28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
Let him who stole [steals] steal no longer,
It was common for bandits to steal from travelers in the mountains near Ephesus. Some of these bandits came to Christ. These people had the possibility of slipping back into their old ways.
but rather let him labor,
The alternative and corrective to stealing is employment (2 Th 3:10-11). The Bible asserts a strong work ethic.
working with his hands what is good [beneficial],
The primary purpose of our employment is to benefit others. The idea here is the dignity of work.
1 Th 4:11, that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you,
that he may have something to give him who has need.
The former thief should do the very opposite of thievery—give to others in their need.
A purpose for employment is to have the ability to give to others.
A dishonest Christian is a contradiction in terms; however, it is the reality some Christians face. They believe that they can get something for nothing. They have a work ethic problem. The idea of wanting something for nothing has become a special problem where government has gone into business. Their special business is to dole out money for nothing.
Thievery is the desire to gain assets without a job. It is the wish to have possessions without working for them. A thief wants easy money. This person despises the idea of honest employment. His idea is to gain a windfall with minimal effort.
It has become common for people, even Christians, to pad their tax returns, falsify accounts, shoplift, or commit other nefarious acts to gain an advantage over others. Thievery includes any form of misappropriation.
A thief steals from others for his own benefit, but the biblical standard is to work to give to others. A biblical standard in life is for individuals to operate on personal industry. Personal industry can produce what is good for others. Biblical Christianity is others oriented rather than self-oriented (Ga 2:10; 6:10).
Ac 20:35, I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
2 Th 3:8, nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you