“You shall not steal.
Today we are speaking about the Eighth Commandment. You will find in Exodus 20:15 that the Eighth Commandment is “Thou shalt not steal.” It is very succinct and very straight forward. God doesn’t put a lot of explanation into it. It’s one of the shortest commandments along with thou shalt not murder. It sounds simple. It sounds like it should be easy to do. Sometimes I think many of us take it as a less serious commandment. It certainly seems less important or less serious than murder. It certainly seems less important or less serious than worshipping a false god. Indeed I guess if you were ordering things, you would say that murder or worshipping a false god would be premier commandments at the very top of the list. But we should not minimize the commandment to not steal. We must not take theft lightly. It’s one of the Ten Commandments for very, very good reasons.
Theft causes an insidious destruction of human character and a tremendous amount of pain and suffering and anguish on the part of other people. When it becomes a habit, theft destroys our character, and it leads to other sins. The primary example, we will call exhibit one, is that Christ was betrayed by a thief. Let’s turn to the gospel of John chapter 12. It’s interesting that’s what happened to Jesus Christ. He was betrayed by a thief. That is exactly what took place.
We are starting in verse 1 of John chapter 12: “Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, ‘Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.’”
Judas was more or less the treasurer of the twelve disciples and Jesus Christ. He had the money bag in his control and was a pilferer. He was a thief. He was jealous. He was covetous of what this woman was doing with the expensive oil, but Christ said this is for a very important purpose.
Judas wasn’t fooling Jesus Christ. Christ knew he was a thief. Christ allowed him to be one of the twelve. One had to betray Him, but woe to that one who betrayed Him.
Let’s go to Matthew chapter 26. There are several Scriptures that explain the character of Judas. Matthew chapter 26, verse 6: “And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.”
This is a different occasion, but similar circumstance.
Continuing in verse 8 of Matthew 26: “But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, ‘Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.’”
It seemed a few of the apostles thought this is kind of a waste here.
Verse 10: “But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, ‘Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always. For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.’”
I am sure that set a few of the disciples back on their heels, and it taught them a lesson, that nothing that happened to Jesus Christ was by accident. It had a purpose. But there was one that just could not take the lesson to heart.
BETRAYED BY A THIEF
Continuing in verse 14 of Matthew 26: “Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priest and said, ‘What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?’ And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver. So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.”
One apostle got so upset with what he thought was waste, and really was an opportunity wasted for him to steal more money, that he sold our Savior for thirty pieces of silver. He betrayed Christ for more money. Let’s see that again in John. Let’s go back to the gospel of John, chapter 13. This is at the last supper.
John chapter 13, verse 18: “I do not speak concerning all of you. I know whom I have chosen; but that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘He who eats bread with Me has lifted up his heel against Me.’ Now I tell you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He. ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.’ When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.’ Then the disciples looked at one another, perplexed about whom He spoke. Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask who it was of whom He spoke. Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, he said to Him, ‘Lord, who is it?’”
Verse 26: “Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.’ And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, ‘What you do, do quickly.’ But no one at the table knew for what reason He said this to him. For some thought, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus had said to him, ‘Buy those things we need for the feast,’ or that he should give something to the poor. Having received the piece of bread, he then went out immediately. And it was night.”
Christ knew He had been betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. He knew the prophecies would point to that. He knew Judas Iscariot was the one. The other disciples didn’t fully understand yet what was going on.
For a long time Christ knew Judas as a thief and that it had destroyed his character. It had worked its way in and given Satan a way into Judas that was sufficiently strong for Satan to get him to betray our Savior to death. Covetousness and theft open the door of the mind to Satan for all kinds of avenues that bring death and destruction.
Let’s go to the gospel of John once again. Go back a couple of pages to John chapter 10, if you are still in John. We will start in verse 7.
SATAN WILL STEAL OUR ETERNAL LIFE
John 10, verse 7: “Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.’”
When we let the good Shepherd into our lives, we gain life. When He is in our mind, we have a more abundant life. When the thief and the robber, that is Satan, enters our mind, it leads not only to thievery, but to death and destruction. How many times do we see that when a crime has been committed, they look for a motive. The motive was theft, whether it was beating someone up or killing them, often times the motive was to take what they had.
Satan wants to take what Jesus Christ has, which is the body of Christ. He wants to take what we have to gain which is opportunity to eternal life. He is a true thief and a destroyer. Theft of a physical nature like Judas Iscariot did is one of his methods to destroy our character.
A NATION OF THIEVES WON’T LAST
There are huge, huge lessons surrounding the Eighth Commandment. One of them is that a nation of thieves won’t last long. It will destroy itself. It’s the formula for destruction. Theft destroys trust. When you think everyone is out to rip you off, you don’t trust anyone, and trust is the glue that keeps the country going.
Theft thwarts commerce and makes commerce more expensive. I don’t know what they are off hand, but there are statistics of what it costs our nation just because of shoplifting. The price of goods goes up for those of us who are honest and have to pay an extra cost to cover those who pilfer and shoplift.
Theft also destroys commerce in that it makes for expensive legal documentation, preparation, and contracts that try to cover all the loopholes to prevent theft during a business deal. Theft is also a disincentive to hard work. Who wants to work all their life and save to have it destroyed and taken away? Who wants to see their paycheck taken by some thief or to save up for something that your family needs only to have the money or the item stolen? It is a disincentive to hard work.
Theft also destroys the virtue of thrift—saving and putting away for the future. If you think there is no hope to have what you saved and that it will be taken by corrupt people, corrupt investment advisors, corrupt government, or by out and out thievery, there is no incentive to save. There is no incentive to prepare for the future.
It is an insidious crime of the mind and heart that leads to the character destruction that will lead to the destruction of the nation. Unfortunately our modern society has an overabundance of thieves. I am not just talking about thieves that break into your house or steal your wallet or snatch your purse. Thievery is way beyond that today. It includes those who defraud and who deceive to defraud.
METHODS OF DECEIT
The word “steal” in the Old Testament that is used in the Eighth Commandment is gonab (#1589, Strong’s Concordance, 1995) which means to thieve, as you would expect. But literally or figurative it means to thieve. By implication it means to deceive.
A lot of theft requires deception—defrauding. It is incredible how much deception, defrauding, and thievery is going on in our nations today. Examples abound! There are senior scams. They are talking all the time about seniors from a prior generation where honesty and people’s word could be taken to mean something are being defrauded. They are being scammed out of their inheritance, out of their Social Security, and out of their retirement savings.
There is identity theft. Literally people who know how to use technology to steal people’s names, identities, and the record of their life abscond with it and trash it! There are people who make a living with nuisance lawsuits that they know were wrong in the first place, but people give in just to avoid any more legal costs. There is high speed algorithmic stock trading we hear about all the time that milk people of their retirement constantly. There are fraudulent loans and mortgages. We saw that they almost brought down the American economy, which would have brought down the world economy in the last recession. There were millions of fraudulent loans. In the investigation of the fraudulent loans they found robo signings—people forging people’s signatures. They were not even looking at the documents, defrauding their fellow citizens.
We often hear about pork-barrel spending. These are projects that are just lining the pockets of politicians and the people in their districts, defrauding the rest of the nation. There is credit card fraud, phony-investment fraud, stock market manipulation, insider trading, and pilfering at work. There’s shoplifting in our stores. On and on it goes. You could come up with a list as long as your arm of the people who are involved in thievery of one form or another in our nation. What it is all costing our nation is probably impossible to determine. That doesn’t even count things like drug dealing or ripping off Medicare with bad prescriptions.
Left unchecked, thievery alone can destroy our society, and this is just the breaking of one commandment. This is a very serious commandment. It’s every bit as serious as murder because it can lead to murder as we saw in the case of Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot. For money he sold our Savior. It is unbelievable, but that’s what can happen when someone’s character is totally destroyed by greed and thievery.
OBEY THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT
The antidote is simple. It was not hard for God to say, thou shalt not steal. It’s one sentence! It’s very succinct and very straight forward. It is the antidote to all that we see. If people would just abide by this one commandment, look how much better our society would be and how much more stable it would be. It also equals the fact that keeping that commandment is a way to love our fellow man.
Let’s go to Romans chapter 13, beginning in verse 8: “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
Loving your neighbor by keeping the Eighth Commandment would preclude taking what’s not yours. We should not covet what someone else has, let alone take it from them.
Let’s go over a few pages to the epistle of the Ephesians. Ephesians chapter 4, verse 25: “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another. ‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole seal 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.”
It’s the opposite of stealing. Loving your neighbor is working hard and then sharing the fruits of your labor with your neighbor who is in need. If we do that, we are not giving place to the devil where thievery and covetousness is giving place to the devil in our mind and heart, leading to the destruction of our character and the destruction of society by harming our neighbor.
Continuing in Ephesians 4, verse 29: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
We have to turn these things around in our nation if we are going to save the nation. The Ten Commandments is nothing to shirk off as our nation has done. We are reaping what we sow. We get tremendous blessings by keeping the Ten Commandments. They were given to help us because God loves us, and He wants to show us how to love Him in the first four commandments, and how to love our neighbor and our fellow man in the last six.
There are great blessings from not stealing. They will build us a society where hard work and thrift are rewarded, where prosperity will grow, and fewer and fewer people will experience poverty. Thou shalt not steal is a serious subject. We certainly should put theft out of our lives, and work to not covet and not have any greediness in our hearts. If we accomplish that in our lives, we will benefit society, and we will be a good example of God’s way of life—pointing the way to a stronger, healthier country. It will be pointing the way toward God by showing that the Ten Commandments are indeed in effect. The blessings that God has in store for those who keep them are real! They are for the here and now, as well as for eternity!