REFLECT: Have I taken things or ideas that were not mine? Do I consider cheating at school, in my business or on my taxes? If I think I could get away with it, is stealing or cheating an acceptable option for me?
You shall not steal (Exodus 20:15).
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need (Ephesians 4:28).
Of all the commandments in the Bible, this one seems to be the most clear-cut. On the surface it looks very simple. You would think it needs no explanation at all. To steal means the same thing today as it did when God wrote it on tablets of stone. It means the taking of something that belongs to someone else.
This commandment is probably the most universal of all the laws in the world. For example, some primitive cultures had no taboo against immorality as long as neither party was married. But if one of the parties were married, adultery was strictly forbidden, not because it was immoral but because it was considered a form of theft, or stealing another person’s spouse. Often the offender settled the matter by simply paying the husband in cows, goats, money, or the sum the husband originally paid for the wife.
Just as the sixth commandment: You shall not murder, safeguards life, and the seventh commandment: You shall not commit adultery, safeguards love and the family, this eighth commandment safeguards property. It forbids theft, the taking or keeping of something that belongs to someone else. This commandment is desperately needed today.390
Today theft is at an all time high. The cost of crime is now in the billions of dollars a year just in the United States alone. Many teenagers today think stealing from department stores is like a video game. But when they end up in jail with a felony count it is no laughing matter. Amazingly, most of the theft comes from the employees themselves! Therefore, in today’s society honesty is a quality that is highly valued by employers because it so rare. In fact, many godly employees will find security and advancement in their jobs, merely because they follow the eighth commandment.
In our schools and colleges plagiarism on papers and cheating on tests are almost the norm today. Students are infected with the “everyone is doing it” mentality. When caught, most have a “what’s the big deal” attitude. Plagiarism services are more and more common because of this fact. Often in my lifetime different people have said to me, “Do you think that posting the Ten Commandments in our classrooms would make any difference at all.” My answer is, “Yes, I do.” ADONAI has said: The word that goes out of My mouth will not return to Me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:11).
The Bible is clear that stealing can also be taking advantage of someone in need. From the biblical standpoint, to overcharge, to undersell or to deceive is to steal. It’s trying to get something for nothing. It’s trying to gain something at the expense of another person. This is exactly why Jesus drove out the moneychangers from the Temple of His day. Yeshua entered the Temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. It is written, He said to them: My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers (Matthew 21:13). The Temple was supposed to be a place of worship, quiet meditation, contemplation, praise and devotion, a place where God’s people could draw close to Him in worship, sacrifice, and offerings and could seek His will and blessing. But all of that was stolen from them by people who carried on their greedy schemes under the guise of serving and worshiping God.391
To cheat is to steal anything, including an honor, which is not rightly yours. Stealing is getting the reward without paying the price, collecting the dividend without making the investment. It’s receiving money without working, its making good grades without studying, it’s getting to the top of the ladder without climbing the rungs. Like the other commandments, the eighth commandment is written from the nature of ADONAI into us because we were created in His image. Our lives are an investment. Life involves putting something into it and receiving something in return. Stealing, however, is the shortcut philosophy of life that contradicts this basic principle of God.
The human desire to take shortcuts formed the basis of Christ’s three great temptations in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus knew that there would be no crown without the cross, and no redemption without the suffering of a redeemer, and no resurrection without a crucifixion. But Satan tempted Him to get all of that without paying the price for them, to steal them, if you will. Satan knew people were eagerly looking for a king so he told Yeshua to turn stones into bread, to throw Himself down from the highest point of the Temple so the angles would catch Him, and finally to bow down to Satan himself. In other words, to take a shortcut to the kingship without making the sacrifice. But Jesus would have none of it. He knew there could be not shortcuts when He redeemed us; He was willing to pay the price and be nailed to a cross to die as our substitute.
The Bible also describes another way of stealing, which, from a believer’s standpoint, may be the most serious of all. This is stealing by failing to give our talents or our tithe to ADONAI. This is perhaps the highest level of trying to get something for nothing. We steal by accepting something and giving nothing in return. This sin is not doing wrong acts but failing to use our God-given talents and gifts for Yeshua’s service. These were the people in the parables of Jesus who were condemned and punished most severely.391 We can also steal from the LORD Himself. Malachi 3:8 asks: Will a man rob God? Yet you rob Me. It goes on to explain that we rob God when we fail to give our tithes and offerings. Like his grandfather Abraham who had given tithes to Melchizedek (Genesis 14:40) before him, Jacob acknowledged that everything he had belonged to ADONAI (Genesis 28:22). Later, tithing would become an obligation under the Torah (Leviticus 27:30; Numbers 18:21-24). Today, believers should tithe and it should be done cheerfully and gratefully, not grudgingly or with a selfish attitude (Second Corinthians 9:7).
What seems to be a great help in understanding the original purpose of the Ten Commandments is their function within the community. These are commands given by a redeeming God to a recently redeemed people for whom He had a national purpose. As the LORD’s people, His special possession, the Israelites had to know what He required of them. Being an Israelite was not a matter of private, personal faith. It had vertical and horizontal dimensions. After all, if Isra'el could not treat ADONAI with respect and treat each other as a special people, how could they be a light to the Gentiles? How could they ever be a kingdom of priests in a world that did not know the true God?392
The Teaching Ministry of Jay Mack 2006-2017