Thin Places

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Our pastor is preaching a sermon series on the Ten
Commandments. Last week was “Thou shalt not steal.” He did a great job. He
explained that all of us are thieves. Sometimes it’s outright, whether that’s
the prank of shoplifting as a kid, or the more adult versions of downloading
illegal movies or music. And he gave examples of two other, more passive, types
of theft. He talked about padding an expense report, for instance. Or using
work hours for personal matters.

As good and true as the sermon was, I couldn’t relate to
much of it. I was a moralistic little kid, so I never shoplifted. There was a
time when I stole four quarters from my father and put them in a piggy bank. I
was so filled with remorse that I wept and asked for my allowance ahead of time
(I would have needed to break the bank, literally, to get the quarters back) so
that I could repay him. And I work for myself, so it’s hard to steal from my company. 

And yet as he was speaking, it became clear to me that there
is another type of stealing that wasn’t on the agenda for the sermon: stealing
from God. 

My mind was brought to a passage I heard long ago, from the prophet Malachi (3:8-12):

“Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me.

“But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’

“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse–your whole nation–because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the LORD Almighty. “Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land,” says the LORD Almighty.

I haven’t stolen from another human being lately. But any time I think of money as mine, to be used for whatever I desire, I steal from God. In the midst of the sermon, I was convicted of some areas of exorbitant spending in my life. That money could have been used to care for other people. It was God’s to begin with, and yet I used it for myself, as if it were my own.

Thankfully, whether it is repenting for shoplifting, downloading pirated music, embezzlement, or stealing from God, God is gracious. And when we repent (which means turn away) of our stealing, there God is, ready to “throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out blessing.”

I am certain that I will steal from God again. But I am hopeful that I will also be more careful about spending money in the future. And I will be looking for God’s blessing, and our delight.  

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