Eighth Commandment- “You Shall Not Steal”
Written by Pastor Jim Law
We come to the eighth commandment this week where we find a prohibition against stealing. Like the commandment forbidding murder, there is almost universal distain for theft. I doubt there is anyone reading this article who has not tasted the disgust and feelings of violation that comes when a personal item is stolen.
When I was in seminary, we discovered my wife’s engagement ring had been stolen out of our apartment. She had taken it off over the kitchen sink while preparing dinner the night before, and when she looked for it the next day, it was gone. There were other signs in our little home that someone had picked through our stuff.
We are outraged at such offenses. The gnawing feeling inside of us indicates that stealing is not right. The command found in Exodus 20:15 literally means “to carry something away as if by stealth.” To steal is to take something that doesn’t belong to you, and the application is comprehensive.
The eighth commandment addresses all types of conventional theft: burglary, robbery, hijacking, shoplifting and purse-snatching. This commandment also covers a wide range of complex thefts such as embezzlement, extortion, and every means of obtaining money illegally.
We may dismiss the personal application of this commandment when we speak in such criminal terms, however, we seem to justify in our minds milder violations. Do I need to bring up: The IRS? The falsification of insurance claims? Taking advantage of others in business transactions? Theft in the work place? Failure to put in an honest day’s work? Intellectual property and plagiarism? Violation of copyrights?
Justifications of theft abound. I once read an article about the incredible losses suffered by hotels because “some guests simply can’t get enough of their hotel, as they insist on taking a bit home with them!” Stolen bath towels and wash clothes were the top items to disappear, followed by bath robes, and then toilet paper rolls. Some people admitted to refilling the mini bar bottles with tea or water to make it look as if they hadn’t been used in order to avoid paying a mini-bar bill.
The truth is that theft is pervasive at every level of our culture. With such a pervasive struggle with theft, what is wrong with stealing? I believe behind this commandment is truth with deep spiritual significance. Whenever we take something that doesn’t belong to us, regardless of the means, we sin against God as well as against our neighbor.
Stealing is a failure to trust God’s provisions for one’s life, and anything without faith is sin (Romans 14:23). Whenever we take something that is not ours, we are not trusting that God is able to give us everything we truly need. The eighth commandment has a built in mechanism that helps us exercise faith and trust in the God who cares for the sparrow in the field and for the needs of His children.
Interestingly, Jesus died on a cross between two thieves. One of those thieves said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” and to him Jesus said, “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:42-43) This is a great comfort to us who have broken the eighth commandment in one form or another. To every commandment breaker who turns to Christ in repentance and faith, He says, “You will be with Me.” What a Savior He is!