Thou shalt not steal.
- Exodus 20:15
The basic command is that you are not to take without permission what does not belong to you. This includes objects, feelings, rights, knowledge, potential, ability, etc.
The key question regardless of the object is, "Does this truly belong to me?" and the key principle is that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. Aside from property violations, stealing is always an act of unkindness towards someone else.
How do we break this command?
1. Taking property that is not ours to take.
- Fraud, cheating, borrowing without paying back
- Extortion (threaten for money)
2. Gambling - the effort to gain without work or honest effort:
- Effort to gain at someone else's loss (many have to lose so one can win big)
- Poor stewardship of one's possession; risking to gain instead of working to gain
- Gambling is exercising low moral standards
No one is able to witness or exalt Christ through gambling - even non-believers see gambling as a vice (not something Christians should be doing).
3. Failing to give full value.
- Companies that overcharge for their products.
- Employers who do not provide for employees.
- Lazy employees.
- False or misleading claims about the value or effectiveness of products or services.
4. Denying someone else's rights.
- It is a just thing to press for true and equal rights.
- However, not everything is a "right" and not everything we do is right. (for instance it's not our right to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre for fun when this is not true.)
- To deny someone their true rights by law, this is a form of stealing.
5. Failing to give to the Lord.
1Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. 3When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem;
- I Corinthians 16:1-3
God commands us in His Word to provide a generous portion of what we have been prospered with to the Lord. When we fail to do so, we fail to recognize who it is that provides us with everything. We are stewards for Christ and should be able to make a good witness with our offering to God. Make no mistake, no one is impressed with a stingy Christian, no matter how much Bible he knows. If Christ gave His life for us, how can we hold back in the giving of money so that others can be saved by Him?
There are other aspects to this commandment, but these few give you an idea of the many ways we break it in relationship to others and how we break it before God.
Although this command is stated in negative terms (thou shall not…) there are some positive elements attached to it.
A. Good stewardship - It is not just about stealing; the reverse is the admonition to care for the things that God has given to you and into your care. God wants us to be good managers of what He blesses us with (small or great) and if we are, we are not tempted to steal.
The Parable of Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 teaches that:
- God provides us with everything we have (money, health, talent, opportunity, ability, etc.).
- God allows us to manage it.
- God will, however, require us to give an accounting of what we have done with our blessings and opportunities.
- God will reward and punish accordingly.
The positive and pro-active side of this commandment calls on us to practice good stewardship of our blessings - good stewardship is the opposite of dishonest gain.
B. Proper priorities - Good stewardship requires us to establish the right priorities with our blessings, whatever they may be. Here is a basic priority list:
1. Give the first portion of your blessings to God
24No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other You cannot serve God and wealth… 31Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' 32For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
- Matthew 6:24; 31-33
This may not be the biggest portion you give or spend or invest, but it needs to be the first you consider if you want your priorities straight. If you give God the first portion, He will bless you in your management of the rest.
2. Your Family
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
- I Timothy 5:8
If you do not care for your family, you are not witnessing for Christ. Your family includes those in your family who need your help (parents, grandparents, widows, orphans in your family).
3. Your Commitments (Taxes, bills, loans, living and recreation expenses, savings, investments)
They said to Him, "Caesar's." Then He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's."
- Matthew 22: 21
not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord;
- Romans 12:11
You are part of a community and you support the community with your taxes; your neighbors with your timely payment of your bills and your future with wise savings and investments. God will always provide for these things if you provide Him with the first portion and your family with the next.
These can be sub-divided in many ways, but for our stewardship to be successful and for God to bless us and prosper us, we need to keep the priorities in the right order.
The 8th commandment demands that we not take what does not belong to us rightly. The way to avoid the temptation is by practicing good stewardship and establishing right priorities for the management and distribution of our wealth. We also avoid the temptation to steal if:
- We learn to be satisfied with what we have
- Do not envy, complain, blame others for our lack.
- Ask God - He will provide!
- Give thanks for what we have.
- Prosperity begins with a thankful heart.
- Learn to be faithful with little things.
- You can cheat and steal to have big things but this will not teach you faithfulness.
God will bless you with wealth when He thinks you can handle it. In the end all wealth is to help us demonstrate our faith.
- Describe a time when you took something that did not belong to you. How did you feel?
- In which way does this command tempt you the most? Why?
- Describe the person that you feel is a good steward. What is it about him/her that impresses you?
- What would it take to make you satisfied financially? Will it be possible?