Eighth Commandment: You shall not steal.

Exodus 20:15

Today I am addressing the 8th Commandment… “You shall not steal.” Now in addressing this commandment, let’s keep it in biblical context.  There is no indication in any place in the Bible that by not stealing one can be saved and go to heaven.  That’s true of all the commandments.  The Bible plainly says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8,9) In short, one may never steal from his neighbor, and still go to hell.  That’s biblical logic!

The fact is, however, everyone is guilty of stealing. Before we start trying to figure that out, just remember that we have all stolen glory from God by sinning against Him.  In short, we have played “God” in our lives.  But that is forgivable in Jesus.  “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  (1 John 1:9) So this really boils down to one’s lifestyle.  What is really valuable?  My brother-in-law once took me to visit a man in West Lafayette who was very wealthy.  I only met him one time, but as he lay there on his bed, he insisted in talking about all the land that he owned.  I listened and felt sad.  He had sacrificed his soul for land. 

In sharp contrast, when Jesus came to Jericho en route to Jerusalem, He called to a man up in a tree trying to see Him. Zaccheus was his name.  When Jesus invited Himself to his home for lunch, his host was impressed with being able to host this Man about Whom he had heard, and he immediately confessed his repentance.  

“…The half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I’ve taken anything from anyone unjustly, I’ll restore it four-fold.”  What an evident shift in Zaccheus’ sense of value!  His value system suddenly took on a “Kingdom of God” profile.  And Jesus pronounced his salvation on site!  He had been a tax collector for the Romans, a man of questionable integrity to say the least.  But that day his value system went through a complete overhaul.  

I could spend a good bit of time dealing with the false god of “materialism” which has commandeered western culture.  All we have to do to be conscious of this is to turn on the television.  My country has bowed its knee to this empty god.  On the other hand, there is a proper value to sound economics.  “You shall not steal” is as relevant on Wall Street as it is anywhere else.  

 Now, in a coming article we will look into covetousness , D.V. But the eighth commandment has to do with actual “stealing”, i.e. taking or robbing from someone else that which does not belong to you.   And, according to the Westminster Catechism, it is two-phased. First the commandment requires “the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.”  Negatively, it “forbids whatsoever does, or may, unjustly hinder our own , or our neighbor’s, wealth or outward estate.”   Can you grasp here Jesus’ word in answering the man who once asked Him what is the greatest commandment?  Namely to love God.  And then the second: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  In that second summary commandment Jesus makes clear that our relationship toward our neighbor is to be comparable to our love for ourselves.  In short, there is to be an honest way of handling affairs.

It is more than interesting that God confronted His people through the ministry of Malachi by rebuking His people for stealing from God in their neglect of tithes and offerings.  Many otherwise honest church members do not give a tithe of their income(s) to their church.  Obviously, such stealing is not new.  I’ve been very interested in how some contacts I’ve had rationalize their failure to tithe.  What they fail to grasp is that giving to Kingdom needs (think “church”), leads to God’s blessing.  One of the things a new disciple of Christ must be taught is how to handle his finances and possessions.  Yes, teach him to be a “giver” and a good “steward.”  

 I suppose that behind this matter of not stealing is simply “being honest.”  And, yes, it means paying my rightful taxes. I am not tackling the question here as to how “governments”, on whatever level, are summoned not to steal. Be assured that disobeying this commandment given by God is a universal principle. Governments are not immune to God’s command, “You shall not steal.”  You get the flavor of this whole approach to God’s law in Matthew 5-7.  It’s love.

by Ken G Smith

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