The 10 Commandments Series : # 8 Thou Shall Not Steal
Stealing is rampant in our country. After the COVID-19 pandemic, most businesses have reopened their doors. Since then, the National Retail Foundation reported that store losses amount to $719,458 per $1 billion in sales (New York Post). That is one dollar lost to shoplifting for every $1,389 in sales. It is more prevalent now than at any point in our country’s history. The fact that the morals of society have fallen to that point is sad, but what may be even worse is the lack of justice being applied to these crimes. Theft under $1,000 is considered a misdemeanor, and several major cities in the U.S. have decided not to prosecute non-violent crimes, such as this. The accessibility to retail stores mixed with the lack of justice being executed has brought a wave of stealing that demands to be considered. So, as believers, we need to ask the question, “What does the Bible say about stealing?”
In Exodus 20:15, God gave the eighth commandment which says, “You shall not steal.” When one hears the phrase, “do not steal,” a general idea of what that command is referring to naturally comes to mind. You should not take anything that does not belong to you. You should not steal someone else’s car. You should not take someone else’s pen off of their desk if you do not intend to return it. These are obvious implications of the eighth commandment. However, it extends beyond just the theft of property.
In Deuteronomy 25, Moses prohibits merchants from using scales with different weights in their business dealings. At this time, a dishonest person would use different weights for buying and trading in order to sell as little product as possible or to buy as much product as possible for the same amount of money. This was a dishonest business practice that was ultimately stealing because the businessman would gain either money or product that he had not fairly bargained for. Today, we refer to this sort of practice as a scam. I have a friend who buys things then refurbishes them and resells them online. He is constantly harassed by others who are trying to take money from him. Business practices done in bad faith like this are an outright attempt to deny God’s commands.
Another way that we see this played out is through the theft of time. For example, I currently serve on a church staff where I aid in a handful of ministries. The majority of our ministries require that you set up beforehand and clean up afterwards because we use shared space. If I were to leave a shared area incorrectly arranged, then the person who comes after me would be delayed in their ability to perform ministry because of my neglect. I would be stealing time away from them. Similarly, if your employer pays you to do a job with the expectation that you are taking an hour-long lunch, but you actually take an hour and a half for your lunch break, then you are stealing by accepting money that you have not earned.
Ultimately, the greatest moral failure of stealing is the fact that it is an attack on God’s character. Man is created in the image of God. We were designed to represent him to creation. We do that through taking dominion and reflecting his prominence over all things, and we also do this through our morals. Part of bearing the image of God is reflecting his character. God commands us to not steal because he has deemed it an unbecoming act. It is below his standard of morality. Therefore, when we, as creatures designed with inherent moral values, suppress that morality, and choose to steal things that do not belong to us, we are misrepresenting the God that we were created to reflect. When we steal, we exchange the truth about God for a lie and choose to satisfy our own desires over obeying his design.
With all of this in mind, how should we as believers apply this to our lives?
Maybe the best example of theft turned for good is seen from the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. Zacchaeus was a crooked tax collector. He made a living off of dishonest business deals and stealing money from the Jews. After an interaction with Christ, Zacchaeus repented of stealing and said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold” (Luke 19:8). Theft is a result of a rotten heart. The believer, on the other hand, desires to be generous (1 Timothy 6:18). Look for opportunities in your life to be generous with your money, your time, and your gifts.
Morgan Cates is a Pastoral Resident at The Journey Church. He is currently training to be sent out as a church replanting pastor, and he is working on his Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Lebanon, TN with his wife Carly, who he has been married to for one year.
- Old Testament, The 10 Commandments