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.Ephesians 4:28(NASB)
Paul begins to offer practical advice on living the Christian life from the start of Ephesians chapter 4. The previous section presents us with a panoramic understanding of who we are in Christ and the tremendous privileges that are ours by faith in Him, but once we arrive at this section, he instructs us on the correct response all believers should have to the amazing grace bestowed on us... through Jesus Christ our Lord.
We should no longer live like the unsaved - in the futility of our minds, which excludes us from the life of God and fellowship with the Father. We should be motivated towards godly living, because of His amazing grace towards us and our deep love and thanksgiving for our great salvation. It should become our dear desire to live godly in Christ Jesus and lay aside the old, corrupted, sinful self, which functions in the lusts of worldly deceit.
Paul touches on many aspects of our fallen sin nature and in this verse instructs us, in plain, straight-forward language: "Let the thief no longer steal!" Our former ways should be rejected and our life-practice should demonstrate integrity, honesty and purity of heart. "He who steals must steal no longer but rather let him be industrious! Stop stealing and start to make an honest living with your own hands', is Pauls instruction, "so you may be able to give to those in need".
Stealing can be dressed up in lots of different ways and Paul is instructing us that this prohibition against theft is carried out in spirit and in truth - in every facet of life. Paul not only insists on a positive change in our outward behaviour, but demands that it flows from a changed heart that loves and honours the Lord and demonstrates a genuine care and concern for the well-being of others.
It is not simply that we get a grip on our former lusts, but that our changed conduct emanate from a noble, Christlike heart of compassion and love.
Heavenly Father, as I read through the many instructions we receive on godly living and Christlike behaviour, I recognise that it is not a superficial change in my outward behaviour that is important, but an inner change in the deep recesses of my being... a change of character that reflects the life of Christ within. Forgive me for the times I have stolen from others, whether it be in goods; motive; reputation or in some other more subtle way. I pray that in thought, word and deed my actions and attitude would be pure and noble and would honour Your holy name. Bestow on me a generous spirit, so I may be cheerful in my giving and compassionate in my heart towards others - this I ask in Jesus' name, AMEN.