Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good…
I. As to the PROHIBITION, "Let him that stole, steal no more." By this we are forbidden the use of all such means, for our own maintenance and support, as are injurious to our neighbour.
II. Thing to be considered in the text, "BUT RATHER LET HIM LABOUR." We generally say that God has made nothing to no purpose; and yet, pray tell me what the rich man is made for, if his business be only to eat and drink, and spend his estate? Can you justify the wisdom of Providence in sending such a creature into the world? There is work cut out for all creatures, from the highest to the lowest; all things in nature have their proper business, and are made to serve some wise end of God.
III. I proceed now to the third thing, which is THE LIMITATION, by which we are confined to work only the things which are good, foregoing all unlawful means of supporting ourselves. From hence it follows that you must be confined to some work which may answer to the wants or desires of life. Now the things which men want are either the necessaries, or conveniences, or pleasures of life; and all trades or callings are subservient to one or other of these. The next thing to be considered is, what is the measure of this duty; whether we are obliged to labour merely to supply our own wants and necessities, or whether there be any other duties incumbent on us, which must likewise be answered by our labour and toil? This the apostle has settled in the
IV. and last place, enjoining us to labour "THAT WE MAY HAVE TO GIVE TO HIM THAT NEEDETH." So that the end we ought to aim at by our labour and industry is to enable us, not only to support ourselves and our families, but to be contributors likewise to the wants and necessities of such as are not able to work and labour for themselves. Charity has no measure but the wants of others and our own ability. And hence it appears that by the apostle's rule you are bound as well to thrift and frugality as to labour; and therefore, such as work hard and spend freely all they get are highly to be blamed, and may be found at last to have spent out of the poor's stock, since by squandering their own they come at last to a necessity of living upon charity, by which means others are straitened that they may be supplied.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Let him who stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need.