The Eight Commandment
Bible Facts Newspaper Article (Ian C. Kurylyk)
“Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15).
God recognizes ownership. God Himself is the real owner of everything. “The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1). As absolute Proprietor (He made it all), He has allowed people to possess certain things on an earthly level of ownership. This has been done in accordance with certain laws and principles that provide for a just basis of owning things. We can legitimately acquire things as gifts, as inheritances, as purchases, and various other lawful means.
To take something in a way which violates the legitimate ownership of another is condemned in the Eighth Commandment as stealing. Man’s problem with this sin began when he first sinned by taking the forbidden fruit. He took what was God’s first. Since then sin has led mankind to take many things that are rightfully God’s. The prophet Malachi pointed out the audacity of such a crime with the words, “Will a man rob God?” (Malachi 3:8a).
The willingness of men to violate the boundaries of lawful ownership by theft soon progressed to the possessions of other human beings. If a person does not respect God it is a small matter to then disregard the claims of other people on their possessions. Look where it has taken the world today because of the constant threat of robbery. Imagine what we could save in prisons, courts, lawyers, insurance, security, and law enforcement costs if all stealing was stopped.
And stealing is hardly limited to certain professional crooks but is shown in the Bible to be an epidemic in all the world. Employees steal from employers - employers steal from employees. Investors steal from corporations - corporations steal from investors. Citizens steal from governments - governments steal from citizens. The poor steal from the rich - the rich steal from the poor. Customers steal from merchants - merchants steal from customers. People steal money, goods, services, time, praise, virtue, happiness, and just about everything others possess.
The insanity of stealing is evident from the Bible. It is a crime which is first against God who told us of His laws. Though done in this life if will follow the sinner into the next when he stands before God. However, any goods he has stolen (or even acquired legitimately) will not. “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Timothy 6:7) It is the height of folly to trade away eternity for illicit possessions had for a few brief years at most.
This Commandment is another one that convicts us all in some way as law breakers. We have broken God’s law against stealing and there is only one way that the debt can be settled. Like all crimes against a perfect God its magnitude is beyond our ability to pay for ourselves. But Jesus Christ has already paid for our crime when He died on the cross of Calvary. The Psalmist foretold that event and its significance. “I restored that which I took not away” (Psalm 69:4c).
It was also a thief that was crucified beside Him at His crucifixion and was fully pardoned. He acknowledged his sins and trusted the One offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).