- You shall not steal / Area: Property
The eight and tenth commandment overlaps in some areas. The reason why people steal and why they covet is because of greed and envy. The reason people steal and desire things they shouldn’t is because they are not content with the things God has given them. This commandment also presupposes the privilege and right people have to own property and to have possessions. If we are content with the things God has given us, whether it be many things or a few things, whether we are poor or rich, we will benefit much. 1 Timothy 6:6 states: “..Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. Having food and clothing let us be therefore content.” To be content with what you have means to be thankful to God and satisfied with the things He has given you. Hebrews 13:5,6 also commands: “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said: ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not fear, what can man do to me?’” If our trust is in God and if we seek His kingdom and righteousness, God will give us the things we need in due time. People are tempted to steal many times because they don’t believe they have what they need at the current time. Because of unbelief in God’s providence people are discontented, dissatisfied and unthankful.
Jesus was a poor man in the world’s eyes, yet He owned the universe. If we are children of God, the Bible says that we are rich because we have the blessed Holy Spirit within us and because God has prepared for us an inheritance in heaven which is imperishable, unfading and incorruptible (Ephesians 1:12-14; 1 Peter 1:4). Jesus told us to lay up treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-21). And Paul said these remarkable words about believers, “..all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Peter or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” If we have the vision of God, we would not envy and steal and desire other people’s possessions, because all belong to God. Psalm 24:1,2 states: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell in it.” If God owns everything and we are his children by faith in the Holy Spirit, then all belong to us as well. That doesn’t mean you can take things, left, right and center that don’t belong to you, that would be theft, but spiritually everything that is God’s is ours as well. Moreover, the Bible makes it clear that we are stewards of the things God has given us. Everything God has given to us must be used, not selfishly, but for His glory, for the extension of God’s kingdom and the good of the church (Matthew 25:14-31; Matthew 21:33-43; Luke 16:9-12). Pride in one’s own abilities and living independently from God and idolatry in all its facets are also theft because it robs God from the glory that is due to him.
The Heidelberg Catechism says the following:
God forbids not only those thefts and robberies which are punishable by the magistrate; but He comprehends under the name theft all wicked tricks and devices, whereby we design to appropriate to ourselves the goods which belong to our neighbor; whether it be by force, or under the appearance of right, as by unjust weights, measures, fraudulent merchandise, false coins, usury, or by any other way forbidden by God, as all covetousness, and abuse and waste of His gifts. Also, God requires that I promote the advantage of my neighbor in every instance I can or may, and deal with him as I desire to be dealt with by others; further also that I faithfully labor, so that I may be able to relieve the needy.
This commandment forbids the following sins:
Theft: taking something that doesn’t belong to you or is not rightfully yours; take dishonestly.
Fraud: criminal deception, a dishonest trick to get what is not rightfully yours.
Greed: excessive desire for food, wealth or possessions
Laziness: unwilling to work, doing little work
Socialism and Communism: a political and economic system whereby resources, industries and transport should be owned and managed by the state. Communism and socialism are legalized theft. It is institutionalized envy.
Vandalism: willfully damaging of property and destroying property
Wastefulness: use something, or something used extravagantly or without adequate result; fail to use.
Kleptomania: a compulsive desire to steal
Gambling: play games of chance for money; risk in hope of gain
Discontent: not content and satisfied with what you have
Ungratefulness: complaining, not thanking God and man for the things that you have and the abilities, talents, and opportunities that God has given you
Usury: the lending of money at excessive high rates of interest.
Adultery: taking someone else’s wife to be your own
Idolatry: taking glory and honor for yourself or giving it to someone or something instead of what is rightfully God’s; robbing God
Tax evasion: not paying the state what is rightfully theirs.
–Ephesians 4:28 makes it clear: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with those in need.” Concerning gambling and laziness the word of God says in Proverbs 21:24 “the desire of the sluggard kills him because his hands refuse to labor.” And Proverbs 13:11 “Wealth gained hastily (or by vanity) will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little (or by labor) will increase it.” Also Proverbs 28:22 states: “He that hastens to be rich has an evil eye, and considers not that poverty shall come upon him.”
Truth and Scripture to consider: We are stewards of God’s grace and possession in this world. Jesus said in Luke 16:9,10: “…make for yourselves friends by means of unrighteous wealth, so when it fails, they may receive you into eternal dwellings. One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much. If you then have not been faithful in unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches?” We are commanded by God to use money to win people for the kingdom.