Exodus 20 v 15 You shall not steal.
There are only four ways in which we come to possess anything in life. The first is by inheritance. Thank God for those parents who have been industrious and who are able to bequeath something to their family. The second is by receiving a gift. Thirdly, by working. Work, of course, is a biblical doctrine. God blesses hard work and expects us to work. And the fourth way of acquiring possessions is by stealing. The first three are based on laws which are essential to love and service but the fourth is based on the law of greed and selfishness.
We live in a very complicated society. Business economics and tax laws are complicated. To add to our temptations we now have electronic and digital means to invent a variety of crimes. The more sophisticated society becomes, the more sophisticated crime becomes. Often people commit crimes while appearing to be honest. Dishonesty, as we know, is a very complicated industry today and not always easy to detect, until long after the event. Human sin has made it impossible for us to trust anybody today, which is a great shame.
There are many causes of dishonesty and all should be exposed when they are discovered. But the real cause of all theft whether large or small, sophisticated or otherwise, from crooking the books to muggings on the street, is the basic perversity of the human heart.
The same force within us that leads us to defy God, or deny Him is the force that drives us to murder, adultery and theft. It is the primary sinfulness of the human heart.
As believers we should always be aware of the small things in life, because they are so often pointers to our characters as Christians. Therefore we always seek to correct it if too much change is given us in the supermarket. We always return books we have borrowed and we never defraud those who are in our employ nor do we defraud our employers by stealing time. These are so-called small things.
There are of course much larger ways in which theft is committed in our lives. We have all read of the high interest charged by loan sharks on the poor. Many labour union strikes cause great loss to the poor and to the economy because of unrealistic demands, but likewise some workers would never be paid properly were it not for somebody lobbying on their behalf.
Yet another facet of this crime is the non-repayment of debts. In Psalm 37:21 we read, ‘The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives’. If you have borrowed money, you are obliged to repay that money. If you are unable to meet your commitments then you should explain the situation to the people concerned – don’t just leave it.
Stealing is not limited to material things – we can rob people of their virtue. The great preacher, DL Moody made this statement:
‘The man who breaks into a home and steals my goods is a king and a prince compared to the man who comes into my home and steals the affection of my wife or robs my daughter of her virtue.’
We can also steal a person’s reputation. In James 3 we have a tremendous exposition of the power of the tongue and its power to break down and destroy a person. We need to be scrupulously honest, but also on guard against breaking this commandment by stealing good names and reputations.
So we can see there are many ways to commit this sin and we all ought to be watching our hearts so that we may live upright and honest lives, even though we live in a world that often seems not to value these virtues.
Meditation: Please read Ephesians 4 v 28