ὁ κλέπτων μηκέτι κλεπτέτω, μᾶλλον δὲ κοπιάτω ἐργαζόμενος ταῖς ἰδίαις χερσὶν τὸ ἀγαθόν, ἵνα ἔχῃ μεταδιδόναι τῷ χρείαν ἔχοντι. The one who steals must no longer steal, but rather, he must grow weary while working the good with his own hands, in order that he might have to share with the one having need.
Paul continues his section of exhortations here. Prior to this verse, Paul addressed anger among Christians. Now he is addressing stealing. Paul exhorts the Christian who steals to cease stealing. The alternative is to work. Paul commands the Christian thief to put away the thief lifestyle, and to put on a new lifestyle of honest labor. The whole purpose of this labor, toiling and growing weary by working with one’s own hands for the good, is for the Christian to have something available for the one who has need for it. If a Christian is a thief, then he (or she) is not able to provide for others in the community; instead, they take away from others and complicate things. If a Christian labors, then he (or she) is able to provide for the individual, but also for others in the community as necessary.
But Paul is not saying, “You might have to share” (i.e., “there is a possibility that you might need to share”). Instead, he is saying, “Work so that you can share.” For Paul, Christians work so that they can have opportunities to share. If one does not work, then he or she will not have the necessary things for sharing. However, he expects that Christians are going to share with those in need. For this reason, they must work with their own hands.
Note the textual variant here. “One’s own,” ἰδίαις, may not be original. Papyrus 46 (apparently 49 as well) does not have ἰδίαις. The second corrector of Sinaiticus (א) does not have it, and neither does Vaticanus (B). Although they read with a substantially shorter variant, several late witnesses do not have it either (among the list are P, 33, and 1731). Several witnesses have a different order and do not have ἰδίαις (L, Ψ, al). A few witnesses include the dative preposition ἐν but still exclude ἰδίαις while adding in αὐτοῦ (629, pc). A few witnesses have a different order but include ἰδίαις (K, 1505, pc). Finally, several sources have the text as provided, such as Alexandrinus (A), Codex Claromontanus (D; not to be confused with Codex Bezae Cantebrigiensis, which is also D, but it only contains the Gospels, Acts, and 3 John), Augustine, and the original hand of Sinaiticus (א). The decision to be made here is very difficult. Earliest support does not have it. Additionally, there are numerous readings, but the majority of the kinds of readings do not contain it. Nonetheless, the inclusion of ἰδίαις does have early support. Additionally, it has wide attestation, with witnesses coming from the Western (א, for example), Alexandrian (A, for example), and Byzantine (F, G, and K, for example) traditions. Although it does not have the earliest support, nor is it the shorter reading, it does have early support and the widest attestation. Therefore, we should include ἰδίαις as part of the original reading.
The one who steals must steal no longer, but rather, he must grow weary while working the good with his own hands, for the purpose that he might have for sharing with the one having need.
As Christians, we should demonstrate that God has been working in our lives and we are changed beings. Additionally, we are set apart from the world as God’s chosen ones, as members of his household, and therefore, we must live in a different way. Stealing is not characteristic of one of God’s children. We must not steal. Instead, we must work. God has given us the ability to work, and so we must, but the fruit of our labors is not meant only for ourselves. It is meant to be shared with those who have need. Some people are less fortunate than others when it comes to work. Others are far more blessed. Christians who have the ability are called to share. The next time you walk by a homeless man who is asking for food, go buy a burger and take it to him. He has a need. If you have the ability, share with him. The next time you see a woman at the gas station who is running on empty and is asking you for some money to get some gas, do not hesitate, if you can, give her $5 or whatever you can afford to share. It is easy not to steal for most of us. Don’t shoplift gum or magazines. Don’t pirate movies or music off the Internet. Don’t plagiarize. But it is much harder for us to give away what we have earned with our own hands. We are called to share, which is a difficult task, but it is a godly task. God freely gave to us. We can freely give to others, so far as we are able. And if not to strangers, we are especially called to share with each other, for we are all members of the body of Christ. We belong to each other and therefore we should be looking out for each other. Let us work, but let us also share, and thus imitate God.