Join our mailing list

The Honor of Work - Ephesians 4, HCLD 42

A service plan focused on a prohibition against stealing, but with a larger message to live out our gratitude to God and our neighbors by expressing our love through honest and faithful work in a series on the Ten Commandments, as explained in the Heidelberg Catechism.

Worship Service

Theme of the Service

Though the commandment that is the focus of this service is a prohibition against stealing, the message is much larger. We live out our gratitude to God and our neighbors by expressing our love through honest and faithful work. In such work we make a valuable contribution to the welfare of society, and we are able to share generously with others in need.


We suggest a number of resources that will be valuable tools for you in this study of the Ten Commandments.

  • Each week we will provide references for you from the Heidelberg Catechism and both the Larger and the Shorter Westminster Catechism.
  • The website of the Center for Excellence in Preaching at Calvin Theological Seminary also provides sermon ideas for each of these commandments and Lord's Days.
  • Comfort and Joy: A Study of the Heidelberg Catechism, Andrew Kuyvenhoven, Grand Rapids: CRC Publications, 1988.
  • Our Only Comfort: A Comprehensive Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism (vol. 2), Fred Klooster, Grand Rapids: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2001.
  • The Ten Commandments: Manual for the Christian Life, Jochem Douma, tr. Nelson D. Kloosterman, Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1996.
  • Mere Morality: What God Expects from Ordinary People, Lewis B. Smedes, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1983.

Catechism References:
Heidelberg Catechism, Lord's Day 42
Westminster Larger Catechism, Q.140-142
Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q.73-75


Prelude: "Earth and All Stars" [see <href="#music" >music notes]

The Call to Worship

*Song: "Earth and All Stars" PH 458:1-4, PsH 433:1-5, RL 33:1-5, SFL 98:1-5, TWC 357:1-5 [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:
Congregation of Christ, in whom are you trusting?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

*Song of Response: "Earth and All Stars" PH 458:4, PsH 433:6, RL 33:5, SFL 98:6, TWC 357:5


The Call to Confession
What is the great and first commandment?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind.
What is the second commandment like it?
Love your neighbor as yourself.
What does this mean?
Love is the fulfilling of the law.
To what does this call us?
To a life of faith working through love. (The Worship Sourcebook, 2.7.5, based on Matthew 22:37-40)

Our Prayer of Confession [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]
Let us respond to God's call and confess our sins before him:
Generous Creator, who provides for all our needs,
We give thanks for all your provisions,
for work to do,
for employment that uses our gifts,
and for prosperity that gives us more than we need.
However, we realize that we have become greedy;
we squander the gifts you've provided,
and we are more concerned about ourselves than about others.
We seem never to be satisfied.
We always want more.
We keep when we should give.
We take when it belongs to others.
We do so cleverly and quietly
so others will not detect it.
O Lord, who sees all hearts and examines all motives,
forgive us, cleanse us and make us new.
Our plea is in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

The Assurance of God's Pardon: Isaiah 1:18

The Call to Grateful Living: Matthew 25:31-40

Song of Response: "The Ten Commandments" PsH 153:1, 7, 9, TH 724:1, 7, 9
or: "The Lord Is God, the One and True God" SNC 73

Anthem: "Live a Life That's Worthy," Larson [see <href="#music" >music notes]


The Reading of the Heidelberg Catechism: Lord's Day 42 [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*Song of Preparation: "Bring Forth the Kingdom" RN 153, SFL 154, SNC 123, SWM 236
or: "The City Is Alive, O God" PsH 597, RN 89

The Prayer for Illumination

The Old Testament Reading: Micah 6:6-8
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

The New Testament Reading: Ephesians 4:17-32
The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: The Honor of Work
Shaping Our Gratitude 10
Text: Ephesians 4:28

The Prayer of Application

Sung Prayer: "Perdón, Señor/Forgive Us, Lord" SNC 59, SWM 154


*Our Renewed Vows of Obedience [see <href="#liturgy" >liturgy notes]

*Hymn of Response: "Father, Help Your People" PsH 607:1, 2
or: "Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service" PH 427:1-3, PsH 603:1-3, RN 286:1-3, TWC 426:1-3, UMH 581:1-3

The Prayers of the People

The Offertory:
The Offering of Music: "Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service" [see <href="#music" >music notes]
or: "Take My Life and Let It Be"
We offer our gifts for..


*Words of Sending: 2 Corinthians 9:6

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Sung Response: "Canto de esperanza/Song of Hope" PH 432, SFL 82, SNC 282
or: "Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service" PH 427:4, PsH 603:4, RN 286:4, TWC 426:4, UMH 581:4

Postlude: "Prelude and Fugue in G Major," J. S. Bach [see <href="#music" >music notes]

*You are invited to stand.

Sermon Notes

To be sure, it's an oxymoron to talk of an "honest thief," but suppose there were such a person and you had a conversation with him while he was stealing from you. If you had the chance to ask him, "Why are you stealing from me?" he might say, "I am stealing from you because I'm concerned only about me; I don't care about you!" Stealing in any form is pure selfishness and a violation of the welfare of others. This commandment and our text must be dealt with realistically in the context of a culture in which thievery has proliferated in every way possible. In every human heart there exists the collision between selfishness that says "I want" and the right of ownership which says "you may not take."

Ephesians 4:28 is an expanded New Testament version of the 8th commandment. It begins with God's prohibition of stealing and moves beyond it. Notice the progression of thought in this text and how each idea builds on the previous:

  • The realistic awareness of humanity's fallenness: "He who has been stealing."
  • The repeat of the 8th commandment: "must steal no more."
  • The call to something better: "but must work doing something useful."
  • The purpose of work: "that he may have something to share with those in need."

Notice how a prohibition turns into a positive exhortation to productivity, and then continues as a call to generosity.

In these words, Paul calls Christians to the highest level of functioning in society, honest work with a view to useful productivity and generous benevolence to others. In such actions we live out both love for God and love for our neighbors. The fulfillment of this exhortation is, of course, possible only in the lives of those who have been "saved by grace through faith" and "God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works." (see Ephesians 2:8-10).

It would be good for all listeners to take these words to heart through self-examination of their honesty, motivation for daily work, and generosity toward others through evaluating these six statements:

  • I go to work so that I can provide for and support my family.
  • I go to work because I get personal enjoyment out of feeling productive.
  • I go to work to get ahead and buy the things I want.
  • I go to work because I have to; it is a necessary evil.
  • I go to work to make a valuable contribution to society by providing goods and services.
  • I go to work to earn so that I can be more generous to the church, the kingdom and other needy people.

Music Notes:

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SWM Sing With Me (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)

Prelude suggestions and alternative harmonizations on the opening hymn can be found in the following resources:

DEXTER/EARTH AND ALL STARS ["Earth and All Stars"]

Burkhardt, Michael. Praise and Thanksgiving. set 2 Morningstar MSM-10-752 [1989] (E-M)
Cherwien, David. Interpretations, bk. 3. AMSI OR-6 [1983] ( M)
Kolander, Keith. Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000] (E-M)
Leavitt, John. With High Delight. Concordia 97-6845 [2000] (E-M)
Powell, Robert J. Sing a New Song. Augsburg 11-10766 [1996] (E-M)
Wallace, Sue Mitchell. Hymn Prisms. Hope 270 [1985] (E-M)
Wold, Wayne L. Augsburg Organ Library - Autumn. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7579-7 [2003]
Wyton, Alec. Variants on Earth and All Stars. Augsburg 11-0849 [1973] (M)

David, Anne Marie. Here I Am, Lord. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7566-5 [2002] (E-M)
Organ, Anne Krentz. On Eagle's Wings. Augsburg 11-10711 [1996] (M)

Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
Eggert, John. Creative Hymn Accompaniments for Organ, vol. 2. CPH97-6851 [2000]

Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
Organ, Anne Krentz. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]

The anthem "Live a Life That's Worthy", by Lloyd Larson is published by Beckenhorst BP 1624 [2001] (E-M). It is scored for SATB voices and keyboard and its text is based on Ephesians 4:1-6.

Offertory music could be selected from the following two hymn tunes:

PLEADING SAVIOR ["Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service"]

Burkhardt , Michael. Seven Hymn Improvisations and Free Accompaniments, set 1. Morningstar
MSM-10-847 [1992] (M)
Callahan, Charles. Six Meditations on American Folk Hymns. Concordia 97-6140 [1992] (E-M)
Haan, Raymond H. Be Present Now. Morningstar MSM-10-566 [2004] (E-M)
Harris, David S. Ten Hymn Preludes in Trio Style, set 2. H. W. Grey. GB643 [1978] (E)

HENDON ["Take My Life and Let It Be"]

Jordan, Alice. A Season and A Time. Broadman 4570-37 [1977] (E-M)

Boertje, Barbara. Piano Improvisations for the Church Year. Unity 70/1194U [1998] (M-D)

The organ postlude suggestion "Prelude and Fugue in G Major" by J. S. Bach is published by H. W. Grey 51 (M).

Liturgy Notes

1. You will notice again that the Prayer of Confession is tailored to this commandment. This may be read by the worship leader as a representative of all, or it may be read in unison by all worshipers. It may also be wise, either with the Call to Worship or the Call to Confession, to focus on the theme of the eighth commandment.

2. We suggest that the words of the Heidelberg Catechism be read responsively with the congregation. You may either design this so that the worship leader reads the question and the congregation responds with the answer, or vice versa. To reprint for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom use, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids MI. Reprinted with permission.
What does God forbid in the eighth commandment?
He forbids not only outright theft and robbery,
punishable by law.
But in God's sight theft also includes
cheating and swindling our neighbor
by schemes made to appear legitimate,
such as:
inaccurate measurements of weight, size, or volume;
fraudulent merchandising;
counterfeit money;
excessive interest;
or any other means forbidden by God.
In addition he forbids all greed
and pointless squandering of his gifts.
What does God require of you in this commandment?
That I do whatever I can
for my neighbor's good,
that I treat others
as I would like them to treat me,
and that I work faithfully
so that I may share with those in need. (Lord's Day 42, Heidelberg Catechism)

3. For each Sunday in this series, the service includes a section after the sermon entitled "We Respond with Our Renewed Commitments." The worshiper should feel led to such a response after the Word has spoken. The Commandments, in one of its forms, should be the substance of this commitment. There is a variety of resources you may draw from. Section 2.7 of The Worship Sourcebook (pp. 127-137) provides a variety of resources for this purpose. The Psalter Hymnal (pp. 1013-1018) provides additional responsive readings of the Ten Commandments.
To reprint responsive readings of the Ten Commandments for personal use, a ministry setting, or classroom us, include this credit line: © 1987, CRC Publications, Grand Rapids, MI. . Reprinted with permission.