“Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28).
How does the good news of Jesus impact individuals, families, neighborhoods, and cities? Does the gospel make people prideful begets? Does it make people unloving and judgmental?
Ephesians 4:28 gives us a case study of what the impact of the good news of Jesus is supposed to have. It should change individuals. If they steal, it should change them so that they no longer do so. In the same way, the employer who is a jerk and does not treat people well is to change and instead be kind and care for their employees. The employee is also addressed, they are to do honest work and work as unto the Lord Jesus Himself.
So, we see the thief, the employer, the employee, the soldier (Lk. 3:14), and all types of people in all sorts of positions, are exhorted to not take part in wrong and destructive practices. That is the negative command. That is the, “Don’t do…” But there is also a positive command. Something we are told we must do. And that is labor. Whoever we are and whatever we do, there is something we must do. We must engage in labor, we must do the work before us in honesty. So the Christian is to work their best whether someone is watching or no one is watching.
Ephesians 4:28 tells us what is not to be done (for example, stealing), what is to be done (namely, honest hard work), and then it tells us why. So, why? Why is the thief to no longer steal? Is it just because stealing is bad?
No. It is more than that. Those who know Jesus are told not just to not do the right thing, they are told not just to do the right thing, they are told to actively do things for others. The thief is to no longer steal in order that they “may have something to share with anyone in need.”
As Christians, we are to not do the wrong, but do the right thing, so that we can help others. The motivation is not just that we’re supposed to be moral (and we don’t want to get in trouble with the law). The motivation goes beyond that. We are to be motivated by opportunities to bless others.
What could be the motivation for that type of altruism? Many people act altruistically. The Christian is called act altruistically and has the powerful example of their Lord and Savior. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
So, how does the good news of Jesus impact individuals, families, neighborhoods, and cities? It should have a huge positive impact! Christians should do what is right in whatever field they are in, they should be people of integrity who work hard, and their motivation should not be strictly for the betterment of themselves but of those in need.
God in the mouths of the prophets and in the mouth of Jesus teaches us that we are to love Him and others. In fact, Jesus says, how can we love God and not people who are made in His image? Jesus is saying that it is a hypocritical contradiction to say we love God and not love people.
So, we see, if one thief is transformed it impacts not just that individual. That individual, in turn, impacts their own family and those in need in their neighborhood of relationships and so even the city is blessed. The good news of Jesus ripples out to bless others. The transformation of an individual through the gospel creates a trajectory of blessing to the world.
The gospel ripples. The gospel impacts individuals, families, neighborhoods, and cities.