EXODUS 20:15 JUNE 5, 2016
“YOU SHALL NOT STEAL”
God gave the Ten Commandments to his chosen people as a guide to honoring him and keeping good relationships with other people. The eighth commandment is: Exodus 20:15 (NIV) 15 “You shall not steal.” Stealing is defined by the dictionary as “taking someone else’s property without right or permission”. Taking something that does not belong to us has plagued society from the earliest days. In Genesis chapter 27, one can read how Jacob stole his brother’s birthright when he disguised himself as his brother Esau and deceived his father Isaac so he received the blessing that was rightfully Esau’s. Jesus taught that the two greatest commandments were Mark 12:30-31 (NIV) “30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
In order to love our neighbor; this requires that we respect what belongs to other people. This commandment is based on the God-given right to own and possess property. We are trustees, managers, stewards of what God has given us. Luke 12:42-43 (NIV) “42 The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time? 43 It will be good for that servant whom the master finds doing so when he returns.” God sees how faithful we are in being good managers of what he has given us. Hebrews 4:13 (NIV) “13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” The Lord will hold us accountable for what we do or don’t do.
Our sinfulness leads us down paths where we think we have the right to take whatever we need and do whatever “feels right”. A young man was hired as a janitor for a large bank. One day he was emptying waste baskets and found a roll of bills. No one had mentioned the loss and he was greatly tempted to keep it. He told himself he would help out his mother. He took it home at lunch and yet his Christian upbringing reminded him that it was wrong to steal. He asked the Lord for strength and took the roll of money back to the bank. He placed the money on the desk of the bank president. He explained what had happened. The bank president looked at the young man with surprise and asked, “Why did you bring the money back?” The young man replied, “Sir, the Bible says we must be honest at all times. Besides, I just wouldn’t be comfortable living with a thief!”
Hopefully, as Christians, we won’t go out and rob a bank or a store. Yet are there other ways in which we might take something that does not rightfully belong to us? What about time? Are we good employees who get to work on time, work diligently, or leave work early or late as it suits our desires? We may not realize that in this way we are stealing from our employer.
The Lord is concerned how we treat one another in business dealings. God made it clear that no one should use any means of cheating another person. Deuteronomy 25:13-16 (NIV) “13 Do not have two differing weights in your bag–one heavy, one light. 14 Do not have two differing measures in your house–one large, one small. 15 You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 16 For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.” We should not overcharge when a person is desperate. God will hold all who overcharge on items after a disaster has taken place. (after a hurricane or tornado)
Years ago there was a farmer who faithfully attended church every Sunday. He had family devotions each morning, even when he used extra hired hands for the harvest, who ate with the family. One day he was measuring out syrup for a paying customer. He used the same gallon measuring pail that he always used. Only this time as he was pouring the false bottom became dislodged and fell on the ground. Word got around quickly of his deception and soon everyone lost confidence in the man. Proverbs 11:1 (NIV) “1 The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.”
Each of us should strive to pay off all debts. When we fail to pay what we owe we are stealing from them. We Americans have racked up over a trillion dollars in personal debt. Romans 13:8 (NIV) “8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” We are also to pay our taxes to the government. Romans 13:6-7 (NIV) “6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
This scripture in Romans 13:7 leads to the next area in which we must not steal. If we owe respect then we should show respect and if we owe honor then we should show honor. When I was in the Navy I was taught that when one salutes you are saluting the rank, not the person. Even when we do not like the person with whom we are dealing, we are to show respect and honor. This pleases God who is watching to see if we will honor him by doing what is right. I realize that this is difficult at times, but God is calling us to obey and honor him.
Ephesians 4:22-24, 28 (NIV) 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 28 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.” Each of us is a sinner and is guilty of many transgressions. Each of us is depending on God’s grace and mercy when we confess and repent of our sins. 1 John 1:9 (NIV) “9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” God does forgive sin but he also calls on us to change our behavior.
One of the areas in which many Christians are failing is in the area of making restitution. Luke 19:8-10 (NIV) “8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Zacchaeus understood that forgiveness of sins must be accompanied with making restitution. We should pay back anyone to whom we have cheated in any way.
“In the Belfast England revival of 1922-1923 converted shipyard workers brought back tools and equipment which they had stolen in such quantities that in one place an additional store shed had to be provided to hold them.” (J. I. Packer, I Want to be a Christian, page 298) Are we serious in obeying the eighth commandment then we should listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
May our Heavenly Father be pleased by how we show our love to Him and to our neighbors!
Let us pray.