Top Ten Words – Monopoly vs. Chess: Exodus 20:15

Top Ten Words – Monopoly vs. Chess: Exodus 20:15

Feb 22, 2016


Sermon Series by Pastor Dusty Mackintosh

Next Step Christian Church, Thornton, CO


Not “what’s yours is mine” but “what’s mine is yours.”

Jim the Monopoly King

In the year 2003, I worked for a criminal mastermind by the name of James Paul Lewis, Jr. We called him Jim. Jim was president of the company I started working for while I was in college. I was a junior programmer; he was the guy who showed up at company meetings with a briefcase full of $100 bills, giving each of us one on the way out of our monthly meetings. He was a popular boss. This guy owned all sorts of businesses and had investments, had his private jet, drove a Lexus V12, homes everywhere…we knew he was a financial genius. We had confidence he was going to take this small start-up company to glory! He did take us to fame, when, in 2004 he fled California with the FBI hot on his tail. After a short manhunt, they arrested Jim, seized all his assets, and sentenced him to 30 years in prison. Over 20 years, Jim had stolen around $311 million dollars from “investors” in a classic Ponzi scheme…the ninth largest financial fraud in history. They recovered about $11 million.

Now, you may think he got his “just desserts.” But somehow his family stayed wealthy (enough sheltered assets) and for twenty years he lived the high life. He could be counted a fantastic success. For twenty years he was considered AMAZING by everyone who knew him. The only trouble is he got caught. But he was 60 by then and he had gotten to experience comfort and luxury — opulence — he had it.

If life is a game of Monopoly…and most of the time, it basically is…we spend a great deal of our time and we make a whole lot of our decisions in the world of Monopoly. In the game of “Monopoly,” Jim was this close to winning.

From Jim I learned this lesson:

Stealing is the most effective means of amassing wealth. You have to be clever, you have to get tricky. But if the goal of life is to maximize pleasure, to maintain comfort, and to gain wealth…why not? Let’s ignore what the judge called “a crime against humanity” and the hundreds of investors (many elderly) left destitute. Why not gain the world?

Hands Off My Stuff

Exodus 20:15 — You shall not steal.

No thieving!

That is simple enough, really. This is not complicated. Stealing is making my pile of stuff larger by taking from your pile of stuff. Or, simply:

What’s yours is mine.

Ooh, that looks nice…and it’s mine now. That’s how stealing works. Everyone clear on that?

Making it Complicated

Now, of course, people are going to make this complicated. The civil laws are coming, and they are going to help define, in a largely agrarian tribal society, what is thieving. Because people, being people, are going to try to get away with stuff. Anything they can get away with.

What about borrowing and not giving back? Thieving. What about borrowing and “losing” the cow? Investigation into your motives and the location of the cow and a binding oath before God or…it’s thieving. What about taking advantage of someone’s need, loaning him money when he is desperate, then charging him interest when he pays it back? That’s like the foundation of our economy! Thieving…though it does get a little more complicated. All of these examples come up. God addresses specific examples in the civil law because people are going to try and get away with whatever strategy they can. They are going to be Creative. They are going to use the best strategies they can within the boundaries…and outside those boundaries if they can get away with it. But at heart, stealing is really pretty simple. I look at your pile of stuff, and I say: What’s yours is mine.

Why not Communism?

Why did God do this?

We don’t tend to think about this because this is something

we take for granted. But God is working with a relatively blank slate. He has delivered the people of Israel out of slavery. Everything that they have now, everything that they “own”

was gifted to them by the people of Egypt who were glad to see them go after all the plagues. This is God’s opportunity to set up a Communist ideal. Everyone has his needs met: manna appears in the morning, plenty for everyone, water from rocks when you need it, quail when you need meat — life is good. We are all one big family, after all, so let’s just pool everything together, and everyone work together for the common good. God has this opportunity to create the perfect Communist

society. But He doesn’t.

Your Sliver of the Universe

He draws a boundary, a border, around private property, around wealth, and protects it. This isn’t the first time — from Creation, God said to Adam, you are “over” all of this, subdue it. God created and gifted personal wealth. He made sure, even as nomads in the desert, that they had gold and stuff from the Egyptians. Then He gave this command, and instigated, affirmed and protected the idea that: you have stuff, and “they” can’t take “your” stuff.

This is a big deal. God creates and protects private wealth… and we have to assume God does so for a purpose. This is God, carving out a little piece of the universe…and then calling it “yours.” No one else is allowed to take it. Then He sits back, and I think, watches to see what we are going to do with it. That is quite remarkable, actually. God gives wealth. Why? What are we going to do with it? What is the purpose of wealth?

Monopoly and Sideways Football

One obvious idea is the Monopoly idea. Obviously, the point is to run up the scoreboard! To get all the wealth.

The early Israelites absolutely understood that wealth came from God, but they interpreted it this way: if God gave you lots of wealth…you must deserve it. You must be righteous! The wealthier you are, the more righteous you must be! So if you can scheme your way, slipping and sliding right up against that boundary of “no thieving,” maybe tiptoeing past it, you are super righteous because you are super rich. Scoreboard!

A whole lot of “technically” this isn’t stealing. I can’t charge my “fellow Israelite” money, but anyone who has a little foreign blood? 200% interest…and now you’re my slave! Look how Righteous I am! Scoreboard!

All of the incentives are stacked on gaining the most toys, the most wealth, the most comfort ,and the most pleasure! It is like God set up the football game with the eighth commandment. Here is wealth, I created private property. And here are the boundaries. You can’t “steal” each other’s stuff. Game on!

And they started playing…but they started playing sideways. The goal was to get up as close to the edge of the boundary as possible, amassing as much wealth as possible…and calling that righteousness. Brilliant. Or, just like in Monopoly, they skirt all around the edges. Forget about seeking the center of the command…let’s stay as close to the edge as possible and get rich.

God even sets it up later to reset everyone’s wealth every 50 years. The Year of Jubilee: everyone gets his ancestral land back. They ignored that. They were busy running up the scoreboard, and thus proving how much God loved them and blessed them. The prophets yelled over and over, “You are playing sideways…and you’re not even inside the bounds!” You thieves, you cheat on your taxes, you cheat on your tithes, you dress it up and try to complicate it but…you look at each other, and you look at God, and you say, “what’s yours is mine.” You misunderstood the purpose of wealth. What is the purpose of wealth? If only Jesus had weighed in on this topic…

Jesus on Wealth

Wasn’t it handy how Jesus addressed the last few commandments in the sermon on the mount? There are few subjects Jesus talked about more than money. The Kingdom of God, the Sabbath, maybe one or two others. Jesus wouldn’t shut up about money.

He said: be careful, it’s dangerous, it is another Master, and you can’t serve two. He said: it isn’t Righteousness, don’t be fooled. Wealth won’t get you in, any more than a camel can fit through a needle. Impossible! He said: Don’t bother gathering earthly treasures…it’s all about the Kingdom. He said: The Kingdom is like the man who trades everything he has, all his wealth, for the Pearl. In other words, every way you can find to use your wealth, to trade your wealth, for the gain of the Kingdom of God…do it; it is the most valuable trade possible. Jesus said: What does it gain to gain the WHOLE WORLD (that’s our Monopoly win) yet forfeit their soul. And there is the dichotomy. All the wealth…against the soul, the core of the person, the essence of you. Who you have become and are becoming and will be.


Gaining the whole world is a Monopoly world. At the end of Monopoly, all the money goes back in the box. Chess is a different game. Chess is a series of choices. It is a series of gains and losses, and a whole lot of sacrifices. It doesn’t matter, at the end of the game, how many pieces I still have on the board, how many pieces I sacrificed. In chess, all that matters at the end of the game, is my relationship to the King.

All that matters, in the end, is my relationship to the King. What game are you playing? I am playing to chase after the King. That game never stops. At the end of this life, the rest of the board and players clear away…but we get Life 2.0, chasing after the King. I am His disciple. I want to be close to Him. I want to be like Him. I want to obey Him. I want the kind of life He showed me and promised me. He said to me “what’s mine is yours.” Not “what’s yours is mine.” That’s stealing, but Jesus freely offered his own self for me. And in that, He won the game — all of the games. He won the victory for you and me.

What’s Mine is Yours

In Exodus 20:15, God sets up the game. He creates wealth, He protects “private property.” He slices off a piece of His Universe and says, “that gets to be yours, you play with that,” like He is going to watch and see what we do with it. This creates a boundary — an out of bounds. No thieving. You don’t get to say “what’s yours is mine.” Then Jesus, as He did over and over, shows us the heart of the commandment, the purpose of the commandment, the end-zone of this game.

Not what’s yours is mine…but what is mine is yours. We are to be the kind of people who practice sacrificial generosity. The absolute opposite of thieving! We want to do that, not to earn our righteousness, but to model ourselves after our King, to

follow Him, to take hold of the life He purchased for us, to walk the course of Righteousness in His footsteps. We aren’t saved because of what we do…but if we are saved, we do differently.

He, our King, said: be the kind of people who give someone their coat in addition to the shirt he is trying to steal from you. Be the kind of people who literally walk the extra mile with someone who legally forced you to carry his burden for one mile. Jesus said: whatever you do to the least of these, you have done to Me. Jesus calls us to radical, sacrificial generosity. He calls us to find every opportunity to show love, to love our neighbor, with our wealth. That means sacrifice. Practically, that means working hard, too, so that we have extra to give. So we can say, what’s mine is yours.

Ephesians 4:28

28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.

Stop thieving! Obviously that is the most straightforward point of the commandment. But then go all the way to the opposite extreme. Use that wealth, including the skill of your hands to gain more wealth, the opportunity of your time, to work, and so have something to give. In words to the Ephesians’ pastor, Timothy, Paul made this more general. It’s not just thieves, but anyone with wealth…that’s all of us, by the way!

1 Timothy 6:17-18

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.

That’s the way. That’s what the wealth was for; that’s what the gift was for; that’s why God created wealth and protected private property. That is Righteousness. The purpose of the Ten Commandments is to show us the Course of Righteousness. No stealing shows us the boundary — loving our neighbor requires that we never say to them what’s yours is mine. The Old Testament doesn’t stop there either, but Jesus makes it so clear, the end zone is to not stop there, but to say to one another, to say to those in need, to love our neighbor by saying “what’s mine is yours,” freely, out of the wealth God gives us.

19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Application – Inverse Thieving

How many financial decisions did you make this week? Today?

Every day we make tons of decisions with our checkbook, with our time, at our jobs. Part of us is looking around for every opportunity to increase our pile of stuff. I bet you have a story of someone looking at your stuff and saying “what’s yours is mine.” (Besides your spouse…) I bet you have a story of your own thieving. Maybe it was an obvious one as a kid. Maybe more subtle as an adult.

We make things complicated: Taxes are my money in the first place, so it isn’t really stealing! If I download the music, it does not hurt anybody. My boss won’t really mind if I Facebook all day or play games all day. He has more than he needs…and I

really need some extra cash right now.

How can I make a Kingdom decision…one that best lets me serve His kingdom? How do I, with every decision I make (not just my finances, but my time; not just my paycheck, but with everything that I have and everything that I am), lay up treasure for [myself] as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that [I] may take hold of the life that is truly life?

I want to say to God, not what’s Yours is mine. I’m not satisfied with just consuming as much of this universe as I can, I want you to transform me. What’s mine is Yours.

I want to say to all of you, to all my neighbors, I will never strive and connive and toe that line, that boundary, “it’s not technically stealing but…” what’s yours is now mine.

I want to, at every opportunity I get, as God blesses me with more than my daily bread, I want to follow my King in saying, what’s mine is Yours. I want to pour out my life, my wealth, my time for You. That is love; that is Righteousness; that is the Kingdom in action.

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