I prefer to understand “Thou shalt not steal” as God ordering us never to forget His gracious provision for us. The Bible tells us repeatedly that our Heavenly Father knows everything about us—even numbering the hairs on our head—and He cares for us in the most intimate way: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” says Psalm 23:1.
Therefore, if our Father commands us not to steal, the implication is obvious. It is as if He says: “My child, you have no need whatsoever to take anything that is not yours. I have made you just the way you are. I have given you everything necessary for your life. Live, learn, grow, strive and ‘reach for the gold’—but never reach for what is not your own!”
Let’s take a closer look at this.
While all people are created by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Genesis 1:27), we are all constructed differently. Some of us are tall and some are short. Some can easily lose weight and some cannot. Some are born into wealth and means while others are born into poverty and depravation. Despite our widely differing circumstances, God loves us all and wants to have a personal relationship with each of us. When we repent of our sin and place our faith and trust in Him as Lord, His Holy Spirit indwells us and gives each of us the abilities we need to live a full and meaningful life. This is why Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). This strikes at the very heart of God’s unique and wonderful love for every person ever born.
Consider the uniqueness of all of God’s creation. Everything made in this world is hand-crafted by the order of our Heavenly Father. Every individual person is “fearfully and wonderfully” made. And, not only did God design every person in a unique fashion, but He also accompanied that design with specific abilities, gifts and potential. God, in fact, has no “giftless” children. Perhaps this is what Paul had in mind when he reminded all believers to be content in every situation and in every circumstance (Philippians 4:11-12).
Paul identified with both the blessings and the hardships of life. Yet he implored us to be content. Paul was emphatically telling believers that there is never a circumstance that would justify taking what belonged to someone else.
This is important when it comes to God’s command concerning stealing. Theft is not just about money. Certainly some biblical examples of stealing include robbery, but it goes much further than this. Stealing also involves ensuring accuracy (Leviticus 19), the moving of boundaries (Deuteronomy 19), the taking of property, kidnapping, robbing the elderly and the cutting of corners. Sounds familiar to our world today! And the list goes on: The dereliction of duty; withholding of wages; failing to repay debts; pretending not to have money when you really do; devaluing items for the purpose of profit; not returning something found that is not yours; cheating on taxes; wasting things that could be a blessing to others; causing willful damage; injustice; dishonoring contractual agreements; going back on your word; laziness; breaking promises; assault (including rape, incest and molestation); and robbing God by not returning His tithes (Malachi 3).
It is important to note how the New Testament deals with this issue of stealing. First, Jesus affirms the command when He speaks with the rich young ruler, who used his adherence to this commandment as an excuse to circumvent the need to “forsake all” and follow Jesus (Matthew 19:16-22). Jesus sent him away without salvation.
Second, we see strong warnings. Writing to the believers in Corinth, Paul included thieves in the list of those who would forfeit eternal life (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Even here, though, we are reminded that believers are not “under the law” but under God’s grace: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Third, the New Testament addresses people’s propensity to steal by accusing people falsely and extorting money from the poor. Instead, we are instructed, “be content with your wages” (Luke 3:14).
Fourth, we are reminded to respect the law of the land and those who have been placed in authority over us (Romans 13). The withholding of taxes and due honor is placed side by side with theft.
Fifth, the restoration of offenders and their subsequent redemption is clearly spelled out in the letter to the Ephesian church (Ephesians 4:25-28).
Last, and I think most important, Jesus told us that “the thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy …” (Cf. John 10:10). Satan ultimately wants to take away that which is not his to have. The devil did not create a single person, and he has no claim or power over anyone. But everyone needs to be on guard because Satan is out to thwart God’s perfect plan for His children. Satan wants to destroy every living person and he does so by creating doubt and by using deception and any other means available. His purpose is to conquer, steal, divide and destroy. But God is greater and far too powerful for Satan.
So, what must we do in light of this commandment? Three things: First, determine your treasure (Matthew 6:21), for wherever it is, there your heart is also. Second, deal with your sin. Stealing is sin. Confess it to Jesus and He will forgive you (1 John 1:9). Third, do not turn back. As Jesus said to one woman who had been caught in a sinful act, go and sin no more! ©2013 Don Wilton
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.