Jun 21, 2012

It’s not just Jimmy Carr who needed to hear this last Sunday…

So Jimmy Carr has hit the headlines for his decision to use a tax loop-hole to avoid paying income-tax. In a twitter post this morning he wrote ‘I now realise I’ve made a terrible error of judgement’ and is promising to put his house in order. It may be a pretty blatent form of breaking the 8th commandment but as we’ve been seeing in our series at City Church there isn’t one of us who hasn’t also broken the 8th commandment.

How we break the 8th commandment

We might not be armed robbers or highway man but how then do we break the commandment?

1. Whenever we take something that does not belong to us

What are you like when it comes to other people’s property? One of the issues with stealing is that we don’t call it that we just ask to borrow things without any plans to return them (intentions maybe but no plans). Maybe it is time to put things right – some kind of church amnesty on returning things.

Employer’s time is also one of the ways we take something that doesn’t belong. JI Packer asks whether we  ‘start late, finish early, stretch coffee, lunch, and tea breaks, and waste time in between’ . Maybe that means avoiding Facebook during working hours.

Money. It’s not just MPs who are tempted to fiddle the expense claim with slight exaggerations here and there.

2. Whenever we are lazy – we steal time

Not from an employer but from the time God has given us to use. It is easy to waste time which is really stealing God-given time. The Sabbath principle reminds us that this is no mandate for overwork but 1 Thess. 4:11,12, 2 Thess 3:10 there is a call for Christians to be careful stewards of time.

Students just finishing exams you now have 3 months ahead of you. Who’s time is it you have? Who will set your priorities?

3. Greedy – Stealing in the heart

As someone has said ‘coveting is to stealing what lust is to adultery’. Stealing things in our hearts (inside/outside rule) is a very subtle way of undermining the commandment. We’ll return to this when we look at the 10th commandment ‘You shall not covet’.

4. Whenever we are wasteful – we fail to put to use what God has given us

We steal what could otherwise have been put to good use Squandering what we have been given– That’s at the heart Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30. We learn from the parable that every Christian has received something from God that is to be put to use. We are stewards of what God has given because you and I are God’s servants. We have ‘talents’ entrusted to us. JC Ryle says ‘Our gifts, our influence, our money, our knowledge, our health, our strength, our time, our senses, our reason, our intellect, our memory, our affections, our privileges as members of Christ’s church – all, all are talents’

Two of the servants take what the master has given them and put it to use but the third refuses to use what God has given him and instead buries it in the ground. What is being highlighted in the parable is that it is possible to talk as if we are God’s servants and yet fail to serve him by do nothing.

Jesus tells of the masters return, a picture of his return at the end of time, when every Christian will give an account of what we have done with what the Lord has given us. Those who have sought to work with all that God has given them there is the promise of great reward but for those who claim to be God’s servants and do nothing, only a fearful judgement.

Now if you are here and looking into Christianity then please don’t think that we are saved by what we do. We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone. We are saved by what Jesus did in his perfect life and death but when we claim to have put our trust in him it should make a difference. Faith saves alone but is never alone but begins to work. The apostle James says a similar thing in his letter and chapter 2v.14, 18b.

If you were to die tonight what do you think that the Lord Jesus would say to you? How would he judge your faithfulness? JC Ryle again ‘We are not told that the unprofitable servant was a murderer, or a thief, or even a waster of his Lord’s money: but he did nothing.’ Jesus tells the parable with a very clear purpose we are to be faithful in obedience until his return. What we have been given we have been given by him and we have it for a purpose which is to put it to use. Remember the lie of consumerism? That what you have is yours then remember the truth from this parable; what you have has been given to you and given to you for the sake of others.

Wasteful with our wealth

So what might that mean for your use of your wealth? Our wealth This story doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to have money or possessions but it does radically alter our use of money. This is what Paul says in 1 Timothy 6v.17-19 where he calls on Christians to be generous and willing to share.

What does it mean for you to be generous with the money God has given you. It must mean giving the first of it back to God. Some of us here are about to start work – have you already committed to give the first of it back to God? Before Christ came God’s people gave 10% of their income back to a God who had given them so much, living this side of the cross it is hard to imagine that we would be less generous in our thanks to God.

Wasteful with our possessions

Paul also urges us to be generous not just with our money but with our possessions. So, are we willing to share?  I think one of the great opportunities to demonstrate the power of the gospel at work is in our sharing of possessions. I have been so blessed by the generousity of others Ever since our children have come along Jane and I have not had the money to pay for a holiday but generous Christians have provided just what we have needed. This summer we will be spending a week in a cottage in North Wales courtesy of a friend.

At City the amount of stuff that people have shared with us when kids came along has been remarkable. Someone told me of a Christian guy who gave him his car keys to use car in day time if needed as he commuted by rail to work.

Wasteful with our gifts

One of the ways we break the 8th commandment is when we are wasteful with the gifts that God has given us. If you are a Christian then God has given you gifts for the sake of others. When we float form church to church or when we are very sporadic in our attendance or when we come to consume is to be a Chrsitian who steals from God. Not to use your gifts to bless others is to steal the blessing that could and should be theirs.

Wasteful with our time

There are many who have retired from work who are members of City Church and demonstrate a remarkable example of how to be good stewards of the time God has given them. So many give so much of their retirement time to the Lord rather than pottering in the garden.

It is so much easier to spot sins I have committed rather than duties I’ve omitted to do. I am far more likely to be troubled by what I do than what I don’t do and yet Jesus’s teaching in this parable is a reminder that we sin as much by what we fail to do.

1 Comment

  • Interesting. I know it is not usually a good thing to sail as close to the wind as possible when obeying Gods commandments as they are really matters of the heart. As a side question however related to the Jummy Carr situation and stealing.

    When does tax planning become tax avoidance and therefore stealing?

    A simple example might be: A christian who earns more than the threshold for higher rate tax so should pay a proportion of tax at the 40% rate on their earnings. By taking advantage of certain what you might call ‘loopholes’ (e.g. gifting money from pre-tax earnings) they manage to reduce their taxable income to below the higher rate threshold and so deprive the government of tax revenue.

    I guess what I am asking is, are we morally obligated to pay the pay what is due and not look for ways of avoiding it or is it legitimate to ‘do a Jimmy Carr’ in a more limited sense?

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