Paul’s admonition against thievery is actually a position against taking advantage of each other. He says thieves should work honestly not because it’s morally good. He tells them to work so that they can share what they have with others who are in need.
This position carries with it three assumptions:
- Some people are taking things they do not need,
- Some people need things they cannot obtain on their own
- Those who have should share with those who do not.
The heart of taking advantage of people is one of arrogance. When we take advantage of others we assume a couple of other things:
- We are better than them.
- We deserve what we have and they do not.
- Dishonesty is a valid means of getting what we want.
Now, you might be sitting there thinking, “I don’t steal. I’m a basically honest person. I don’t take advantage of others.” When was the last time you browsed Facebook during work when you weren’t on a break? Or stood around talking when we were obligated to do something else?
Let me put it in a different way that might irritate both sides of the political spectrum. The people who do not share are just as bad as the people who take what they do not need and have not earned honestly. That is why the Rich Vs Poor debate is not the one we should be having. It’s not Bernie Sanders vs Ron Paul (two very rich men by the way). The real debate is between the rich who have earned it honestly and justly VS those who have earned it through exploitation and fraud.
Paul assumes that Christians who have earned justly will give to those in need while Christians who do not are the thieves taking what they have not honestly earned and keeping what they do not need.
Paul’s criticism isn’t against having money. His criticism is against what we do with it when we have it and how we choose to obtain it. Paul is saying that Christians are not to get what they want by taking advantage of others nor are we to take what we do not need.
At its heart, Paul’s admonition against stealing is about trust. We cannot possibly trust each other if we know that others only see us only as means to their own ends and getting what they want.