Thieves vs philanthropists (Ephesians 4:28)

Game’s on. Who’ll win?

Ever been robbed? You come home to a broken window and the realization that someone has been in your space. They’ve taken your stuff — some of it irreplaceable, like that ring that belonged to your Mum.

The thief doesn’t care about you, or your Mum, or how your children will sleep after the intrusion. For the thief, you’re not human; you’re just your stuff.

The thief’s attitude is pervasive. Ever had a business treat you not as a person but as a revenue stream? Like Mr Robot, it could turn you cynical: “Give a man a gun and he can rob a bank. Give a man a bank and he can rob the world.”

Or, it could turn you to seek something better — an alternative world where people are valued. What’s your preference: a world where we take from each other to build wealth, or a world where we contribute to each other to build community?

Jesus chose philanthropy. No, not money. He gave what was truly valuable. The king gave his life for his people. That’s humanitarian.

The community under King Jesus experiences this reversal: from taker to giver, from controller to supporter, from thief to humanitarian, from self-focused to other-focused. This reversal characterizes a Jesus-follower. It’s how people know who’s with him (John 13:35).

This is the culture of his kingdom:

Ephesians 4 28 The thief must stop stealing and put his hands to work for good, so he can contribute to the person in need.

There’s no honour among thieves; a heart shrinks to the size of the self. There is honour in the King’s community; hearts grow to encompass each other.

Today, our work hours are reduced, as robots do the hard labour. Volunteering your time is a powerful way to build community. Like Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you” (Acts 3:6). Imagine responding to thieves like that: discovering what they really needed, and what evil was driving them.

Let’s live as the humanitarian community of the King. Even if we get robbed on the journey.


What others are saying

F. F. Bruce, The Epistles to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984), 362:

The grace of generosity is part and parcel of the Christian way of life (Luke 6:29–36; 2 Cor. 8:1–15; 9:6–12), but when it is practiced by a former thief it stands in total contrast to his previous course of life.

B. F. Westcott, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, (London: Macmillan, 1909), 73:

Stealing is the typical form of using the labour of another to supply our wishes, while it is our duty to make our own labour minister to the needs of others. The inspiration of labour is not personal gain but fulness of service.


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Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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