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Paul teaches us to be givers

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Today’s bible study is Ephesians 4:28: Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

This verse is so familiar that it almost sounds like something our parents might have said to us as children. How often were we taught not to steal? We heard this admonition at home, in Sunday school and in school. We learned very early that stealing was wrong. Many of us were also told that, ‘idle hands do the devil’s work.’ And, finally, we are once again reminded to share with those in need. This certainly was brought home to me when a minister once said, “We do not give out of our wealth; we give out of our poverty.” And it is this poverty, this lack of material wealth, that we, like Jesus, can give of so freely to those in need.

The fourth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, however, is speaking of the old life and the new. It begins by telling people that although they are ethnically Gentiles, they now belong to the new Christian community that transcends the Jew/Gentile division. Though not ethnically Jews, they can look on the unbelieving world and their own unbelieving past as a Gentile way of life that cannot continue.

Paul then goes on to say that the Christian faith is transmitted by teaching. The readers have become Christian and have entered a new life by learning. Paul lived in a pre-Constantine world in which the church could not expect the culture to transmit the faith; people did not learn what it meant to be Christian by absorbing the ethos of the dominant culture. The Christian culture of the West has dissolved. As the world of the twenty-first century becomes more and more secularized, the church finds itself in the same situation as the readers of Ephesians and must develop the teaching/learning strategies to pass on the authentic Christian faith.

Today we are reminded to share with the needy. This is an example of teaching/learning. The warning against stealing is not only a matter of individual morality or honest labor. It is assumed that those who have this world’s goods will share with others

Lord, help us to share. Whether we have been blessed with much or with little, let us always share as you would have shared. Let us teach and learn as your faithful disciples taught and learned. May we ever be mindful of those who are without and those to whom we must give. Our gifts may be small, but even the smallest gift given from our own poverty, has value to you, O gracious and loving Lord. May we, like Paul, forever be teachers and learners, givers and not takers.

References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock and The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur.

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