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EPHESIANS - Chapter 4 - Verse 28

Verse 28. Let him that stole steal no more. Theft, like lying, was, and is, almost a universal vice among the heathen. The practice of pilfering prevails in probably every pagan community, and no property is safe which is not guarded, or so locked up as to be inaccessible. Hence as the Christian converts at Ephesus had been long addicted to it, there was danger that they would fall into it again; and hence the necessity of special cautions on that head. We are not to suppose that pilfering was a common vice in the church; but the cautions on this point proceed on the principle that where a man has been long in the habit of a particular sin, he is in great danger of falling into it again. Hence we caution the man who has been intemperate against the least indulgence in intoxicating drinks; we exhort him not to touch that which would be so strong a temptation to him. The object of the apostle was to show that the gospel requires holy living in all its friends, and to entreat Christians at Ephesus in a special manner to avoid the vices of the surrounding heathen.

But rather let him labour. Let him seek the means of living in an honest manner, by his own industry, rather than by wronging others.

Working with his hands. Pursuing some honest employment. Paul was not ashamed to labour with "his own hands," 1 Co 4:12; and no man is dishonoured by labour. God made man for toil, Ge 2:15; and employment is essential to the happiness of the race. No man, who is able to support himself, has a right to depend on others. See Barnes "Ro 12:11".

 

That he may have to give to him that needeth. Marg., distribute. Not merely that he may have the means of support, but that he may have it in his power to aid others. The reason and propriety of this is obvious. The human race is one great brotherhood. A considerable part cannot labour to support themselves. They are too old, or too young; or they are crippled or feeble, or laid on beds of sickness. If others do not divide with them the avails of their labours, they will perish. We are required to labour in order that we may have the privilege of contributing to their comfort. Learn from this verse,

(1.) that every Christian should have some calling, business, or profession, by which he may support himself. The Saviour was a carpenter; Paul a tentmaker; and no man is disgraced by being able to build a house, or to construct a tent.

(2.) Christianity promotes industry. It is rare that an idle man becomes a Christian; but if he does, religion makes him industrious just in proportion as it has influence over his mind. To talk of a lazy Christian is about the same as to talk of burning water or freezing fire.

(3.) Christians should have some useful and honest employment. They should work "that which is good." They should not pursue an employment which will necessarily injure others. No man has a right to place a nuisance under the window of his neighbour; nor has he any more right to pursue an employment that shall lead his neighbour into sin, or ruin him. An honest employment benefits everybody. A good farmer is a benefit to his neighbourhood and country; and a good shoemaker, blacksmith, weaver, cabinet-maker, watchmaker, machinist, is a blessing to the community. He injures no one; he benefits all. How is it with the distiller, and the vender of alcoholic drinks? He benefits no one; he injures everybody. Every quart of intoxicating drink that is taken from his house does evil somewhere—evil, and only evil, and that continually. No one is made better, or richer; no one is made more moral or industrious; no one is helped on the way to heaven by it. Thousands are helped on the way to hell by it, who are already in the path; and thousands are induced to walk in the way to death who, but for that distillery, store, or tavern, might have walked in the way to heaven. Is this, then, "working that WHICH IS GOOD ?" Would Paul have done it? Would Jesus do it? Strange, that by a professing Christian it was ever done! See a striking instance of the way in which the Ephesian Christians acted when they were first converted, in Ac 19:19. See Barnes "Ac 19:19".

 

(4.) The main business of a Christian is not to make money, and to become rich. It is that he may have the means of benefiting others. Beyond what he needs for himself, his poor, and sick, and aged, and afflicted brother and friend has a claim on his earnings—and they should be liberally bestowed.

(5.) We should labour in order that we may have the means of doing good to others. It should be just as much a matter of plan and purpose to do this, as it is to labour in order to buy a goat, or to build a house, or to live comfortably, or to have the means of a decent burial. Yet how few are those who have any such end in view, or who pursue their daily toil definitely, that they may have something to give away. The world will be soon converted when all Christians make that the purpose See Barnes "Ro 12:11".

 

{b} "labour" Ac 20:35 {1} "give" "distribute"

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