The next topic that Paul addresses in what the new nature looks like is stealing, working, and sharing. “Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need” (Eph 4:28).
Paul is very blunt in his instruction here at the start of this verse. If stealing has been a challenge for you, stop doing it. Even though we know that spiritual growth is a process, it is interesting to me that Paul does not give a multi-step approach to stopping stealing. Paul does not advocate a regimen of psychoanalysis to get at the root of your stealing problem. Like lying (Eph 4:25) and anger (Eph 4:26) before it, he simply says to lay it aside.
Again, growing to spiritual maturity is a process. But if we ignore all the “new” that changed inside us at our conversion, we can suppress some immediate help. If we do not understand and acknowledge and tap into our “new creation”, the process becomes a slog, or a drudgery, or a self-effort exercise in sin management. It is characterized by success and failure; pride and shame.
Yes, our human condition and frailty did not undergo a complete makeover at our salvation. We still have our temptation and sin challenges. But something inside you, something that accelerates your spiritual growth, DID CHANGE. All these new accelerants: Christ in you, the Holy Spirit inside, your new self with its new nature, the Word literally implanted in you, are available to help us “override” as it were our human condition and propensities.
I think Paul can be this direct about stopping these sins in their tracks because he is speaking in the context of putting on the new self with its new nature. Paul is pointing out that stealing is foreign to who you now are. Stealing does not fit who you are in Christ; it does not fit your new righteous nature. Stealing is a sin. Stealing is wrong. So in keeping with your new identity in Christ, stop doing it.
Now Paul does not just leave us hanging with a call to stop stealing. He adds a positive motivation to stop stealing. He turns a positive corner and instructs us where to go instead of stealing. Go to work. Acquire the things you need and desire by earning it, not stealing it.
Work and the need to work to care for ourselves and our families is not a curse. Work is a blessing. It is a blessed opportunity not just to provide for our own needs, but as Paul continues in the verse, to provide for the needs of others as well.
Have you ever thought about this as a motivation to go to work? Have you ever identified the ability to serve others through what you earn as a motivation to excel on your job? This is something that is very personal to me and something I have considered often. We will expand on this idea next post.