Thou Shalt Not Steal … (Exodus 20:15)
A man can have nothing unless it is given to Him by the LORD …( John 3:27)
God gives gifts to people. He gives advantages, strengths, talents, insights, personality traits, family connections… etc., we all have different gifts, by the grace of God.
In this sense, God is not egalitarian, He gives varying gifts in differing amounts to people as it pleases him. We are all called to be stewards of those gifts, and it is possible to develop them or squander them, to increase them or to trade them away, but everybody has received certain gifts and talents from the LORD.
What we all have, should be seen as gifts freely received at His hand.
Thus property is a Biblical concept. The Eighth commandment lays out the principle of private property, legitimately gained and maintained. Thou Shalt Not Steal … You should not take what is not yours, or what the LORD has not given you.
The Heidelberg Catechism does a good job of defining what God is prohibiting in this commandment;
God forbids not only outright theft and robbery 1but also such wicked schemes and devices as false weights and measures, deceptive merchandising, counterfeit money, and usury; we must not defraud our neighbour in any way, whether by force or by show of right. In addition God forbids all greed and all abuse or squandering of his gifts.
There are countless other ways in which men steal (ie, obtain that which God has given to another person).
Those who refuse to work, or do their work lazily, or employ only eye service, are thieves of their employers time and business. So also are those who bribe or demand bribes, or who cheat or are corrupt.
Those who destroy another person’s reputation are thieves of their neighbor’s good name.
Anyone who exploits or enslaves another person for their own or anyone else benefit, is called a “man stealer” in Scripture.
The Law is not for the Righteous but for the unrighteousness… For lewd persons, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for men-stealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine… ( I Timothy 1:9-10)
God knows that people often steal other people’s lives. They take what isn’t their own; the labor, strength, morale and conscience of others, and usurp unjust power and authority over others on many different levels. These thieves assume a place in the heart of others, that belongs to God alone. This is theft of the Soul.
There is a whole political philosophy based upon the systemization of envy, covetousness and resentment of the property of others , called “socialism”. It is a seductive philosophy, especially to the young, because it looks like altruism, concern for the poor and is supposedly an attempt to “Equalize everyone”.
“Soak the Rich!” is their battlecry, as they seek to implement policies which strip successful people of ever more of their income, the inheritance they would bequeath to they children, and in the name of equality, they vote themselves largess out of the public treasury.
Thou Shalt Not Steal!
The Apostle Paul gives an antidote to the repentant theif, in the book of Ephesians, which is a new way of looking at life, ( The Sin of Theft is an expression of a selfish worldview).
“Let Him That stole, steal no more but rather let hm labor, working with his hands, so that he will have something to give to those in need”. (Ephesians 4:29)
Repentance of theft involves a complete change of outlook. The thief is a Taker, He just takes what is not his, without regard, he is selfish, self centered, and willing to have whatever he wants . He is his own god.
But repentance means the “taker ” has now become a productive worker, and a Giver… He no longer wants anything that He knows God didn’t give to him. He is God centered now, and realizes that even what He has, is truly God’s, and at God’s disposal. He is looking for ways to give because he has learned to Love.
This is the effect of Calvary. “Freely we have received, now freely we give”.
The Word of God in no way condemns possessions. Scripture assumes private property and commands us to respect it. Having things is not something to be ashamed of, people and possessions go together. We all have needs and desires, and there are legitimate ways of attaining them, this is the assumption of scripture.
People come under a lot of false guilt about this subject, partly due to quasi religious/ political ideology (Leftism) that would shame anyone who has anything by way of possessions when there are so many poor who have less or nothing. Scripture doesn’t condemn anyone who has accumulated things, such as houses, lands, durable property, inheritance, etc., just for having them.
The young are particularly vulnerable to this kind of “Social Justice” * shamebasing.
When a young couple marries, they are going to need things, especially if they want to have a family. There is no virtue in utter poverty, and scripture doesn’t require that of us.
What scripture condemns is, “Trust in Riches”, or the refusal to let go of things when required, or as in this commandment, the acquiring of any of these things by theft, deception, or force. Thou Shalt Not Steal!
Freely giving of your means is virtuous, it is a blessing to be generous, and willing to give. This is the positive fulfillment of this command. “Give and it shall be given unto you…”.
This is not the same as empowering Governments to take ever more share of hard earned livings, through oppressive taxes, in the name of helping the poor! That is theft. Especially when they specifically target the successful, simply for being successful. Thou Shalt Not Steal!
We do not realize it but we live in what is called a “Trust Society” for the most part.
As we as a society drift further from our Christian foundation, simple trust will dissolve, and a way of life which is pleasant, and dignifying will also dissolve. There is a Christian author who was a Hindu, Vishal Mangalwadi , who wrote a book about the Bible, and the benefits we are in danger of forfeiting.
Vishal Mangalwadi, in his book Truth and Transformation, on his first visit to Holland, was taken to a dairy where a couple of surprises awaited him.
I had never seen such a dairy! It had a hundred cows, there were no staff on site, and it seemed amazingly clean and orderly. In India we had a small dairy of our own, but our dairy had two workers and it was filthy and smelly.
Besides the mechanized milking, a bigger surprise was the honor system used to pay for milk.
We walked into the milk room, and no one was there to sell the milk. I expected Jan to ring a bell, but instead he just opened the tap, put his jug under it, and filled the jug.
His host paid for the milk, making change from the open money bowl on the windowsill, and the transaction was done! Vishal observed that in his native India you would take the milk and steal the basket of money.
His answer to why didn’t people do this in Holland: they were governed internally by the Word of God, which specifically says, “you shall not steal.” India and Egypt didn’t have this legacy. They may choose not to steal out of fear of being caught and prosecuted, or because of the internal “law on the heart” (Rom. 2:15) or conscience. But without the generations of biblical instruction in homes, schools and pulpits about God, His law, future judgment, and grace, the conscience goes only so far.
Vishal observed that such an honor system could only work in a culture of trust. In a different culture, the milk would be diluted—requiring inspectors, and the money bowl would be pilfered—requiring employees. Hiring employees and paying inspectors would increase the price of milk
There is no real “Social Justice”, There is only Justice.