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The Ten Commandments Series: The Eighth Commandment

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The Ten Commandments Series

The Eighth Commandment

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I began attending God’s Church at age 21, but I’m convinced that God used events earlier in my life to prepare me for His calling. While in high school, I stole something that was worth about $20. Over time, my conscience hurt me more and more as I reflected on what I’d done.

But that is not the end of the story. A while later, someone broke into our storage building and apparently stole only two things—what I had previously stolen plus something that was very dear to me. It seems too amazing to be a coincidence. I think God orchestrated the situation to teach me a lasting lesson (see Hebrews 12:5-11).

Through the Eighth Commandment, we know that God intends for everyone to enjoy the right of private property, and to respect the property of others. Among the Bible’s inheritance laws, the laws regarding the Jubilee year even guaranteed that land would remain in the family in the long run (Leviticus 25).

People should be relying on God as their Provider, relying on the Bible as their Guidebook, and relying on their own integrity, hard work and other practical laws of success. (See Matthew 6:19-34, Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 3:22-25.)

Sadly, raw human nature is dominated by selfishness, lust, greed and envy. And with an increasingly secular and materialistic world ruled by Satan, many people rely on all the wrong things including dishonesty and stealing. (See 1 Timothy 6:9-10.) Many kinds of stealing have been pandemic throughout history, even among religious people. The victims of robbery often suffer long-lasting emotional scars and feelings of insecurity as well as the challenges of overcoming the losses.

We experience the temptation to steal even from childhood. It is critically essential for parents to be continually teaching God’s laws and biblical values to their children (Deuteronomy 6:1-25).

Active stealing—taking something that does not rightfully belong to you—is a sin of commission. Passive stealing—deliberately withholding what belongs to another—is a sin of omission. (One example of passive stealing is failing to notify a cashier when undercharged or given too much change.)

No matter how secretive a sinner is, God, the Judge of all, sees everything, and His Word declares that “thieves” . . . will not “inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:10). But God is amazingly merciful. Thankfully, He forgives when there is true repentance!

Many forms of stealing

Space does not permit stating the numerous scriptures that forbid specific types of stealing. And a list of all types of thievery would be endless, but the following are some common types that cacn directly or indirectly violate the spirit of the Eighth Commandment.

• Directly stealing money or physical property from individuals or companies. This category includes robbery, burglary and shoplifting.

• Stealing from employers. Employees failing to be on the job and working diligently when they are being paid to work. Being wasteful, embezzling the company’s money, swiping company property, falsifying an expense account or using company equipment for personal use without permission are all forms of stealing.

• Stealing from employees by overworking them, not paying a fair wage or salary, not providing the benefits they were promised or withholding wages.

• Defrauding customers or clients with false advertising, false labeling, false claims, hidden defects or excessive interest.

• Intentional defaulting on loans and debts. An unforeseen crisis can happen to anyone, but many people borrow money or run up huge charges on credit cards with no intention or no ability of repaying the debts.

• Installing ransomware on someone’s computer to force the owner to pay a ransom.

• Initiating frivolous lawsuits.

• Stealing from a government by withholding due taxes or by dishonest welfare claims (see Romans 13:1, 6-7).

• Stealing someone’s good name. Damaging someone’s reputation, such as with accusations, slander or gossip, can be a permanent injury in someone’s life. (See Proverbs 22:1 and Ecclesiastes 7:1.)

• Kidnapping. In ancient Israel, the penalty for that crime was death (Exodus 21:16).

• Stealing someone’s innocence. Examples include rape of children and/or adults, parents allowing adolescents to be sexually intimate, or even parents and others exposing children to immoral entertainment.

• Stealing by withholding love, respect and affection for others. God teaches us that husbands and wives have a special responsibility to express marital love to each other (1 Corinthians 7:3-5). Similarly, parents owe it to their children to give love and discipline—children owe it to their parents to honor them.

• Stealing intellectual property by illegally copying software (including music and movies) or violating patents and trademarks. Plagiarism is also a form of stealing.

• Stealing trust by breaking commitments, contracts and promises.

• Knowingly buying stolen property is being an accomplice to a thief, whether the purchase is for one’s own use or to make money as a fence (one who buys stolen goods to resell).

Stealing from God!

People steal from God in two major ways. First of all, God owns us because He created us—plus He sacrificed His Son to redeem us (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Therefore, our time, talents and energies should be devoted to serving and glorifying God. Otherwise, we are servants stealing from our Master.

Secondly, God owns absolutely everything but He allows us to have stewardship over most of our earnings. He only requires that we first pay a tithe (a tenth) and give offerings from our earnings. In Malachi 3:8, God said, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.” Embezzling from God! Once a person understands that God commands tithing, it is a very serious sin to disobey this law.

God’s laws require full restitution for stolen goods

Under the covenant God made with Israel, when a thief was caught, he had to restore to the victim the value of what was stolen plus an additional amount. The additional amount for reparation was intended as a punishment—plus it helped compensate the victim for the stress and temporary loss. The specific laws are found in Exodus 22:1, 3-6, 12 and Leviticus 6:1-7.

In most countries today, the “justice system” punishes criminals but does nothing for the victims of the crimes. That’s very sad. If we as godly individuals realize we have caused someone a loss or injury, we should do what we can for that person to make up for the loss or expense.

The way of give versus the way of get

Any commandment of God that forbids bad things implies the opposite—that we should be doing good things instead. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will treat them like we want to be treated. That’s the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12).

“Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28). This teaches three lessons: (1) Never steal. (2) Practice the biblical work ethic and be productive so you have enough to provide for your family plus give to others. (3) Be compassionate and generous to those who need help. (Regarding the third lesson, see Luke 6:27-38, Acts 20:35, Romans 12:1-13, 2 Corinthians 9:10-13, Philippians 2:4 and Hebrews 13:16.)

Many scriptures teach loving kindness, mercy, compassion and generosity. One example is the law allowing “the poor and the stranger” to glean food from your farm or orchard (Leviticus 19:9-10, 34). Another example teaches that if you come across an ox, sheep or donkey, you should find the owner and return the animal to him even if he is your enemy (Deuteronomy 22:1; Exodus 23:4). God does not condone “finders, keepers; losers, weepers!” When you find something that doesn’t belong to you, you should do your best to find the owner or turn it in at an office so the owner can retrieve it. (Also see Proverbs 3:27-28.)

A world without stealing!

What a dramatically different world it would be if there were no stealing! Well, that world is coming. Jesus Christ will return and establish the Kingdom of God over all the earth, and He and the saints will teach and enforce the Ten Commandments everywhere. It will be a happy world, because honest people are happier people!

Think of the prosperity when individuals and companies will no longer be losing money to thievery and no longer be spending money for security systems! Think of the peace of mind people will have when they are living in an honest world where everyone can be trusted, and no one is suffering the financial losses and emotional trauma of having been a victim of theft.

May God’s Kingdom come!