“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)
Making the right choices?
A businessman from a nearby town was sent to prison for four years. I prison, he found faith in Jesus and new life in Him. When he got out of jail, he went into a church for the first time in his life. It was a typical Dutch Reformed church which displayed the Ten Commandments on two panels to the left and right of the pulpit. He said later, “I couldn’t take my eyes of those panels. I stared a long time at the commandment “you shall not steal’ and it dawned on me that this was not a command but a promise. It was as though God was speaking to me. ‘Now that you are my son, and I live in you, you do not have to steal any more. My power will work in you so that you will no longer have to steal.”
When discussing the so-called `Ten Words,’ it is important to realise that they are not just commands but also promises! Becoming Christ-like is God’s work! “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:24)
Justice and Generosity
This Word is all about Justice – respecting human property rights – and Generosity – showing practical love to God and our neighbour.
This Word teaches us to practice justice by protecting personal property and to respect the property of others. Many human laws have been made to try to protect personal possessions and property from those who would seek to take them for themselves.
There are laws against larceny, laws against embezzlement, laws against grand theft and petty theft, laws against robbery and armed robbery, laws against burglary, laws against receiving stolen property, laws against fraud, laws against stealing intellectual property and laws against shoplifting.
This Eighth Word goes deeper. Stealing can take many forms, including cheating someone or even delaying paying someone what you owe him or her. Companies can attempt to steal from people with misleading advertising and shoddy products and services. Employees can steal from their employers by wasting time or doing personal things on company time. Using deception to make sales, gain market share, or raise prices is stealing because the deception means that whatever the buyer consents to is not the actual situation. Violating patents, copyrights, and other intellectual property laws is stealing because it deprives owners of the ability to profit from their creation under the terms of civil law.
The spiritual meaning of our Word contrasts two ways of living: Getting versus Giving. “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.” (Ephesians 4:28)
It has said that ‘you are never more like Christ than when you are giving.’ Sharing is an antidote to stealing.
The Damage of Stealing
Stealing a life, a person, a spouse, material property, intellectual property, a reputation, dignity, or trust: there is hardly any aspect of human life not damaged by stealing. It is fair to say that if everyone observed the command “Do Not Steal”—with all of its many implications—would, initself, make an ethically very decent world.
“Will a man rob God?”
The Bible warns against stealing from God the tithes and offerings owed Him, but promises blessings to those who do give to Him. “But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?”
“In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse —your whole nation—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.” (Malachi 3:10)
In the final analysis, what helps me the most is to remember this wonderful promise given to us. “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8) Living by this promise in God’s power will remove the need to steal.
Making the right choices?
This Word #8 shows that we are to trust the Lord to provide all we need, to be content with what we have, and always be ready to share with those in need. We are to choose justice which is respecting other people’s property.