain-pill-popping neat freak obsessed with his … [weight, body odor,] hair, teeth and skin.”

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[2]Equally distressing are statistics regarding employee theft. Employees steal about 50 billion dollars from their employers every year. 75% of employees have stolen at least once from their employer and it is estimated that as much as 33% of all bankruptcies are caused by employee theft.

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And so to say that this is a problem today is an understatement. “He who steals must steal no longer.”

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So, what is the solution to this? And if everybody in the first century Christian community did what is in verse 28, Christians in the first century would be less tempted to steal.

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No longer steal, but verse 28 Ephesians 4:28 …. but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.

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  1. Put on: Working a Good Job

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So don’t steal, …. Put that old man habit off. And put on the habit of the new man which is working a good job. Work a good job.

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You must labor. And labor has the idea of hard exhausting work. The thief on the other hand is hardly doing the difficult work. He is to perform with his own hands what is good …. Perform with your own hands what is good, it says, not what is bad. Don’t steal with those hands. With those hands, you labor exhaustively and you labor in a job that is good.

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And so this needs to be a good job. The idea of “good” refers to something moral and beneficial. It must be a morally upright job to have. Instead of stealing which is obviously not morally upright and it does harm to somebody else. Instead take on the labor of a good job that is actually beneficial to those for whom you are working. Work in such a way to help your employer. If that job is not morally upright, you may need to leave it.

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For example, I could never recommend working at a bar or such places where you have to serve alcohol.

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TRANS: Put off stealing. And in its place, put on hard work at a good job. Work in order to help your employer.

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And there is a reason for this. There is an end goal in mind. At the end of verse 28… You do this, “so that you will have something to share with the one who has need.

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  1. Reason: Sharing

In other words, the reason for working is not to get a lot of money. That should not be our focus at all. Someone who steals must not steal, but he should work hard at a good job so that he will have something to share with somebody else who has a need.

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So the thief should not take from somebody else …. No, in fact just the opposite. He should work hard in order to give to somebody else, not take from them.

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You ought not just work a good job just so that you earn your own money. No, you work a good job so that you earn your own money so that you can give to somebody else, not so that you can take all the money and store it away for yourself.

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The former thief needs to make serious plans to share with somebody who has a need. And this word for “share” does not mean to recklessly give everything away. That’s not the point. The point of that word for share as it’s put is to share a portion of what you have earned.

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And so, for the person who is a thief, this takes a different mindset.

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So when is a thief no longer a thief? Is it when he stops stealing? No! He very well may be in between jobs! He may have just taken a 1 day, 2 day, 5 day, 5 year break between acts of thievery. Every thief stops stealing in between acts of theft. No, a thief is no longer a thief when he adds something to replace it.

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A liar is no longer a liar when he is known for speaking the truth. An angry person is no longer an angry person, when he constantly exhibits compassion and patience and kindness. And a thief is no longer a thief when, instead of stealing, he no longer steals and he works exhaustively for the good of his employer and so that he will have something to share with somebody else who has need. And this is what he is known for.

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And so the way God works in the human heart is that the one who was a thief, by God’s grace now can be the greatest giver. I’ll give a story about that in a minute.

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God’s plan for solving the sin of stealing in a believer is for someone to be attentive to the real needs of others and to actively meet that need. The former thief is to labor selflessly and exhaustively for his employer’s good and so that in the end he can earn money and so that he can share a portion of what he has earned with a believer who has a true need.

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This is God’s solution to the sin of stealing.

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I find it interesting what the world’s perspective is on thievery. It is definitely not the Bible’s perspective.

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According to the APA, the American Psychological Association[3], some stealing is a mental disorder. It is called kleptomania. Kleptomania is a compulsive thief, basically. The Mayoclinic and the APA says that it is the overwhelming desire to steal items you don’t need. The APA says it is an impulse control disorder. Other similar disorders include antisocial personality disorder, intermittent explosive disorder (the Bible would call that anger), and pyromania, or the overwhelming impulse to start fires.

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And they call it an impulse control disorder because the person cannot resist the temptation to steal.

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The Mayo Clinic website[4] says authoritatively that there is no cure for kleptomania. No cure for stealing. They say that the symptoms include powerful urges to steal items that you do not need. Feeling pleasure while stealing and feeling guilt after the theft. Sounds fairly common to man to me.

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It is often public theft and it is spontaneous and not planned and the items stolen are not needed. They recommend that if you can’t stop shoplifting or stealing, seek medical advice. The causes of kleptomania, they say, are not known. [Our sinful heart, is the obvious cause!] But the prevailing theory they say links this uncontrollable urge to steal to a low amount of naturally occurring brain chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine. When these chemicals are low, the person is tempted to steal. [I would argue that working hard in order to give would increase those pleasure brain chemicals! Anyway …. ]

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The Mayoclinic says risk factors include being a female and having other mental illnesses, like bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, eating disorders, substance abuse or personality disorders.

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Folks, this is all sin. All of these quote-unquote “disorders” are directly tied to sinful choices.

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As far as the solution goes, the Mayoclinic says that the thief will be told to take their medication and identify situations where you feel urge to steal, get treatment for other mental health problems, exercise, and do yoga. And not a mention of working in order to give.

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Folks, this demonic advice and if a Christian seeks this advice, you’re seeking demonic advice.

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And unfortunately the church has failed to leave her mark on the prevailing psychological landscape.

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The cure for the thief is first salvation and for that thief to be attentive to the real needs of others and to actively meet that need. To labor selflessly and exhaustively for his employer’s good and so that in the end he can earn money and so that he can share a portion of what he has earned with others who have true needs.

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APP: And theft can go on in the home as well. Our children have plenty of opportunity to steal from their siblings or from their parents. And if it’s not caught and trained out of them when they are young, they will be more and more tempted growing up.

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George Müller was a thief as he grew up. George Müller was a 19th century Christian in England. He would end up directing orphanages in Bristol England. He cared for over 10,000 orphans in his life and established 117 schools offering Christian education to over 120,000 children.

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He did all of this, by the grace of God, while never asking a dime from man. And interestingly, he grew up a thief as a young boy. So, here’s a man who put off being a thief and put on working hard in order to give. He wouldn’t even ask others for money for God’s work!

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[5]George Müller was the son of a revenue collector for the kingdom of Prussia in 1805. And George’s dad would give all of his sons plenty of money to spend. And George would lie to his dad about how much money he spent and how he spent it. George would also steal government money that his dad collected when his father was gone.

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George’s dad wanted him to become a Lutheran pastor. And his best desire was not that he would serve God but that he would have an easy and comfortable life as provided by the state church. So George spent his time studying and reading novels and even at 10 years of age, he was indulging in sinful ways of drunkenness and partying.

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And this continued on. When he was 14 years old, his mother lay dying. George did not know she was dying and that night he was playing cards until two o’clock in the morning. He is 14 years old. And he and his friends went to the bar and had their fill and walked about the streets half drunk.

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He writes, “I grew worse and worse.”

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He says … “Three or four days before I was confirmed [into the Lutheran church … and. By the way, when he was confirmed he would be allowed to partake of the Lord’s supper…. Three or four days before I was confirmed he says], I was guilty of gross immorality; and the very day before my confirmation, when I was in the vestry with the clergyman to confess my sins (according to the usual practice), after a formal manner, I [stole from] him; for I handed over to him only a [tiny part] part of the fee which my father had given me for him.”

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So, his dad had given him money to give to the clergyman, but he only gave 1/12 of it! And so he stole from the clergyman.

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He had desires to live a new life, but instead he plunged deeper into deeper into sin. He lied, gambled, and stole. His dad gave him the duty of collecting rent and he would falsify the accounts of what he received and pocket the rest.

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One night he was attempting to steal from the landlord of an inn and was arrested and imprisoned at the age of 16.

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And after prison, he reformed his life in an outward way in the presence of man and began studying at University of Halle (Hall-a) as a divinity student. He and his friends lead lives of awful sin and thievery, even as a divinity students. But he was able to maintain a false front with those who knew him.

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And then through a meeting of true believers, Müller was saved. In this meeting the believers there read the word of God, prayed, and read over a printed sermon. All this had a deep impact on Müller and he described himself as being very happy after the meeting.

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Muller writes of that night, “I lay peaceful and happy in my bed [after the meeting]. … For I have not the least doubt that on that evening [God] began a work of grace in me…But that evening was the turning point in my life. The next day, and Monday, and once or twice besides, I went again to the house of this brother, where I read the Scriptures with him and another brother; for it was too long for me to wait until Saturday came again.”

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“Now my life [he writes] became very different, though not so, that my sins were all given up at once. My wicked companions were given up; the going to taverns was discontinued; the habitual practice of telling falsehoods was no longer indulged in, but still a few times more I spoke an untruth… I now no longer lived [constantly] in sin, though I was still often overcome and sometimes even by open sins, though far less frequently than before, and not without sorrow of heart. [In other words, when he did sin, he was sorrowful over his sin. That was unlike before he received Christ as his Savior.] I read the Scriptures, prayed often, loved the brethren, went to church from right motives and stood on the side of Christ, though laughed at by my fellow students.”

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The man was the lying, stealing, adulterer … and God did a wonderful work of grace …

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And he went on to house all of these many thousands of orphans educating tens of thousands of other children … By God’s grace of salvation, Muller put off stealing and put on a life of hard work for the purpose of giving to others.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Ephesians 4.28-30

Clearly, theft is common today … it is common in the workplace in the stores and even, by the example of George Mueller, even in the home.

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Parents if you suspect your children are given over to theft and they are of a certain age, they ought to be taught to work with their hands and to labor diligently for the sake of giving back. That’s what little George Mueller needed. He needed to learn from his parents this principle to stop stealing and to work diligently for the good of the one for whom he is working … So that he might earn money to give a portion of that away.

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Well will stop there this morning and give full attention to our speech next time.

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562, Jesus speaking … point out last line … I gave my life for thee, what have you given for Me?

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Go to BibleTrove.com Home Page from What is the Meaning of Ephesians 4.28-30

Go to New Testament Books Page

Go to Ephesians Main Page

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  1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-shoplifting/2011/07/11/gIQAIMXipI_story.html

  2. http://www.statisticbrain.com/employee-theft-statistics/

  3. http://www.psychiatry.org/File%20Library/Practice/DSM/DSM-5/DSM-5-TOC.pdf

  4. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kleptomania/basics/definition/con-20033010

  5. http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/bmuller2.html

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