Ephesians 4:28 Commentary

Ephesians 4:28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: o klepton (PAPMSN) meketi klepteto, (3SPAM) mallon de kopiato (3SPAM) ergazomenos (PMPMSN) tais [idiais] chersin to agathon, hina eche (3SPAS) metadidonai (PAN) to chreian echonti. (PAPMSD)

Amplified: Let the thief steal no more, but rather let him be industrious, making an honest living with his own hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)

NLT: If you are a thief, stop stealing. Begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need. (NLT - Tyndale House)

Phillips: If you used to be a thief you must not only give up stealing, but you must learn to make an honest living, so that you may be able to give to those in need. (Phillips: Touchstone)

Wuest: The one who is stealing, let him no longer be stealing, but rather let him be laboring, working with his own hands that which is good, in order that he may be having that wherewith to be sharing with the one who is having need. 

Young's Literal: He who has been a thief must steal no more, but, instead of that, should work with his own hands in honest industry, so that he may have something of which he can give the needy a share.

HE WHO STEALS MUST STEAL NO LONGER: o klepton (PAPMSN) meketi klepteto, (3SPAM):

Literally his words read: “Let him that steals play the thief no more.”

Steals (2813) (Klepto) means to steal furtively or take by stealth. It means to to take secretly and without permission the property of someone. Paul uses the verb klepto in the present tense as a noun, this tense emphasizing this action as one's character trait. That sin was still being committed by the members of the Ephesian church.

No longer (3371) (meketi from me = not + éti = anymore, yet, with k (kappa) inserted for phonics) means no more, no further

Klepto is a present imperative with a negative meaning to stop an action already in progress or do not begin.

Findlay writes that "From the lowest dregs of the Greek cities, from its profligate and criminal classes — the gospel had drawn its converts (cp 1 Cor 6:9-11). In the Ephesian Church there were converted thieves; and Christianity had to make of them honest workmen. The words of verse 28, addressed to a company of thieves, vividly shows the transforming effect of the gospel of Christ. The apostle brings the loftiest motives to bear instantly upon the basest natures, and is sure of a response. He makes no appeal to self interest, he says nothing of the fear of punishment, nothing even of the pride of honest labour. Pity for their fellows, the spirit of self-sacrifice and generosity is to set those pilfering and violent hands to unaccustomed toil. The appeal was as wise as it was bold. Utilitarianism will never raise the morally degraded. Preach to them thrift and self-improvement, show them the pleasures of an ordered home and the advantages of respectability, they will still feel that their own way of life pleases and suits them best. But let the divine spark of charity be kindled in their breast — let the man have love and pity and not self to work for, and he is a new creature. His indolence is conquered; his meanness changed to the noble sense of a common manhood. Love never faileth. (Ephesians 4 Commentary)

Expositors Greek Testament adds a somewhat surprising note writing that "Stealing was not wholly condemned by ancient heathen opinion. It was even allowed by the Lacedaemonians. It was a vice into which the recently converted living in the old pagan surroundings, especially when unemployed, might all too readily slip. It has been thought strange, scarcely credible indeed, that professing Christians in these Asiatic churches would have given way to thieving. But the Epistles bear witness to the existence of grosser offenses against morality in the churches.” Paul now offers a corrective to stealing, in the words, “but rather let him be laboring, working with his own hands that which is good, in order that he may be having wherewith to be sharing with the one who is having need.” (Ephesians 4 Commentary - S Salmond) )

BUT RATHER HE MUST LABOR, PERFORMING WITH HIS OWN HANDS WHAT IS GOOD: mallon de kopiato (3SPAM) ergazomenos (PMPMSN) tais [idiais] chersin to agathon:

He must labor (2872) (kopiao from kópos = labor, fatigue) (Click word study on kopiao) This root word kopos is used in secular Greek of “a beating,” “weariness” (as though one had been beaten) and “exertion,” was the proper word for physical tiredness induced by work, exertion or heat.

Kopiao means to to exhibit great effort and exertion, to the point of sweat and exhaustion. To physically become worn out, weary or faint. To engage in hard work with the implication of difficulty and trouble.

Kopiao speaks of intense toil even to the point of utter exhaustion if necessary. The work described by kopiao was left one so weary it was as if the person had taken a beating.

Kopiao speaks not so much of the actual exertion as the weariness which follows the straining of all one's powers to the utmost.

Lightfoot says that kopiao

“is used especially of the labor undergone by the athlete in his training..."

Performing (2038) (ergazomai from érgon = work) means to engage in an activity involving considerable expenditure of effort. It means to be involved in business, with a focus upon the work which is involved

Own (2398)

Hands (5495) (cheir) literally one's hands but figuratively here speaking of the "instrument" or means of performing the labor.

Good (18) (agathos) (Click word study on agathos) means profitable, benefiting others, whereas the related word kalos means constitutionally good, but not necessarily benefiting others. Click discussion of good deeds.

Saints are made adequate and equipped for these "agathos" works by God's Word for "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good (agathos) work." (see note 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

SO THAT HE WILL HAVE SOMETHING TO SHARE WITH ONE WHO HAS NEED: hina eche (3SPAS) metadidonai (PAN) to chreian echonti. (PAPMSD):

So that (2443) (hina) introduces the purpose for which one should work. Always pause to ponder terms of purpose or result -.

He will have something to share (3330) (metadidomi from metá = with, denoting association + dídomi = to give) means to share with someone else what one has. (impart, communicate, give a share of, as distinct from giving).

The usual Greek verb for giving is didomi, but the word in here is the intensified metadidomi, which carries the additional meanings of sharing and imparting that which is one’s own. The one who exercises this gift gives sacrificially of himself.

Has (2192) (echo) means to have with a wide range of meaning.

Need (5532) (chreia from chréos = debt) refers to that which is needed or is a necessity.

Our Daily Bread - "Meaningful Work":

In the London Tube, England's underground rail system, one travel agent's advertisement declared: "Your work is meaningless. And you'll die having achieved comparatively little. You need a holiday." Those words do indeed describe the feeling of many who are "sick and tired" of their work.

Some people may even find their labor so wearisome that they think it must be punishment from God. This could not be further from the truth. Even before sin entered the world, God gave Adam and Eve meaningful work to do (Genesis 1:28; 2:15).

In Ephesians 4:17-32, we are given a list of actions that characterize those who belong to Christ. Included in the list is the command to work for a living (v.28).

The motivation given for work was not to accumulate wealth but to have something to share with others. From the biblical perspective, therefore, work is useful and most fulfilling when it enables us to help others. The apostle Paul said, "Let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need" (v.28).

Our work does have meaning, especially when we realize that it is God-given, and that we please Him when we share its fruit with others. —AL —Albert Lee (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

Lord, teach me how to love and work,
That every deed I do
May be to someone in its turn
A service fine and true. —Anon.

We make a living by what we earn; we make a life by what we give.

Wayne Barber explains our Brand New Way of Life writing...

I want to remind us of something that I think is very important. We are in some very difficult Scripture and it is going to show us how we are living as compared to how we ought to be living. That is no fun sometimes. Why are we in it? What is God doing in our lives? I want to remind us what all Scripture is for. Look in 2 Timothy 3.

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness." (2 Timothy 3:16)

God wants us to be informed. We want our minds to be renewed so that our behavior can be transformed. Therefore, the Word of God is to inform us for teaching. Secondly it is to reform us. Now to reform somebody, you first of all have to reprove them and then you must correct them. That is what the Word of God is for. It exposes us for what we are, then it corrects us.

The Spirit of God wants to do a work in us through the book of Ephesians. I think He has been whetting our appetite on who we are in Jesus in the three chapters. It is wonderful to know what we have in the Lord Jesus Christ, who we are, whose we are. But in chapter 4 Paul changes directions. He is going to start saying,

"Okay, folks, if you say you have Him, then you are to walk in a manner worthy of who you say you are and whose you say you are. You live in a manner worthy. Look, you have every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. Now live up to it and walk like you are supposed to walk."

Now let’s turn back to Ephesians and outline the rest of the book to show you how it fits together. Ephesians 4:1-16 show the overview of what the church ought to be, worldwide, locally, wherever you are. People are to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace and be strengthened in the inner man by the Spirit of God. That is in his prayer in the last few verses of Ephesians 3. When I am being strengthened in the inner man, I am being given the ability beyond what I can do apart from God. In other words, I am living differently. There is something totally unique and different about my life. When I am doing that, it is going to reflect in the body of Christ. We are going to be seen for how we behave toward one another. We are going to be seen for how we believe, Ephesians 4:4-6. We are going to be seen for how we cooperate in being built together in the body of Christ, Ephesians 4: 7-16.

So we see a picture of what the church ought to be. It begins to show us how we are to walk. It begins to show us individually how we are to live a brand new way. This is when it really goes home with us. Ephesians 4:17-19 says,

"Don’t live as the Gentiles live."

The Gentiles are darkened in their mentality. They are depraved in their morality. Their inclinations are based on their darkened understanding. They don’t know how to live morally. Their relationships are fragmented. They don’t know how to build up. They only tear down as they live together. We are not to live like that anymore.

Ephesians 4:20-24 says we are to put on a new life, a new garment. That garment is Jesus Christ. We have already worked through all of that. We are to take off the old and put on the new.

The new garment is a lifestyle, a lifestyle that all the world can see. What I say I possess is one thing, but the way I live is another thing. You don’t tell a man about your faith, you live it out. He sees it by the way you live, by the way you speak and by your actions.

In Ephesians 4:25 Paul starts qualifying what that garment is. He starts showing us what that fabric is really like. He says in Ephesians 4:25 that when you put on the new garment you are going to have a transformed tongue. It is amazing what comes out of the mouth. Jesus said it is not what goes inside a man that defiles him, it is what comes out because it reflects his heart. He says first of all, you are not going to lie. That is the new garment. That is the Lord Jesus in your life. You see, when you tell a lie or when I tell a lie, and it is always easy to do that, what we are doing is protecting ourselves. We are never to protect our flesh. We are to confess our flesh. We are to be open and honest before God. We are never to live deceitful before others because the Lord Jesus is a truthful being. He is truth, and He lives in us. Therefore, we cannot lie.

Secondly, you have a controlled temper. It is amazing. You are angry at the right things for the first time. Now it is not wrong to be angry. He says,

"Be angry but do not sin when you are angry."

Now, the anger of man, James tells us, never accomplishes the righteousness of God. So this is a different kind of anger. This is God’s righteous indignation rising up in us. We are not mad at the sinner. We are mad at the sin. We are angry at the right thing and we know where to focus all of our anger. We don’t let the sun go down on our anger. We are making sure consistently that we are quiet in our spirit. It is incredible the disposition of a person who puts on the new garment.

Then in Ephesians 4:27 Paul says we have a frustrated tempter. In the context what Paul is saying is, if you want to frustrate the devil put on the new garment. When you put on Christ you have frustrated the tempter in your life. As a matter of fact, the word for "devil" is even very important to the context. The word "devil" is the word diabolos. It means to cast in between, to separate and to divide. Now what was Ephesians 4:1-16 talking about? Preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. How do we continue to do that? We don’t give the devil an opportunity. How does the devil take opportunity? Only when he can tempt us into putting on the old garment and taking off the new. Don’t let him have that opportunity. You continue to walk in the new garment and you will continue to preserve the unity in the bond of peace.

Paul gives two threads and a warning or a principle about the garment. We don’t lie and we control our temper and we frustrate the devil. Let’s look at Ephesians 4:28. I become one who is a giver and not a taker. That is the new disposition. This is the new garment. I don’t lie. My temper is under control. I am frustrating the tempter. Now I am a giver instead of a taker. I’ll explain that in a second.

Do you know there are two kinds of people in this world? There are replenishers and depleters. A depleter is somebody you are around that absolutely sucks everything out of you. You have no energy left to do anything with this person. He is a taker, never giving anything back. That individual has never put on the new garment.

But when you find a person who is a replenisher, he has put on the new garment. He is a person who doesn’t take. He gives and replenishes and replenishes. The difference in wearing the new garment and the old garment is, the old garment wants to be ministered to. The new garment wants to minister. It wants to give. It doesn’t want to take. It wants to give. The new garment changes everything about your disposition towards all relationships whether at home, church or wherever you are.

Let me show you what I am talking about. Verse 28 says,

"Let him who steals steal no longer."

What does it mean to steal? That is pretty obvious. You break into a store and you steal something." Now wait a minute. The word is klepto. Now what word do you think we might have in the English language that comes from that? Kleptomaniac. That is a person who habitually takes what is not his. He can’t help it. Wherever he is, he is always an opportunist and he grabs for himself whatever he wants to take.

Well, the present tense and the active voice is used. It is a participle. Here is a person who consistently, by his own lifestyle, depletes. He takes. What he takes is not his to take. Interestingly, in checking this word out, I found out how it is associated. It is intermingled with some other things that are very helpful to understand.

Look in Leviticus 19. When you talk about the old garment, somebody who is a taker has all of his relationships messed up. Leviticus 19:11 deals with three things here and ties them together. It says,

"You shall not steal, nor deal falsely."

What he is talking about here is living deceitfully with folks. In other words, it is living a lie as much as telling a lie. It is living a deceitful, false life. It is letting people think you care about them when you really don’t. As a matter of fact, you are going to take what is theirs the moment you get an opportunity.

The next thing it says here is,

"nor lie to one another."

We have already seen that we are not to lie to one another anymore. Somehow this is all fixed in together. It is in relationships.

When a person doesn’t have the new garment on, he is going to be a deceitful person, a taker, a depleter. He is going to lie to protect. So you see relationships on a wrong level.

Do you realize how this affects our families? Do you realize when I’ve got the old garment on in my family, I will manipulate my wife and others to get what I want out of them? Every one of us are that way. When I have the old garment on all I have are false relationships with anybody. I don’t care who it is. People may think I am their friend. Oh, no. I am a user and I’ll use that person for my own benefit. I’ll step on whoever I need to step on to get what I want out of them. That is what the old garment is. That is why three out of every four marriages are ending in divorce. Why? Because people are takers. They are depleters and they’ve got the old garment on. A marriage cannot work unless you have two people wearing the new garment.

So, it affects my relationships, the way I deal with somebody else. As a matter of fact, if you will go back in the text, I think he gives us another definition right in the very verse that we are looking at in Ephesians 4:28. Let’s just look and see what he says. He gives two characteristics of a person having the wrong garment on, who is a thief. I want to get out of your mind that a thief is somebody who sneaks into somebody’s house and steals something or somebody who breaks into a store to rob them. That is a thief, yes. But there are other ways to steal. You’ve got to go deeper than that.

Look in Ephesians 4:28. After he tells him not to steal any longer He says,

"but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need."

There are two things Paul tells us here about a thief.

Number one, he is too lazy to work. He will not go after it on his own energy. He wants to take it. He wants people to give it to him. He thinks the world owes him something.

Secondly, he will not share what he has. He is not a giver. He won’t work and he won’t give.

"You mean to tell me if I am wearing the old garment, even though I’m not going out and robbing a store somewhere, I am still a thief?"

Yes, you are. To some extent you are stealing from other people what could have been replenished in their life. What you are doing is you are depleting them, robbing them.

As a matter of fact, in Malachi 3:8 God made the statement,

"Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, 'How have we robbed Thee?' In tithes and offerings."

What is he talking about? Your tithes and offerings, when you don’t give.

So we find then that there is an area here where we rob from others and we rob from God. It is the attitude that I am going to take. We find that he won’t work and he won’t share. Look over in 2 Thessalonians 3. Paul, being the writer of both of these epistles, says almost the exact same thing in 2 Thessalonians 3. It gives us a little bit more of an idea of a person who is a thief, a person who steals. You’ve got to realize we can be thieves in relationships by being takers and not givers.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:6 Paul says,

"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof [stay away] from every brother who leads an unruly life."

That word "unruly" means undisciplined. Undisciplined here means that he is not willing to submit to the standard of God’s Word. If you are going to discipline yourself, you’ve got to discipline yourself according to a standard. The idea of being unruly or undisciplined in the Christian life means that you don’t give the time of day to the Word of God. You are not willing to line your life up with what God’s Word has to say. You are an undisciplined, unruly individual.

Drop down to 2 Thessalonians 3:11:

"For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies."

You’ve got your nose in everybody else’s business because you are a taker, and you are stealing from them what is rightfully theirs. This is the person who divides and gives the devil an opportunity. That is the very instrument that the devil is using to divide the church of Jesus Christ worldwide. He won’t put on that new garment. He would rather steal, deplete and take rather than give and replenish.

Well, Paul gives an antidote to that. He tells you what the new garment is. It is very clear. He says,

"Let him steal no longer; but rather let him labor."

The word "labor" means to be willing to work with your hands and not be ashamed of it. In other words, to go to work, to do whatever you have to do. (Ephesians 4:22-27: A Brand New Way of Life - 3)