Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,” when you have it with you.
There’s a fourth way to engage in the act of stealing, which is breaking the Eighth Commandment. We can acquire what isn’t ours through defrauding someone. By defrauding, I’m talking about withholding what isn’t rightfully ours.
In Proverbs 3:27–28, the writer says, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come back, and tomorrow I will give it,” when you have it with you.” The writer is talking about not paying your debts. That’s the primary application: don’t refuse to pay what you owe another person. I know it’s popular today to default on credit card balances and to file for bankruptcy. By the way, that’s why we pay 18 to 22 percent interest on our credit cards and because of high loan rates, because of people who don’t pay their debts. But to file bankruptcy, to try to discharge a debt, to refuse to pay a credit card, that’s thievery—that is acquiring possessions illegitimately without paying for them.
By the way, that’s not the only way we defraud people. If you are an employee, it is possible to engage in defrauding your employer by withholding what belongs to them. In Colossians 3:22–24. Paul writes, “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” When an employee does not put in a full day’s work for full day’s pay, he’s guilty of thievery. He is defrauding his employer of what the employer is due. When you come in late and go home early on a regular basis, that’s theft; that’s defrauding.
Employers can also be guilty of thievery. I read about a supermarket chain that was boasting of record profits and the way they got those record profits was by forcing their employers to work off the clock so that they didn’t have to pay them for certain hours. The Bible speaks against this in Colossians 4:1, “Masters, you grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a master who is in heaven.”
Those who don’t pay their income tax, those who pad their expenses or underreport their income, they’re also guilty of thievery. I don’t enjoy writing that check for my income tax either. But there are some people who get all self-righteousness and say, “I’m not going to support the government by paying my taxes because the government is ungodly and it supports abortions” and on and on. Don’t get sanctimonious about that. The Bible is very clear. In Matthew 22:21, Jesus said, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” We have a responsibility not to withhold from the government that which rightly belongs to the government.
Finally, it’s possible to defraud God Himself. Whenever we withhold for ourselves what belongs to God, that’s theft. The prophet Malachi said, “Will a man rob God?” (Malachi 3:8). The thought is unconscionable. God said, “Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you! Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows” (vv. 8–10). By the way, the storehouse is not a charity or a university or a nonprofit organization such as Red Cross or United Way. In the Old Testament, the storehouse was the temple. In the New Testament, the storehouse is the church. The church is the place we bring our gifts. If you want to give to other charities and organizations, that’s fine, but that’s not tithing. The tithe belongs in the church. And when we withhold the tithe that belongs to God, then that’s the same as robbing God.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Grand Theft Auto,” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2008.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.