Text: “Thou shalt not steal.” Exodus 20:15.
“Let him/her that stole steal no more: but rather let him/her labour, working with his/her hands that thing which is good, that he/she may have to give to him that needeth.”
Good morning, upright Christian! In your past life, you may very well have stolen material things, goods, or property that did not belong to you. However, when the Lord God quickened you by His Spirit of conviction of sin, you stopped living in a dishonest manner, and have now a new perspective entirely on such legalities and the rights of private property.
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour.” (1 Timothy 2:1-3)
Private property and legal possession of private property is certainly one of the main focuses of the Eighth Commandment of God – however, underlying all aspects of this great Commandment is the nurturing of personal honesty and true integrity. However, there are many less thought about methods of ‘stealing’, other than the act of illegal taking away of one’s personal property and goods.
Spurgeon’s Catechism supplies the following questions and answers on the subject of the Eighth Commandment:
A The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal.
60 Q What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A The eighth commandment forbids whatever does or may unjustly hinder our own (1Timothy 5:8) ( Proverbs 28:19; 21:6) or our neighbour's wealth, or outward estate (Ephesians 4:28).
A person’s ‘wealth’ consists not only in how much money, lands, property, gold, or personal possessions that he/she owns – a person’s wealth also includes his/her good name; reputation as a business person, or a minister of the Gospel; how much personal integrity that said person is publicly reputed to have at any given time and place.
Therefore, while it is very clear that God commands us not to take – by force, stealth, or trickery – another individual’s personal property/goods/finance; the Lord God also forbids the stealing of another person’s character, or what we commonly call, ‘character assassination’!
How often do we learn of professing Christian people who are prepared to, quite openly, rubbish another Preacher’s Sermons; or detract from his/her witness by malicious gossip? This too is forbidden by the Lord God in His Eighth Commandment. Thou shalt not steal!
Read what the Puritan, Thomas Watson wrote on this serious subject:
“OF THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT. Exodus 20:15. Thou Shalt not steal.
"As the holiness of God sets himself against uncleanness, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery ', so the justice of God sets him against rapine and robbery, ‘Thou shalt not steal’. The thing forbidden in the commandment, is meddling with another man's property, ‘ Thou shalt not steal.' The civil lawyers define, stealth or theft, to be laying hands unjustly on that which is another's; the invading of another's right.
“Qu. 1. Whence doth theft arise ? A1. The internal causes are: (1.) Unbelief. A man hath an high distrust of God's providence : ' Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?' (Psalm 78: 19). So saith the unbeliever, ‘Can God spread a table for me?’ No, he cannot. Therefore he is resolved, he will spread a table for himself, but it shall be of other men's cost, and both first and second course shall be served in with stolen goods. (2.) Covetousness. The Greek word for covetousness signifies an immoderate desire of ‘getting’: this is the root of theft. A man covets more than his own, and this itch of covetousness makes him scratch what he can from another. Achan's covetous humour made him steal the wedge of gold, which wedge did cleave asunder his soul from God (Joshua 7: 21).
“2. The external cause of theft: Satan's solicitation: Judas was a thief. (John 12: 6) How came he to be a thief? Satan entered into him,' (John 13: 27). The devil is the great master- thief, he robbed us of our coat of innocency, and he persuades men to take up his trade; he tells men how bravely they shall live by thieving, and how they may catch an estate. And as Eve listened to the serpent's voice, so do they; and, as birds of prey, live upon spoil and rapine.
“Q. 2. How many sorts of thefts are there? Ans. I. There is stealing from God ; and so they are thieves who rob any part of God's day from him - Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day'. Not a part of the day only, but the whole day must be dedicated to God. And lest any should forget this, the Lord hath prefixed a memento, ‘remember’.
“Therefore to cut God short, and after morning sacrifice, to spend the other part of the Sabbath in vanity and pleasure: this is spiritual thievery, 'tis to rob God of his due : and the very heathens will rise up in judgment against such Christians; for the heathens (as Macrobius notes) did observe a whole day to their false gods.
“II. There is a stealing from others: A stealing away their souls: and so heretics are thieves. By robbing men of the truth, they rob them of their souls.
"A stealing away their money and goods from them: and under this head of stealing away others money, there may be several arraigned for thieves. (1.) The high-way thief, who takes a purse, contrary to the letter of this commandment. (Leviticus 19:13). ‘Thou shalt not rob thy neighbour.' (Mark. 10:19). Do not steal.” (The Ten Commandments, Thomas Watson 1620-1686)
Thus we learn that there are many various manners of ‘stealing’, and from all such theft we, as Christians, must desist. In word, thought, and deed – let us seek to keep God’s Word.
Thought: Praise God we have a Saviour Who perfectly kept the Commandments of God for us, and now imputes His righteousness to us, redeeming our sin-sick souls!