The Eighth Commandment: Stealing
January 18, 2009
Exodus 20:15 “You shall not steal.”
Introduction: In 2007, Spherion, a career recruiting and staffing agency, asked 2,000 employees if they had ever taken office supplies for personal use. Nearly 20 percent of employees admitted they had. Surprisingly, the likelihood that someone would use company materials for personal use increased with education and salary level.
For example, 13 percent of employees with a high school education said they pilfered office supplies, compared with 27 percent of college graduates and 22 percent of employees with post-graduate education. Similarly, only 11 percent of employees who make between $15,000 and $35,000 per year admitted to stealing office supplies, compared to nearly 25 percent of those who make $75,000 or more. In fact, employees in the highest salary ranges have been known to help themselves to company cell phones and computers.
According to Joshua Newberg, associate professor of business law at the University of Maryland, a sense of entitlement is the leading reason for employee pilfering.
Brandon O'Brien, assistant editor, PreachingToday.com; sources: Jae Vang and Alejandro Gonzalez, "Education and workplace ethics," USA Today (8-22-07); Hanah Cho, "Are pens, paper free for taking?" The Baltimore Sun(10-19-07); Anya Sostek, "Office pilfering starts at the top," Jackson Hole Star Tribune (6-24-07)
Entitlement. What a word! Everyone knows it’s wrong to steal, to take something that does not belong to you. The eighth command uses a general word for stealing. It means to take something by stealth or in secret. The Bible lists several examples of how this is done:
1. Those involved in kidnapping or selling others (as into slavery) were to be put to death (21.16).
2. Those stealing livestock were to restore five-fold for oxen and four-fold for sheep (22.1).
3. Those who kill a thief involved in breaking in were exonerated of any guilt (22.2).
4. “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another” (Lev 19.11).
5. Fairness - no injustice in judgment, measurement, weight or volume (Lev 19.35).
6. “The wicked borrows and does not repay…” (Psalm 37.21)
7. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so” (Prov 3.27). When you are able to help your neighbor, don’t delay. Don’t steal the good due your neighbor.
8. “People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving. Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold; he may have to give up all the substance of his house” (Prov 6.30-31).
9. “Whoever robs his father of his mother, and says, ‘It is no transgression,’ the same is companion to a destroyer” (Prov 28.24).
10. Jesus taught that thefts proceed out of the heart (Matt 15.19).
11. The Jews had made the temple a den of thieves; this caused the Lord’s indignation to flare (Matt 21.13).
12. We ought to render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s; to God that which is God’s (Matt 22.21).
13. The Pharisees devoured the houses of widows (Matt 23.14). They were full of extortion (v. 25).
14. Tax collectors were to collect no more than what was appointed for them to collect (Luke 3.13).
15. Zacchaeus restored four-fold the amount he had stolen from others (Luke 19.8).
16. Judas did not care for the poor even though he said he did. He criticized Mary’s act of devotion because he held the money box and used to steal what was put in it (John 12.6).
17. You shouldn’t keep company with an extortionist (1 Cor 5.11).
18. Thieves will not go to Heaven (1 Cor 6.10).
19. Repentant thieves should stop stealing, work hard, and give it away (Eph 4.28).
20. One should not steal that which belongs to his brother - referring to the sexually immoral acts. Stealing a look. 1 Thes 4.6.
Bible Examples not Relating to Property:
1. Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel (2 Sam 15.6).
2. False prophets steal God’s words from the people (Jer 23.30).
a. When false prophets speak truth, they do so not from divine inspiration.
b. They stole their truth statements from other false prophets or even true prophets.
c. They claimed to be God’s messengers, but He had not sent them.
d. They used the truth to cover up their lies. The lies were sugar coated - a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down. “The beauty of truth embellishes the ugliness of error” (Theodore Laetsch).
What does this look like today in our world?
· People steal from the government when they won’t pay the taxes they owe.
· The government steals from people when they waste money and accumulate debt without planning to repay it - it’s stealing from future generations.
· Employees steal by falsifying expense reports, filling in bogus time sheets, and calling in sick just to get a day off. They take home office supplies for personal use, surf the Internet on company time, compose and send personal emails, and generally robbing their employers of the work they owe for the wage they make.
· Employers steal from employees by expecting them to work beyond what their contract allows or downsize their workforce to improve profits. When employers do this, good workers have to pick up the slack - doing their work and the work that was once a responsibility of those let go.
· Companies price-gouge and take advantage of helpless consumers. They engage in false advertising and deceptive packaging. Salesmen sell people things they don’t need by exaggerating the value of their products.
· Lenders charge huge interest rates in order to make unjust profits. Some people who run up credit cards never intend to pay them off. Credit card debt had grown exponentially because of this.
· People file false claims on insurance companies. Others violate copyright laws (including the duplication of music and videos). Some plagiarize - take work and effort that does not belong to them and use it as their own. Some steal the identity of others and deplete their bank accounts on an Internet free-for-all.
Stealing breaks the greatest commandments in that we fail to love God and neighbor when we take that which does not belong to us. The issue involves stewardship. If God does not provide it for us, then we must not need it. If God gives it to another, then who are we to take it?
1. When we steal in any form, we communicate a lack of trust in God as our heavenly Father.
2. When we steal in any form, we attempt to block God from providing for others.
The core issue is wise stewardship of the resources God provides. Ryken provides at least three aspects of wise stewardship (646-47).
1. Good stewardship means taking care of what we have been given. He quotes the SBC and their statement on gambling:
While the Bible contains no ‘thou shalt not’ in regard to gambling, it does contain many insights and principles which indicate that gambling is wrong. The Bible emphasizes the sovereignty of God in the direction of human events…
Matthew 10:29-30 “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”
Gambling looks to chance and good luck. The Bible indicates that man is to work creatively and use his possessions for the good of others…
Ephesians 4:28 “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.”
Gambling fosters a something-for-nothing attitude. The Bible calls for careful stewardship; gambling calls for reckless abandon. The Bible condemns covetousness and materialism. Gambling has both at its heart. The moral thrust of the Bible is love for God and neighbor …gambling seeks personal gain and pleasure at another’s personal loss and pain.
2. Good stewardship means working hard. Laziness leads to poverty and poverty brings the temptation to steal (Prov 30.8-9).
3. Good stewardship means being a good sieve or funnel. Take it in and give it out for the benefit of others.
Malachi 3:8-10 (NKJV)
8“Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. 9You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. 10Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it.
· A tithe is 10% and it’s a good starting place for the NT believer.
· Giving less than we are able to give is stealing from God.
Points from Achan (Judges 6-7)
1. Israel enjoyed a great victory over mighty Jericho. God commanded his people to not take any of the spoil from the battle.
2. But Achan took of the accursed things; so the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel (7.1).
3. Joshua did not know of this so he resumed his march into the Promised Land. He sent a small contingent up against Ai and men lost their lives and were turned back.
4. Joshua fell before the Lord and complained. God told him to get up and that Israel had sinned by taking some of the accursed things. “They have both stolen and deceived” (v. 11).
5. The LORD culled through the tribes:
a. Judah was taken.
b. The family of the Zarhites was taken.
c. Zabdi, Achan’s grandfather was taken.
d. Carmi, Achan’s father was taken.
e. Then, Achan was taken.
6. Joshua asked Achan to confess. He did to his credit: “I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing 50 shekels, I coveted them and took them, And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it” (vv. 20-21).
7. Achan was stoned to death and burned with fire. He and his family.
8. A great heap of stones was raised over him so that Israel would not forget. Achan stole from God. His punishment served as an example for all those who would do the same.
What’s a Thief to Do?
1. Two thieves were crucified with Jesus (Matt 27.38). Both reviled Him (27.44). This fulfilled a prophecy in Isaiah 53.12, “He was numbered with the transgressors.”
2. One of the thieves thought better of his reviling and said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” (Lk. 23.42) Jesus assured him that that day the thief would be with Jesus in Heaven (v. 43).
3. The thief didn’t have a chance to go to church or become baptized. Yet, Jesus assured him of eternal life. How was this possible? The thief demonstrated saving repentance.
4. Jesus was counted as a thief at the cross. He died for the thieves next to Him. He died for all of us who are indeed thieves to some extent tonight. So, what’s a thief to do? He must turn to his only hope. Once we do, we’re able to do the right thing.
Conclusion: A newlywed couple had left a black-zippered case on the roof of their car as they sped away from the reception to begin their honeymoon. The case had all their wedding gift money in it - $12,000. By the time they reached their destination it was gone. The bride felt numb and overwhelmed by what had happened.
Two days later, an unemployed suburban resident had come upon the black bag with the $12,000 in cash. In spite of his mounting bills and jobless state, he didn't keep any of the money. Tracking the couple down, he returned the full amount. When asked why he turned it all in, he said, "I guess it doesn't matter whether it's $50 or $1,000 or $1 million. It doesn't belong to you."
This same man had found $50 the year before and turned it in as well. When offered jobs because of the exposure he received over this incident, the man said he would only consider jobs he was qualified for. He felt accepting a managerial position for which he was unequipped was dishonest.
Greg Asimakoupoulos, writer and speaker