Eph 4:28-30 “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”
We see a very simple exhortation here concerning those with whom we have contact. If you were a thief in the past, that action is to cease and not happen again. This is not only good advice, but it also shows willingness on our part to forgive the past transgression. From a purely moral standpoint, this is good advice; from a spiritual perspective, it is also good advice.
In Malachi 3:8, God says “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings.” We do not often consider how we steal from God. While the New Testament principle of giving is not defined by a tenth (tithe), the principle of giving is still taught (2Co 2:9). The offering in the Old Testament was to be freely given, just as our giving to God today (whether money, time, or talent, etc.) should be done with joy, not grudgingly. We steal from God when we withhold praise and worship in any form from Him because it already belongs to Him.
We are not only to cease from the practice of stealing, but we are to replace that practice with one of labor. The Greek word rendered here as “labour” does not simply mean to do something, but “to feel fatigue; by implication to work hard.” There is to be real effort and earnestness put forth. We are to minister (work) with power (hands) in things that are beneficial (good). Now pay close attention to the “why” of our intense ministry; so that we can give to those that have need! Our labor is not to be done so that we can have more or better. We labor to give to those that have need freely and cheerfully, rather than stealing from God by refusing to minister to the needs of others or by doing so with a complaining spirit.
The second exhortation we find is also simple: don’t say rotten things. We are charged to speak the truth. Our communication should glorify God in all things. At no time should we speak of ourselves or other men in a way that would seem to indicate that we are somehow on the same level as God. We should never portray Him as though He sits and waits to see what men will do and then reacts accordingly. He had already purposed in Himself every action He would take to bring His people to the end that He had seen for them from the beginning.
When we speak of God and all that He has done, is doing now, and will do in the future, we need to speak in a way that edifies and strengthens His people. We need to speak the truth in love. Our desire should be for our speech to give (minister) to give to the hearers a testimony of “the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life (See Strong’s definition of grace).”
The exhortation in verse 30 is something we seem to give little thought to. According to Strong’s, the Greek word rendered as grieve means “to distress; reflexively or passively to be sad: – cause grief, grieve, be in heaviness, (be) sorrow (-ful), be (make) sorry.” How often do we stop to consider if our actions or speech cause the holy Spirit of God to be sorrowful? Even as adults, we do not like to disappoint our parents. We feel remorse when we discover that something we have said or done has made them sad. If our behavior can grieve our natural parents, why do we suppose that it does not have the same effect on our Heavenly Father?
We dislike grieving our natural parents because we recognize all they have done for us over the years. The sacrifices they have made and the things they have taught us have value to us. We long for them to know that these things matter in our lives. How much more should we display this attitude with our Heavenly Father? We are sealed (kept, protected) by Him all our days. In this seal we have hope, peace, and joy. Through the power of His sacrifice and teaching, we know and feel our full ransom from sin and that we shall ultimately be with Him in glory!
May we take the simple exhortation of the scripture and live a life of service to God and others!