August 8, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Ephesians 4:28 (NRSV)
Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.
Ephesians 4:28 says that thieves shouldn’t steal any longer. Instead, they should work with their hands. That’s all well and good. But does this verse have anything to say to those of us who are not into stealing? Yes, indeed it does. We all need to learn how to do good work and to share the proceeds from our labors with those who are needy. Today we begin a short series focusing on Ephesians 4:28. Stay tuned . . . .
You probably know that this daily digital devotional, Life for Leaders, is produced by Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership. One of our major concerns at the De Pree Center has to do with work, not primarily the work of pastors and missionaries, but rather the work of all people, that which we might call ordinary work.
When we talk about work, we’re not thinking only of work for which you are paid. Work includes all sorts of things we do without compensation, including changing diapers, mowing the lawn, leading a Bible study, volunteering in a homeless shelter, writing an essay for school, and so much more. Work is what we do with our bodies and minds that makes a difference in the world. It’s one of the main ways we live out the biblical command to “Be fruitful” (Genesis 1:28).
Ephesians 4:28 is one of the most important passages in all of Scripture when it comes to the matter of work. But its importance is not obvious at first. In fact, this verse seems irrelevant to most of us since it specifically addresses thieves: “Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy.” It makes sense that thieves should stop their thievery, given the clarity of the eighth commandment: “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). Ephesians urges those who have been stealing to start working instead. That’s all well and good. But does Ephesians 4:28 have anything to say to those of us who are not into thievery?
The truth is that what this passage says about work speaks to all of us, whether or not we struggle with kleptomania. (The Greek verb translated here as “stealing” is kleptō, by the way, from which we get the word “kleptomania.”) In the next few days, I’ll consider what Ephesians 4:28 says to us about our work. Before I get into the details, however, I’d like to invite you to begin to consider how this verse speaks to you. Take time to reflect on it, using the following questions.
When you read the imperative suggested in Ephesians 4:28, “You must work,” how do you feel?
How do you think and feel about your own work?
Why do you work? What motivates you to do the daily work you do, whether for compensation or for free?
As you go about your day, pay attention to the work you do and how you feel about it. You may even want to keep a log of what you’re doing and how you’re feeling. When, if at all, do you sense God’s presence as you work?
Gracious God, thank you for this verse in Ephesians that speaks about work. As we take time to study and reflect upon this verse, give us new wisdom so that we might think about our work as you do. Give us new energy to do the work you have called us to do, so that we might serve you with all that we are. Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Fruitfulness/Growth (Genesis 1:28; 2:15, 19-20)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.