One excuse that some thieves make is this: that the victim either left their front door unlocked or they forget and left their keys in their car. In fact, in a stroke of “genius”, the Tennessee Court of Appeals just recently ruled that a woman was responsible for a car thief crashing her car and injuring other people. Knoxville News Sentinel, 12/10/10—
“The Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit against the city of Murfreesboro and its police department over a wreck that involved a fleeing stolen vehicle that crashed with a car carrying three people. But the higher court reversed a decision by the circuit court of Rutherford County and said the suit against a man who left the keys in the car before it was stolen should continue.”Uh, no. It is not the car owner’s fault if someone steals their car—whether they left the keys in it or not! The only fault lies with the thief. One person at the Knoxville New Sentinel website hit the nail on the head—
“Just because keys are left in a vehicle is not an open invitation to steal what does not belong to someone else. The thief still has to take what does not belong to them in order to possess the car long enough to do the damage this thief did, and the thief is solely responsible for their actions. The thief is the one that broke the law and crashed into an auto carrying three other people.”Just like dropping that $20 bill on the sidewalk. It’s not yours—leave it alone!
As we talked about last week, tax collectors—or as the KJV says, “publicans”—tax collectors in Jesus’ day would make the IRS look like a charitable organization. They would collect not only the taxes that the Roman government ordered, but they would impose their own “taxes” on the people, and collect above and beyond what the Roman government demanded. So when John the Baptist was baptizing in the wilderness, it says in Luke 3:12-13—12 Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" 13 And he said to them, "Collect no more than what is appointed for you." John was not telling them to not collect taxes. He was telling them to only collect what the Roman government required. Now, while we’re talking about taxes, let’s talk about taxes. People who are required by law to pay taxes—if they do not pay their taxes, they are stealing. There is a famous incident where the Pharisees test Jesus about the issue of taxes. Mark 12:13-15—13 Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. 14 When they had come, they said to Him…“Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? 15 Shall we pay, or shall we not pay?” That is what a lot of people ask these days. “I don’t think I should pay taxes, so I just don’t pay them.” Or they get paid in cash “under the table” so there’s no evidence. The tax that is in question was called the “Head Tax”—once a year, the head of the family was to pay one day’s waged to the Roman government. Now, think about the mindset of the Pharisees. There was a tiny speck of truth in their opposition to paying this tax. After all, this was one way that pagan Rome paid for the construction of temples to pagan gods, and it also supported the very Roman army that was oppressing them. So, they had kind of a good reason for not wanting to pay it.
BUT—this wasn’t the reason they posed this question to Christ. Look back at Mark 12:13—Then they sent to Him some of the Pharisees and the Herodians, to catch Him in His words. They took this legitimate concern and used it as a way to try and trip Jesus up in His own words. But, Jesus let them know that we are to submit to all government, and says this about taxes, Mark 12:15-17—15 But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, "Why do you test Me? Bring Me a denarius that I may see it." 16 So they brought it. And He said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar's." 17 And Jesus answered and said to them, "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." Depending on your translation it may say “denarius” or “penny” or “copper coin.” At any rate, what they brought him was a coin which was equivalent to one day’s wage at that time.
Look at that little phrase—“Render unto Caesar That which is Caesar’s.” Jesus is saying “That denarius belongs to Caesar—so give it to him.” Now, if Jesus commanded His people to pay what the government of a wicked government like Rome commanded, then we have no excuse for saying “Well, yeah but the taxes I pay go to programs I don’t agree with, so I'm not going to pay it.” It doesn’t matter whether you agree with what the government does with that money, we are obligated to pay your taxes. Christ teach this. The apostle Paul taught that within the context of the fact that all government is appointed by God. Romans 13:1-2—1 Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. And Romans 13:5-7—5 Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. 7 Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
There is another area of theft I want to talk about. That is when we steal from our employers. I used to work at Pepsi, and there were a couple of fellows—OK, I was in the same boat with them—that would sneak out cases of drinks to take home, which we were not allowed to do. What do you think our excuse was? How do you think we justified what we did? “We’ve earned this.” Or, “They don’t pay us enough” or something along those lines. The problem with that line of thinking—other then the fact that what we did was stealing—is the fact that no one was forcing us to work there. If we were unhappy with our jobs, we were more than welcome to find employment elsewhere. But if we stayed voluntarily, we were, in effect, agreeing to work for the wage they were offering. Listen to Colossians 3:22-25—22 Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God. 23 And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, 24 knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. 25 But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality. The men that ran Enron and AIG and Goldman Sachs into the ground while they walked away with millions—will God punish them? Absolutely. But He will also punish the lowly servant that is an unrepentant thief stealing from his boss.
Jesus Christ Himself teaches us this same principle in Matthew 20:1-16 in the Parable of the Vinedressers. The greater point Jesus is making is that whether someone gets saved as a child or they call on Christ on their deathbed, everyone who is saved will receive an inheritance in the Kingdom of God. The smaller point is this—if you agree to work for a certain wage, for a certain job, then you can either work for that wage or go home. Just because you don’t like how much you're being paid does not give you a right to steal from your boss.
Another principle this parable brings out is part of the reason people steal: they think God hasn’t given them enough. Although they may not realize it, they are saying within themselves “God hasn’t given me all I want, but He has given it to someone else.” What that means, of course, is that, if I'm the thief, I feel like God needs a little help balancing the account between what I have and what that other person has. But listen to what the owner of the vineyard says. Matthew 20:14-15—“14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?” How much of the universe belongs to God? Psalm 24:1—The earth is the LORD’s and the fulness thereof. It all belongs to God. And if He wants to allow one person to have more than you, then that is His right. He owns it; He can do what He pleases with it. Wealth itself is not inherently evil. It’s our attitude toward wealth that can be evil. 1st Timothy 6:10—The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.
Now, we’re gonna take a side road here for a moment. The heresy that is the prosperity “gospel” is rooted in the love of money. It is rooted in the belief that You deserve to be wealthy and that you can command God to give you wealth. One of Kenneth Copeland’s most famous quotes is when he said, "As a believer, you have a right to make commands in the name of Jesus. Each time you stand on the Word, you are commanding God to a certain extent, because it is His Word." And what are these people commanding God to do? Give them more stuff. We’ll talk more about that when we get to covetousness.
Now, let’s finish up by looking back at the provisions in the Law for the poor and the traveler to glean from the corners of fields. We looked at two of those provisions last week, Leviticus 19:9-10 and Deuteronomy 23:24-25. There is also the passage found in Deuteronomy 24:19-21—“19 When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. 20 When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. 21 When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.” I tend to believe that all these commands had more than one purpose. One, of course, they provided for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. BUT it also allowed for two of Jesus great-great-great-great-grandparents to meet.
Long time ago there was a farmer in Bethlehem, and his name was Boaz. A young woman named Ruth came to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law, and they came to Boaz, who was a distant relative. Ruth 2:8-9—8 Then Boaz said to Ruth, “Do not go to glean in another field, nor go from here, but stay close by my young women. 9 Let your eyes be on the field which they reap, and go after them.” And then he goes and tells his servants to leave a little something for her when they reap. Ruth 2:15-16—15 And when she rose up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, "Let her glean even among the sheaves, and do not reproach her. 16 Also let grain from the bundles fall purposely for her; leave it that she may glean, and do not rebuke her." Eventually Ruth and Boaz get married, they have a son named Obed; Obed has a son named Jesse; and Jesse begets 8 sons, the youngest being a boy named David. Mary and Joseph were descended from David, and that Jesus was born of Mary. So God used this command to leave gleanings for the poor to bring together two of Jesus’ ancestors.
Ruth 4:13-17 (KJV)—13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she was his wife: and when he went in unto her, the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son. 14 And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. I want to stop right here and briefly introduce a principle from the Law known as the provision of a “kinsman redeemer”, and we’ll skim a little more about that next week. Well, Boaz was Ruth’s “kinsman redeemer”, while our “kinsman redeemer” is Christ, as we see in Hebrews 2:11-12—11 For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, 12 saying, "I will proclaim Your name to My brethren, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise." Any way, Ruth 4:15-17 (KJV)—15 And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him…17 and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David. Of course, this is King David, of whom both Mary and Joseph were direct descendants. Their genealogies are recorded in Matthew 1 and Luke 3. Matthew traces Joseph’s ancestry and Luke describes Mary’s. All because a poor widow and her daughter-in-law were allowed to glean stubble in a wheat field. See now how this Law is pointing to Christ? It was because of the many provisions for the poor that two of His ancestors came together. But all this OT stuff is so boring, isn't it!
Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen.