Paul's command is clear and straightforward. We are to gain property and possessions by honest work—hard work, as the verb "labor" indicates exertion to the point of exhaustion. In addition, we are not to work merely to satisfy our personal desires and needs, but that we can freely give any excess to the needy.
Besides mere survival, Acts 20:35 reveals an additional reason for working: "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.'" Stealing runs totally against the grain of God's way of life. In the spirit of God's law, a person not only steals by taking another's possessions, but by the refusal to work hard and honestly in order to share and give to others in need.
Romans 12:10, 13 helps to clarify this purpose: "Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; . . . distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality." Love has no meaning unless it is demonstrated by giving, and having the ability to give in this manner comes from sacrifice and labor. Paul is writing about total commitment to what is good, an undiminished devotion to kindness regardless of the recipient's response.
Our God sets the example for us. Jesus says in John 5:17, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." We are driven by self-concern, and all too often, that concern degenerates into greed. That desire, however, must be overcome. We are to become like God. He is a Creator, and He works. A major characteristic of His Kingdom is that it is a producing, working, creating Family that sacrifices itself to give and to share.