Scripture: “You shall not steal.” Exodus 20:15 ESV
Observation: With this eighth commandment, we understand that since everything in heaven and earth belongs to the Lord (Psalms 24:1, 115:16), only he can take and give away his creations’ possessions. So what does this prohibition entail? According to Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas (Bible Background Commentary), it encompasses:
- personal property,
- kidnapping (Deuteronomy 24:7),
- dignity and self-respect, and
- all other matters of freedom and rights.
And like the other commandments, obedience to this law would set Israel apart from the selfish, divisive behavior of neighboring pagan nations. Additionally, as with all six of the commandments that address our relationship with fellow humans, the prohibition against stealing aims to maintain civility and strengthen trust within the community of God.
Takeaway: All of us need to reflect on how we might steal from others, whether looting ideas or personhood. In today’s cancel culture, we rob people of their freedom to disagree and “cancel” them from society. Conversely, when we abuse freedom of speech to degrade others, we similarly deny them their personhood. And more graphically, when we use pornography, we steal intimate images of others (to whom there is no relational commitment) and support slavery (most porn models are sex-trafficked). Here are some less obvious examples:
- Watching or listening to copyrighted multi-media by hacking systems or logging into others’ paid subscriptions (outside of what is permitted by the subscriber’s “terms of agreement”);
- Profiteering from others who are vulnerable (e.g., selling products in short supply at absorbent prices); and
- Borrowing without a plan to pay back (both individuals and nations)
So why do we take what is not ours? Dr. Daniel Olukoya aptly contends that: “A person who steals just does not believe that God can provide for him. The person does not believe that God can prepare a table for him in the wilderness, so he prepared his own table using his neighbour’s property.” But when we rise above our temptations to steal and instead trust in our Lord’s provisions, as Jesus taught during his Sermon on the Mount (Gospel of Matthew), we will:
- Speak forthrightly without intent to deceive (5:33-37);
- Willfully lend to others in need (5:42);
- Love the unlovable (5:43-48);
- Give to the needy (6:1-4); and
- Follow the Golden Rule of treating others as we would like them to treat us (7:12-14)
And, as Paul quoted Christ to the Ephesian elders, we will discover that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you are a generous God who gives your best to bless us, as evidenced in the gift of your Son. So would you please help us trust in your provisions, become givers rather than takers, and discover the blessings of showing charity toward others? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling