“Love and Property” – Deuteronomy 5:19

June 4th, 2017

Dt 5:19

“Love and Property”

Aux Text: Luke 10:30–37

Call to Worship: Psalm 104


Service Orientation:  To steal is to forget who we are, Whose we are, and Who God is.  We should endeavor by all means possible to promote God’s will here on earth as it is in heaven.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours.  Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all.  Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things.  In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. —1 Chronicles 29:11-12


Background Information:

  • In the OT stealing is prohibited by the eighth commandment of the Decalogue: “You shall not steal” (Ex 20:15); “Neither shall you steal” (Dt 5:19). The general prohibition against stealing also occurs in Lv 19:11f., where it is grounded in the name, and hence the nature, of God:  “You shall not steal. . . and so profane the name of your God:  I am the Lord.”  Stealing as a sin against God’s name also occurs in Prv 30:8f., where Agur asks God to give him only his “daily bread” lest he be rich and deny God, or poor and turn to stealing and so profane God’s name.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 4, 614)
  • Remarkably little is said about robbery in the Mosaic code. Provision is made for the repentant robber to make amends for his offense by restoring what was taken away by violence with an additional twenty percent by way of punitive damages (Lv 6:2-7).  Only after such restitution could he approach the Lord with his guilt-offering.  (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, vol. 1, 1033)
  • In OT times only after restitution was made was the person permitted to approach the Lord with a guilt offering (Lv 6:6). This would be included under what John the Baptist called “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mt 3:8).  This was so important that if he failed to pay back he must be sold as a slave until the amount of the theft had been earned for restitution (Ex 22:3).  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 230)
  • In the book of Exodus (22:3) we are told that if “the theft be found in his possession. . . he shall pay double.” What a fitting punishment.  Justice in its purest sense.  Steal twenty dollars from me, you must pay me back the twenty, plus another twenty.  That which you wished to take from me is taken from you. . . . Anybody who has had his house broken into, or been robbed at gunpoint, knows the painful feelings of violation, vulnerability, and loss.  The Bible tries to compensate the victim for the emotional violation that took place and make the thief feel the exact loss he wanted to perpetrate.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 237)
  • Nm 5:5-7. So, if the thief turns himself in, he is only fined a 20% penalty in addition to the return of the principal, instead of the 100% penalty demanded if he doesn’t own up to it.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 238)
  • Why is there a difference between stealing a sheep and a cow? One Jewish tradition explains that the more a thief conspired and premeditated, the more he is fined.  For a thief to walk off and hide a sheep is one thing, but to do the same to a big ole’ cow requires even more planning and deceit.  The bottom line is that biblical justice appears to acknowledge the degree of intentional behavior and react proportionally.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 239)
  • Not even the impoverished status of the thief provided an excuse for stealing or not compensating the victim. If a thief could not pay for what he stole, he was sold into slavery to repay the victim (Ex 2:22).  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 240)
  • The seriousness of the offence of theft must be understood in the context of a poor society, where property is both limited and a necessary means to survival. This prohibition too has its obverse in the requirement laid on people to protect the property of others (22:1-4).  Its elaborations in the code show that its concern is not a doctrine of the sanctity of private property, but rather that the substance of the economy should be used responsibly for the good of the whole community (23:19-29, 24-25; 24:10-15, 19-22).  The right of the individual, or family unit, to possess the means of their livelihood is a part of that concern.  (J. G. McConville, Apollos OT Commentary: Dt, 129-30)


The questions to be answered are . . .  What is God’s will for us in observing the eighth commandment?


Answer:  When we are tempted to steal from another we must realize we have forgotten God’s sovereignty and providence, we have forgotten what it means to love, and we no longer trust God.


Your property is an extension of your personhood.


Martin Luther said, “If we look at mankind in all its conditions, it is nothing but a vast, wide stable full of great thieves.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 226)


Martin Luther said, “If all thieves–who nevertheless do not wish to be considered such–were to be hanged to the gallows, the world would soon be desolate, and would be without both executioners and gallows.”  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 144)


The Word for the Day is . . . Trust


What must we remember to better observe and keep the eighth commandment?:

I-  Everything belongs to God.  In His providence He distributes everything as He has ordained.  (Ex 19:5-6; Lv 25:23; Dt 8:18; 1 Sm 2:7-8; 1 Chr 29:11-14; Job 1:21; 41:11; Ps 24:1; 50:10; 115:16; Phil 4:12; 1 Tm 6:6-19; Heb 13:5-6)


God the Lord is the owner of everything.  He created heaven and earth (Gn 1:1-31).  The earth and its fullness belong to Yahweh (Ex 19:5; Ps 24:1; 50:10).  Man rules over the works of God’s hands (Ps 8:6).  Everything we have has been given to us.  The heavens are Yahweh’s; the earth he has given to the children of men (Ps 115:16).  Wealthy Job confesses that the Lord gave him everything and took it all away (Job 1:21).  The Lord makes people poor and He makes them rich (1 Sm 2:7).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 295)


What God must be saying is this:  “I don’t want you stealing because I am your Provider.  I want you to understand and believe that I am the One who will supply all your needs.  I don’t want you to have to scheme, manipulate, and deceive to obtain things.  For then what would you become?  A schemer, a manipulator, and a deceiver.  I don’t want you to feel responsible for securing your own future.”  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 196)


Be content with the estate that God has given you.  “Be content with such things as ye have” Heb 13:5.  Theft is the daughter of avarice.  Study contentment.  Believe that condition best which God has carved out to you.  He can bless the little meal in the barrel.  We shall not need these things long:  we shall carry nothing out of the world with us but our winding-sheet.  If we have but enough to bear out our charges to heaven, it is sufficient.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 168)


Every man is to consider himself as a particular object of God’s providence, under the same care and protection of God as if the world had been made for him alone.  It is not by chance that any man is born at such a time, of such parents, and in such place and condition…Every soul comes into the body at such a time and in such circumstances by the express designment of God, according to some purposes of His will and for some particular ends.  (William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, 322)


Property must be respected; God has set this eighth commandment as a hedge about a man’s estate, and this hedge cannot be broken without sin.  If all things be common, there can be no theft, and so this commandment would be in vain.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 167)


The eighth commandment simply assumes that we and others have possessions.  Otherwise there would be no talk of stealing.  We can go one step further: Viewed “anthropologically,” people and possessions go together.  Being human and having possessions are not in tension with one another, because as lord in this world, the human race attains its development and progress with these possessions.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 301)


Just as God gave humans life, body, and spirit, He gave humans the earth and all that is on it.  As soon as a human being has legitimately acquired some “thing,” by gift, inheritance, earning, purchase, trade, or personal creation, it becomes an inanimate part of himself, much as his body is part of himself.  In this commandment, God expects us to respect a person’s property because of the human spirit who owns it.  Stealing becomes an offense against the human spirit who owns the property, as well as against God, because of the command not to steal.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 236-7)


When we complain, what we are really saying is, “I could have done a better job than God in this instance.  If I had made the choice, I would have done this and so…”  This is blasphemy.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 95)


God guides and governs all events and circumstances, even free, self-determining agents, overruling the regrettable consequences of freedom and directing everything toward its appropriate end for the glory of God (Eph. 1:9-12).  (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 270)


The root meaning of the term providence is to foresee, or to provide.  The question of providence concerns how God thinks ahead to care for all creatures, fitting them for contingencies, for the challenges of history, and for potential self-actualization to the glory of God. …But more than simply foresight, providence has to do with the active daily caring of God for the world in its hazards. (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 271)


The divine preservation of the cosmos is a free act of God.  As God was free to create or not to create all things, so is God free to continue or not continue all things in being.  Yet God continues by grace to uphold all things by the word of his power. (Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 280)


Divine providence does not exclude free human agency but enables and sustains it.  There are indeed limits on human freedom, but God’s providence, in fact, grants and permits freedom.  Though God does not give aid to human distortions and sin, God nonetheless by grace sustains the human nature that falls into sin.  God permits sin in an otherwise good and intelligible order, yet limits and finally overrules whatever distortions human freedom can create. Thomas C. Oden; The Living God, 281)


“To see God’s providential hand with true certainty it is necessary first to know God Himself, to know Him in the outworking of His revealing and reconciling purpose in Jesus Christ, to know Him at the focus and center in the light of which His ways in providence may be discerned.  The ‘smiling face’ of God is in the first instance the face unveiled at the cross and the empty tomb, where the God who seems to have averted His face from the sin-bearing Savior is the very God who is well pleased with the Son (Mt. 3:17), who is well pleased with us in Him (Eph. 1:5f.), and who has here worked out, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, the good pleasure of His grace.  This God is also the God who preserves and overrules all creation with a view to the fulfillment of His gracious purpose.  Hence we may be confident that even if providence is frowning, behind it is the smiling face of God.” (The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; Vol. Three, 1025)


The Bible clearly teaches God’s providential control (1) over the universe at large, Ps 103:19; Dn 4:35; Eph 1:11; (2) over the physical world, Job 37; Ps 104:14; 135:6; Mt 5:45; (3) over the brute creation, Ps 104:21, 28; Mt 6:26; 10:29; (4) over the affairs of nations, Job 12:23; Ps 22:28; 66:7; Acts 17:26; (5) over man’s birth and lot in life, 1 Sm 16:1; Ps 139:16; Isa 45:5; Gal 1:15, 16; (6) over the outward successes and failures of men’s lives, Ps 75:6, 7; Lk 1:52; (7) over things seemingly accidental or insignificant, Prv 16:33; Mt 10:30; (8) in the protection of the righteous, Ps 4:8; 5:12; 63:8; 121:3; Rom 8:28; (9) in supplying the wants of God’s people, Gn 22:8, 14; Dt 8:3; Phil 4:19; (10) in giving answers to prayer, 1 Sm 1:19; Isa 20:5, 6; 2 Chr 33:13; Ps 65:2; Mt 7:7; Lk 18:7, 8; and (11) in the exposure and punishment of the wicked, Ps 7:12, 13; 11:6.  (Louis Berkhof; Systematic Theology, 168)


To an adult, it’s ironic when a two-year-old says, “Mine.”

Adults know that two-year-olds don’t earn any of their stuff.  It is all provided for them.  It is a gift from someone much larger and wiser than they.  They don’t even generally take very good care of it.  (John Ortberg, When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box, 86)


Wouldn’t it be great if God always gave you what you would have asked for if you knew everything He knows?  We do have a God like that.  — Tim Keller


Martin Luther said, “Blessings at times comes to us through our labors and at times without our labors, but never because of our labors.  God always gives them because of His undeserved mercy.”  But there is more than that to a Christian Thanksgiving.  We are thankful because God owns it all and he delights in our using his stuff.  (Steve Brown, Key Life Newsletter, November 2007)


II-  As God’s stewards of God’s property we are to strive with all our heart, mind, soul and strength to promote God’s will on earth as it is in heaven.  (Dt 15:4-5; Mt 12:36; 25:14-31; Lk 19:11-27; Rom 14:12; 2 Cor 8:9; 1 Tim 6:6-19)


Only when we take our stewardship seriously will we see the eighth commandment in its fullness.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 295)


The contrast between rich and poor has worked destructively within the church.  We have observed the difficulties in Corinth (1 Cor 11:20-34) and other churches (Jam 1:9; 2:2-16; 5:1-6), where lack of love distorted people’s attitudes toward possessions.  Spiritual life became impoverished, with the result that people sought their own interests instead of the interests of others (Phil 2:4).  Paul viewed generosity as part of imitating Christ, who “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 299-300)


Ron Blue defines stewardship as “the use of God-given resources for the accomplishment of God-given goals.”  (Ron Blue, Master Your Money, 23)


The great king has summoned each of us into his throne room.  This time, however, he is not entrusting jewels to us; rather, he is distributing property.  “Take this portion of my kingdom,” he says.  “I am making you my steward over your office, your workbench, your kitchen stove.  Put your heart into mastering this part of my world.  Get it in order; unearth its treasures; do all you can with it.  Then everyone will see what a glorious King I am.”

That’s why we get up every morning and go to work.  We don’t labor simply to survive–insects do that.  Our work is an honor, a privileged commission from our great King.  (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Designed for Dignity, 32-3)


The task of a steward is simply to properly manage something for the owner until the owner comes to take it back.  (Gordon MacDonald, Ordering Your Private World, 53)


The move from independence to interdependence is our next strategic step.  According to Peter Block, the move from self-interest to service is the critical step because it changes everything:  “When we choose service over self-interest, we say we are willing to be deeply accountable without choosing to control the world around us.”  Note that we are not using the word dependence here.  The reason is simple:  in the body of Christ, life together and ministry are the responsibility of everyone.  All are to be stewards of their gifts and their relationships so that the full impact of the Spirit’s work in the world can take place.  (Paul R. Ford, Knocking Over the Leadership Ladder, 147)


Christians must give sacrificially, until their lifestyle is lowered.  However, giving must be in accord with calling and ministry opportunities.  Also, every believer must be a steward of possessions so as not to become a burden and liability to his or her family.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 67)


The term steward, as a description of man’s position in relation to God, appears nowhere in the Bible.  But clearly the concept is present in Scripture, in view of the material we have considered above.  The time is coming when we will have to give an account of what we have done with the possessions entrusted to us, as we learn from the parables of the talents and the minas (Mt 25:14-31; Lk 19:11-27).  Just as the steward in Lk 16 had to give an account, so we too will be required to do the same on the Day of Judgment (Mt 12:36; Rom 14:12).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 297-8)


The metaphor of man as steward is preferable to that of man as tenant, though they are used interchangeably.  A tenant is one who, after paying a specified rent, has the right to use the land and its produce.  He works for himself.  The amount of profit he can produce beyond the cost of rent is his to keep.  He may do with it what he wishes.  But the steward manages property on behalf of the owner’s interests.  For this reason, the concept of “steward” communicates more clearly that everything man has received from God to manage must be cared for and used not according to man’s wishes, but according to God’s will.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 298)


Ananias had a piece of land that belonged to him before he sold it and whose sale generated income that lay at his disposal (Acts 4:4).  Mary, the mother of John, Lydia the seller of purple, and Philip the evangelist owned their homes (Acts 12:12; 16:14-15; 21:8).  The church included prominent and wealthy members, along with poor members (Lk 8:3; 1 Cor 1:26; 1 Tm 6:17; Jam 2:2).

The fact that we are stewards before God does not mean that we must together manage the possessions entrusted to us, as if they were community property.  There are certainly communal aspects to stewardship, since we must further our neighbor’s profit wherever we can.  But that does not make stewardship a communal activity.  Each of us will one day have to give a personal account of what we have done with the talents entrusted to us (Mt 25:14-31).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 298-9)


Abraham is a progenitor of a people which, as Franz Rosenzweig puts it, “even when it has a home…is not allowed full possession of that home.  It is only ‘a stranger and a sojourner.’  God tells it:  ‘The land is mine.’”  (Franz Rosenzweig, The Star of Redemption, 1971, 300)


For the greedy person, the tightwad, and the miser, money has become the goal rather than a means.  Saving is a good practice, but it must be a means toward a good end.  We can lay something aside and save it for a collection, as Paul recommended to the Corinthians (1 Cor 16:1-2).  We can save a reserve for the time when our children are older, for a rainy day, or for old age.  But laying up treasures on earth, so that money becomes the god Mammon (Mt 6:19-24), is a form of stealing.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 294)


Having been led out of Egypt, we must not enter into servitude again.  For that reason, we may not steal other people or exploit poor people by making them dependent upon us so that their freedom is lost.  For the same reason, too, we are not to sell ourselves into slavery to Mammon.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 295)


What we are told in Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32-27, concerning the Jerusalem church in which nobody said “that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common,” does not alter this conclusion.  For these verses describe the style in which the church members managed their possessions.  With great unselfishness they made their perishable and durable goods available for the benefit of the entire church.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 299)


There is no indication that a judicial structure was created that would have made it impossible to speak of private property any longer and that would have introduced a kind of communism.  Not the church, but the people themselves sold their possessions.  In this way, the management of possessions remained an individual matter, whereas the use of possessions bore all the traces of commonality.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 299)


In the Jerusalem church, stewardship was being practiced in an excellent way.  Each managed his or her property individually; but this management kept in view the benefit of the neighbor in such a way that togetherness and the well-being of the group governed their attitudes.  Their use of, and attitude toward, possessions were “freed from their neutral autonomy and self-centeredness, and directed toward the loving service of God and the neighbor.”  What should impress us is “not the usurping or abolishing of the right of private property, but restoring that right by reinstating it in the service of love.”  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 299)


“Pure” capitalism is just as bad as “pure” communism.  The intermediate form found in the tightly controlled free-market economies in North America and western Europe is perhaps the least harmful system.  But even in that system one observes much injustice and precious little resembling Christian stewardship.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 300)


Private property need not be condemned, as long as it is managed within the parameters of Christian stewardship.  Nor is it proper to consider poverty to be better than wealth.  Agur’s proverb applies here:  “Give me neither poverty nor riches–feed me with the food You prescribe for me” (Prv 30:8).  Bed and board should suffice for us (1 Tm 6:8).  For both poverty and riches have their dark side.  The rich man easily asks, “Who is the LORD?”  And one who is impoverished takes up stealing and profanes the name of his God (Prv 30:9).  Wealth can be a divine blessing (Prv 10:4, 22), and we may enjoy riches (1 Tm 6:17); but one who desires to be rich and longs for wealth falls prey to many foolish and harmful lusts (1 Tm 6:9).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 300-1)


“A lot of people believe that their whole purpose in life is just to collect stuff.  That’s stupid.”   — Rick Warren


“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.  To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”  It’s hardly a purpose statement you would expect to see in Corporate America, but that’s what you see displayed prominently in front of the Chick-fil-A headquarters in Atlanta, GA.  It’s the philosophy by which the founder, Truett Cathy, lives.  No wonder they are closed on Sunday but still outsell their competitors who stay open 7 days a week.


Stewardship is more than the management of things.  It is the refusal to let things manage us.  – James Wallace


Stewards “Know”…                                             Non-Stewards “Think”…

I am a manager                                                      I am the owner

To be responsible is to be faithful                                        To be responsible I need control

I will be happy with what I get                                               I will be happy if I get what I want

Life is a process                                                   All that counts is how it ends

I will be happy in the present                                                 I need to worry about the future

My motive is gratitude                                        My motive is duty

God produces fruit through me                                             I must produce fruit to please God

(Patrick Morely; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 98)


Our money & possessions are either working for God or against God.


“Prune your possessions so God can bless you”   (Joyce Meyer; “Conditions of Successful Prayer”)


III-  What does it mean to steal?


Christian spirituality talks about what we receive more than what we achieve.  Our potential and activity are entirely dependent on God’s prior work in our lives.  If we set out to be “achievers” rather than “receivers,” we have not begun to follow God.  An achiever calls attention only to herself, whereas a receiver leads others to appreciate the Giver.  If we insist on being an achiever, seeking God so that others might admire our faith, our commitment, our dedication, we become God’s competitor; trying to steal some of His glory.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 16)


In the OT, theft was penalized and remedied by restitution, sanctioned by the threat of slavery if necessary to cover what needed to be repaid, but never punished by death.  The other side of this principle, as we have seen in the sixth commandment, was that the murderer’s penalty could not be commuted for financial compensation (which was allowed for certain classes of people in other ancient Near Eastern codes).  Material property and human life were not to be measured in terms of each other, or substituted for each other.  The priority of the sixth commandment over the eighth, then, was more than just numerical.  It reflects a scale of values in which human life is of immeasurably higher value than property.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 82)


For reproof of such as live by stealing.  Instead of living by faith, they live by their shifts.  The apostle exhorts that “every man eat his own bread” 2 Thess 3:12.  The thief does not eat his own bread, but another’s.  If there be any who are guilty of this sin, let them labor to recover out of the snare of the devil, by repentance, and let them show their repentance by restitution.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 167)


The eighth commandment, You shall not steal, prohibits the confiscation, either through forcible or surreptitious means, of the property of others.  The prohibition against murder ruled out the removal of another’s life.  The command against adultery, similarly, prohibited the removal of the sanctity of the marriage covenant.  The eighth command extends such violations to personal property.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 72)


IIIa.   Kidnapping   (Ex 21:16; Dt 24:7; 1 Tm 1:10)


IIIb.   Taking goods/property   (Dt 5:19; 1 Kgs 21:3-6)


Last fall, a friend of mine drove into apple country with his wife.  In passing a beautiful orchard, they saw a man filling a bushel basket with apples.  My friend stopped and asked to buy some.  “Just help yourself,” he said.  The climbed out of the car and got some paper bags and filled them with the choicest apples.  On leaving, they asked again, “Are you sure we can’t pay you?”  “On, no,” he said.  “I’m stealing them too.”  Now, had the law or the orchard owner come along at that point, good intentions would be irrelevant.  They were stealing apples.  (Lloyd J. Ogilvie, The Communicator’s Commentary: Luke, 303)


IIIc.   Buying stolen goods    


When you buy stolen property, you are an accessory to a theft, which is as great a crime as the theft itself.  If the thief could not find a buyer for his stolen goods, he would ultimately no longer steal.  By buying anything that you have reason to suppose is stolen, you further the cause of evil and ensure a repetition of the act.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 244)


IIId.  False standards (weights and measures)   (Lv 19:35-36; Dt 25:13-16; 19:14; Prv 11:1; 16:11; 20:10; 23:10; Ez 45:10-12; Amos 8:5)


IIIe.   Failure to return lost property  (Ex 23:4-5; Dt 22:1-4; Phil 2:4)


We must return lost objects even of people for whom we don’t feel a fondness, even people whom we think are despicable.  We are not permitted to distinguish between worthy and unworthy people, because, given the potential financial benefit, we will be tempted to classify almost everyone as being unworthy.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 245)


Not too long ago an armored car crashed off a freeway overpass and fell onto a street in a low socioeconomic area.  The door of the armored car opened from the impact of the crash.  The money flew through the streets.  Adults and children ran everywhere for the crisp paper bills.  When the police arrived, the money that had fallen onto the streets was gone.  Nobody returned any to the policemen who were there.  When interviewed by the local newspaper, several residents replied that this was “a gift from God.”  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 249)


IIIf.   Wasted time


Thinking that the customer is serious, the merchant spends a great deal of time trying to make the sale.  When the customer was never serious, he has stolen the valuable time of the merchant and falsely raised his hopes for a sale.  According to this law, it is acceptable to comparison shop and window shop as long as the customer makes his intentions clear.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 259)


He is a thief to himself, by idleness, when he mis-spends his time.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 167)


IIIg.  Work/idleness/wages   (Gn 2:15; Prv 6:6-11; 30:9; 1 Thess 4:11-12; 2 Thess 3:10; Jam 4:4)


A recent survey of a number of large organizations revealed that the average employee steals six weeks per year from his employer.  How does he do this?  Simply by goofing off, coming in late, leaving early, taking extended lunches, spending time on coffee breaks and hanging around the water cooler.  All of this amounts to $150 billion lost to the American economy each year.  (D. James Kennedy, God’s Absolute Best For You, 136)


The calling to work comes to everyone who can work.  In our labor we develop the gifts we have received from God and must now employ as good stewards.  For that reason, wealthy people are appropriately taught that they too have a duty to work, even though it is unnecessary for their sustenance.  After all, as good stewards we work not first for ourselves, but for God.  Nobody may bury his talent in the ground (Mt 25:24-30), but instead must render it profitable for the master who provided it to him.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 302)


Playing computer games, surfing the net, or even just personal reading during company time when there is work to be done is obviously stealing.  Employers pay employees to do work, not just to look as if they are busy.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 260)


Unauthorized giving away of the services or product of an employer is not allowed.  Whether it is a waitress giving free food to family or friends or a theater attendant letting people in free, money due the employer is being taken.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 261)


When we engage someone in a written or verbal contract, we are obligated to pay that person as soon as he completes the job and submits a bill.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 260)


In connection with the eighth commandment, we should also pay some attention to our mandate to work.  That is obvious in view of the clear connection that the Bible makes between laziness and stealing.  The sluggard comes to poverty (Prv 6:6-11), and poverty tempts a person to steal (Prv 30:9).  The one who used to steal must steal no more, says Paul, but must exert himself to perform work with his hands, so that he will have something to share with the needy (Eph 4:28).  One who minds his own business and works with his hands conducts himself appropriately toward those who are outsiders (1 Thess 4:11-12).  The general rule is that one who refuses to work shall not eat (2 Thess 3:10).  Laziness leads to the servitude of forced labor (Prv 12:24), precisely the opposite of being freed from the slavery of Egypt.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 302)


On the one hand, the Bible views work as a harsh necessity, even as in fact it remains for the larger part of the world’s population to this day.  Trouble and sorrow attend our work (Gn 3:17-19; Ps 90:10).  But, on the other hand, work is also a divine mandate attended by God’s blessing.  Already in Paradise man received the mandate to work (Gn 2:15).  So work is not the sad consequence of man’s fall into sin.  By his labor, man would rule over the world (Gn 1:28).  The sluggard falls into slavery, but the hand of the diligent will rule (Prv 12:24).  Blessing upon work means that man can be genuinely joyful (Dt 16:15).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 302)


The Hebrew word for “work” actually means “to serve.”  This suggests, on the one hand, the difficulty involved in work.  It does not mean that we are slaves to our work.  For God’s blessing does not depend on the toil of our labor (Dt 8:3; Ps 127:1-4).  Therefore, “work as service’ means, on the other hand, service to the Lord and service to our neighbor.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 303)


IIIh.   Plagairism/intellectual property


IIIi.   Unfair legislation/regulation/government   (Isa 5:8)


In Poverty and Prosperity, Cal Beisner argues that excessive regulation violates the eighth commandment:  Thou shalt not steal.

The eighth commandment protects property rights–people’s right to use their own property for lawful ends.  A person’s energy and skill are part of his property:  his “human capital,” as economists say.  Laws that restrict the lawful use of that property, Beisner says, are a violation of property rights.   (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 302)


No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.  — Mark Twain


The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the blessings.  The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.  — Winston Churchill


IIIj.  Obtaining by fraud, lies, deceit, manipulation or cheating   (Ps 37:21; Prv 21:6; 1 Thess 4:6)


By promising all kinds of nice things during his popularity campaign, Absolom “stole the hearts” of the men of Israel.  In so doing, he laid the basis for his bid to dethrone David.  He duped the people, he took them in–much as people are taken in during election campaigns, until after the election the candidate starts showing his true colors.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 289)


Is it possible to rob people with words?  Sure!  By intentionally giving a business competitor false information, money can be lost.  False and misleading advertising is another form of stealing.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 259)


In the state of Delaware a new turnpike was opened, and at the tollbooth a stack of envelopes was left under a sign that said, “For those who don’t have the exact change.”  The idea was that anyone who didn’t have the right change could pick up an envelope, take it home, and then mail it in with the right amount of money enclosed.  That little experiment in personal honesty lasted twenty days.  During that time, 26,000 people picked up an envelope instead of putting in any money.  Of those 26,000 envelopes, only 582 were returned.  And the majority of these had blank paper or paper clips or some other kind of junk in them instead of money.  (D. James Kennedy, God’s Absolute Best For You, 138-9)


With Adolf Hitler we saw the catastrophic consequences of manipulation.  The power of the word is a good gift of God, but abuse of that power can hypnotize millions so that they lend their support to ridiculous schemes.  Afterward comes the rude awakening.  People allowed their hearts to be stolen.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 289)


On April 14, 1997, Sports Illustrated published a special report that researched the following question:  “You are offered a banned performance-enhancing substance, with two guarantees:  (1) You will not be caught.  (2) You will win.  Question:  Would you take the substance?  This question was asked of almost two hundred U. S. Olympians.  More than half the athletes said “yes.”  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 256)


Two references pertain to stolen moral or spiritual realities.  Absolom cleverly “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” away from loyalty to his father, King David (2 Sm 15:6).  In a striking passage God accused the false and deceitful prophets of Judah of stealing the word of God from each other.  They had no revelation from God, so they only repeated what others said, claiming the Lord had spoken to them too (Jer 23:30).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 4, 614)


IIIk.   Foolish investments or risks   (Prv 11:15; 22:26)


A man may rob himself by foolishly wasting his estate.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 166)


A man may be a thief to himself by suretyship.  “Be not thou one of them that are sureties for debts” Prv 22:26.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 167)


IIIl.   Wasted resources


IIIm   Stealing from God   (Mal 3:6-15)


IIIm1 – Tithe/Korban   (Mal 3:6-15)


God owns all of the property in the earth (see Job 41:11; Ex 19:5-6; Ps 24:1; Lv 25:23.

Rather than, “How much of my money should I give to God?”  we learn to ask, “How much of God’s money should I keep for myself?”   The difference between these two questions is of monumental proportions. (Richard Foster; Seeking the Kingdom, 78)


*   We steal from God when we refuse to set aside even one hour a week to worship Him.

*   We steal from Him when we do not spend time with Him on a daily basis.

*   We steal from Him when we fail to strive to develop the potential He has placed within us.

*   We steal from Him when we call ourselves “Christians” and then fail to live up to the calling that name implies.  (D. James Kennedy, God’s Absolute Best For You, 147)


Mal 3:8 says that those who do not give their tithes are robbing God.  I have heard people who do not tithe or give anything close to what they can and should give to God’s work speak eloquently about the dishonesty that is found within the church.  But according to Malachi they too would be considered robbers because of their failure to give as they should.  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 226-7)


If you don’t believe stealing is costly, ask Achan in the book of Joshua.  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 197)


IIIm2 – Non-benevolence   (Dt 22:1; Job 20:19; Prov 14:31; 17:5; 19:17; Mt 25:40, 45; Jam 2:15-16; 1 Jn 3:17)


Most stealing is an act of “commission.”  But when we are able to help our needy brothers and sisters in Christ, but refuse to do so, we are guilty of stealing through “omission.”  In other words, if your elderly parents are in need, but you refuse to help them–even though you could–because you think they should have done a better job of preparing for their retirement years, you are stealing from them.  If there is a poor single mother in your church who can’t afford to buy decent clothes for her kids, and you turn away from her because you plan to use your overflowing bank account for a trip to Disney World, you are guilty.  Any time God calls you to help someone, and you refuse to do it, you are guilty.  (D. James Kennedy, God’s Absolute Best For You, 146)


Jesus spoke words just as sharp against the leaders of the people who acted pious while they devoured the houses of widows (Mt 23:14).  James too had no good word to say about despising the poor (Jam 2:7).  The wages withheld from workers cried out and the cry had reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth (Jam 5:4).

All these forms of exploitation and oppression conflict with the attitude we must have toward the poor and the weak (the foreigner, the widow, and the orphan).  They were supposed to share in eating the harvest of the field (Ex 23:11; Lv 19:10; 23:22).  One may not close his hand toward the poor, but must open it wide to lend money sufficient for his needs (Dt 15:8, 11).  The poor would never disappear (Dt 15:11; Jn 12:8); but in a land blessed by Yahweh, where all His commandments are carefully observed, there did not need to be nor should there have been any poor (Dt 15:4-5).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 291-2)


Centuries ago, Augustine distinguished between the person caught stealing for simple mischief and the poor widow stealing from the market to feed her hungry children.  To pursue justice is to correct the problem; for the first, this means correcting a life view, and for the latter, correcting a life situation. (Myron S. Augsburger; The Christ-Shaped Conscience, 114)


IIIm3 – Results in judgment/damnation


The old saying tells us, “Crime doesn’t pay.”

The truth is that crime sometimes does pay–temporarily.  And that’s the key.  Any benefit derived from stealing will last only a short time.  The punishment God hands out to unrepentant thieves will last for an eternity.  (D. James Kennedy, God’s Absolute Best For You, 144)


IV-  To steal is to deny we believe points I & II.



For God’s chosen people to steal would be a violation of His covenant with them.  By keeping this commandment Israel witnessed to its faith in and loyalty to Yahweh.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol 4, 614)


Theft also betrays an attitude that is incompatible with the covenant in general.  God promised to bless and sustain Israel if the people would be faithful to him.  Deciding to steal the goods of another suggests a fundamental unbelief in the truthfulness and reliability of God or dissatisfaction with the level of his provision for a member of the covenant community.  (Doug McIntosh, Holman OT Commentary: Dt, 73)


Theft was condemned by the prophets as an indication of social breakdown and lack of knowledge of God (Hos 4:2; 7:1), as the mark of a city that has degenerated to the level of Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa 1:10, 23), and as utterly incompatible with claims to acceptable worship in the temple (Jer 7:9f.).  Ps 50:16-18 ranks it with adultery as irreconcilable with covenant loyalty.  Prv 30:9 fears the temptation to steal because it would be profanation of the very name of Yahweh, while Prv 29:24 curses even those who witness a theft and do not give evidence.  (Christopher J. H. Wright, Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Dt, 82)


The reason people steal is because they’ve forgotten about God.  The reason people deceive, manipulate, and cut ethical corners is because they believe their future lies in their own hands.  When people forget who God is, they end up being very possessive and greedy.  Rather than trusting God with the blessings they have, they begin to horde and protect and guard those things.  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 205)


The reason people steal is because they’ve forgotten about God.  He isn’t even part of the equation in their lives.  Whatever they believe or say they believe, they are practical atheists, living as though He did not exist.  (Ron Mehl, The Ten(der) Commandments, 207)


In the simple story of the Good Samaritan there are three possible philosophies of wealth (Lk 10:30-37).

The first philosophy could be expressed by the statement: “What belongs to my neighbor belongs to me and I will take it.”  This is aggressive stealing.  It was vividly demonstrated by the thieves who robbed and beat the man traveling to Jericho. . . . “What belongs to me is mine and I will keep it” expressed the second philosophy, held by both the priest and the Levite.  This is stealing by withholding from others.  Jesus tells us about such a man in Lk 12:16-21.. . .“What belongs to me belongs to others and I will share it” expresses the third philosophy.  The Good Samaritan understood what the priest and the Levite did not comprehend.  (John C. Maxwell, The Preacher’s Commentary, Dt, 108-9)


When children are taught that they are the ultimate authority on whom and when and why they can break a commandment, it increases the likelihood of them expanding the seemingly “ridiculous” to the downright dangerous.  Many parents have complained about this truth only when their kid steals the family’s car or money because they somehow rationalized entitlement.  (Dr. Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments, 266)


The external cause of theft is Satan’s solicitation.  Judas was a thief, Jn 12:6.  How came he to be a thief?  “Satan entered into him” Jn 13:27.  The devil is the great master-thief, he robbed us of our coat of innocence, and he persuades men to take up his trade; he tells men how bravely they shall live by thieving, and how they may catch an estate.  (Thomas Watson, The Ten Commandments, 164)


In the decades that have followed I have learned much more about the fight against anxiety.  I have learned, for instance, that anxiety is a condition of the heart that gives rise to many other sinful states of mind.  Think for a moment how many different sinful actions and attitudes come from anxiety.  Anxiety about finances can give rise to coveting and greed and hoarding and stealing.  Anxiety about succeeding at some task can make you irritable and abrupt and surly.  Anxiety about relationships can make you withdrawn and indifferent and uncaring about other people.  Anxiety about how someone will respond to you can make you cover over the truth and lie about things.  So if anxiety could be conquered, a mortal blow would be struck to many other sins.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 53)


So many of my mistakes—sex before marriage, stealing, drunkenness, porn addiction—are the result of looking for instant gratification.


A Black Bishop Preacher in DC one time explained the three views towards money that comes from the 10th chapter of Luke’s Gospel — the story of the Good Samaritan.  He said that the view of the  thief was “What is yours is mine and I’ll steal it from you if I want it.”   The view of the Levite was, “What is mine is mine and if you need it you can’t have it.”  And finally, the view of the Samaritan was, “What’s mine is yours and if you need it you can have it.”


Worship Point:  When we begin to fully understand the chaos and strife that comes with ignoring God’s eighth commandment and the stability, peace, tranquility and love that comes by observing God’s eighth commandment; we will worship.


“Wherever the Biblical world view has been prevailed, there has been freedom.  Where it has been taken away, freedom has been lost.”  — Chuck Colson


The purpose behind the Eighth Commandment was readily apparent–a well-regulated society that respected and protected one another’s property.  As such, the commandment was a substantial societal grace.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 142)


There are no societies that are cavalier toward property rights but which safeguard human rights.  The state that lays its hand on your purse will lay it on your person.  Both are the acts of a government that despises transcendent law.

Those who think they will replace the competition of capitalism with the cooperation of socialism know nothing of either…Soviet “cooperation” cost by 1959 some 110 million lives.   The alternative to free economic activity is not cooperation but coercion.  (Francis A. Schaeffer; The Great Evangelical Disaster, 114)


Michael Novak (in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism) said, “The free Western Democracy is like a three legged stool.  You have political freedom, you have economic freedom and you have moral restraints.  Take away one leg and the stool’s gonna fall.


The editor of a small-town newspaper wrote, “Family values are important,…but people want to hear about the economy right now.”

It was a nice way of saying what other commentators say a lot less nicely.  The major media sneers at the values issue, calling it a smoke screen to take people’s mind off the “real” problem:  namely the economy.

Okay, let’s talk about the economy.  What are the factors that make for a thriving economy?  Well, for starters people have to be willing to work hard; that’s motivation and self-sacrifice.  They have to be willing to honor contracts; that’s honesty and fidelity.  They have to invest time and effort in projects that pay off only in the future; that’s self-discipline and delayed gratification.  People have to cooperate with coworkers; that’s kindness and respect.  Lawmakers have to pass bills for industry that are fair and consistent; that’s integrity.

The conclusion is obvious.  The marketplace depends on people holding high ethical standards.  Values aren’t peripheral to the economy.  They are its very basis. (Charles Colson, A Dangerous Grace, 309)


Gospel Application:  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; Jesus has come that we may have life, and have it to the full.  (Jn 10:10)  Trust Jesus for the life that is truly life. (1 Tm 6:19)


Blessed are those, then, who hold their earthly possessions in open palms.  Blessed are those who, if everything they own were taken from them, would be, at most, inconvenienced, because their true wealth is elsewhere.  Blessed are those who are totally dependent upon Jesus for their joy.  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 94)


  1. James Kennedy uses this illustration: He knows five men who are about to rob a bank. He tries to convince them not to commit the crime, but these men, evil-natured as they are, turn for their car.  Kennedy tackles one of the men and wrestles him to the ground.  The others drive off to the bank.  In the process, a guard is shot and the four men are sentenced to the electric chair.  Can the one man whom Kennedy tackled say, “I didn’t go to the electric chair because I am better than the others?”  Of course not.  He was spared because Kennedy tackled him, not because his heart wasn’t in the robbery.  Dr. Kennedy concludes, “Those who go to hell have no one to blame but themselves.  Those who go to heaven have no one to praise but Jesus Christ.  (D. James Kennedy, Truths That Transform, 39-40)


Spiritual Challenge: Ultimately, you own nothing.  You don’t even own your life.  Endeavor to more fully comprehend what it means for you to be a steward whom God is asking to manage that which He has placed under your authority so His will might be done here on earth as it is in heaven.  (Mt 6:10; Lk 12:15)


Stealing contradicts the generous, giving essence of Christianity and enthrones self as the center of one’s universe.  One’s “needs” become the driving force behind life.  The thief says, “I am first, and nothing will stand in the way of my pleasure and self-gratification.”  The essence of true Christian living then, is giving, as compared to the essence of thievery, which is getting.  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 143)


But we must indeed be ready to lose our property for the sake of Christ’s kingdom.  The error of the rich young man was that he refused to do this en route to following Jesus, unlike the other disciples (Mt 19:16-29).  The present dispensation is going to disappear, and in the time remaining, it may be necessary to forsake things, so that the married live as if they had no spouse and buyers live as though they did not possess what they bought (1 Cor 7:29-31).  We must be ready to forsake everything external, which requires being prepared internally.  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, 301)


Bertrand Russell once said, “It is preoccupation with possession more than anything else that prevents man from living freely and nobly.”  If the object of your life is a great getting–of prestige, wealth, power–you are the victim of an ever-increasing appetite which can never be satisfied.  (Lloyd J. Ogilvie, The Communicator’s Commentary: Luke, 275)


Nothing I am sure has such a tendency to quench the fire of religion as the possession of money.  — J. C. Ryle


Each of us will eventually give away all our earthly possessions.  How we choose to do so, however, is a reflection on our commitment to the Kingdom of God.  — Charles F. Stanley


People can have so much to live on that they have nothing to live for.  — Rick Warren


People base their self-worth on their net worth and that is not worth a thing in the eyes of other people.”  — Chuck Colson


Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”  Luke 12:15


When we take ownership of our money, our property or our resources, and then someone comes and steals it or takes it away or it ends up missing, we worry because we have lost some of our resources.  But, what if you give it all to God and it comes up missing? Then you no longer have to worry about it.  That is what God desires for us to do so that we do not have to worry any longer about what we own.  Worry is in fact, taking upon ourselves responsibility God never intended for us to have. — Pastor Keith


It is entitled God Free!  The Meaning of Justification, and the illustration is borrowed in turn from a book by Loraine Boettner (The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination who borrowed it from W. D. Smith (What Is Calvinism?).  These writers imagine a sailing ship manned by a crew of pirates.  The pirates are on good terms with one another.  They work hard at their jobs, are honest among themselves (according to a certain “pirate code”), help one another, and even defend one another.  Their hard work really is hard work.  Their kindness to each other really is kindness.  But all these “good” actions are also and at the same time “bad” or wrong behavior, because they are aimed at maintaining themselves in violation of international maritime law.  Their good deeds are highly selective; they do not help everyone, only themselves or those like themselves.  They actually rob, maim, and murder many other people.  And even their kindnesses to each other grow out of their rebellion, expressing and actually reinforcing it.  (James Montgomery Boice, An Expositional Commentary: Romans, Vol. 1, 330)


“The more stuff you have the more you have to care for it, the more you have to clean it, the more you have to protect it, the more you have to insure it, the more you have to repair it, the more stuff you got the more it dominates you life.”  — Rick Warren


To Keep – To Toss

God wants to keep

Some parts of me and to toss

Out the other parts.


Why would He do this?

Because it’s necessary,

If I am to grow.


Like pruning a plant,

So it can produce fine fruit,

The plant’s less burdened.


A sharp knife cuts through

To remove the un-needed

Dead wood, that sucks strength.


Likewise, we’re refined

Of the un-necessary,

So we may produce.


Sometimes, refining

Is most uncomfortable,

Can hurt, in and out…


All kinds of stuff

Whether things, emotional,

Or habits, are  weights.


They keep us tied down

From truly serving our God.

LIVE!  Just toss “stuff” out.   (Molly A. Marsh)


So What?:  Do you know what it means to live in heaven?  That is what those who trust in Christ will ultimately enjoy.  Live in the now not yet reality of the Kingdom of God.


The Spirit-illuminated Christian cannot be cheated.  He knows the values of things; he will not bid on a rainbow nor make a down payment on a mirage.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 94)


William Hendricks explains in Keeping Your Ethical Edge Sharp:  “What we do in the small issues of life sets the stage for bigger issues.  What we do at the copier, on the phone, in front of the mail machine are important and set the stage for how we will respond to greater temptations that will come!  It is also true that once we violate our conscience in an area it is easier to do it the next time.  Before long, our heart becomes callous.”  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 148)


Henry Clay Morrison said, “God never fixed me up so that I cannot sin; he fixed me up so that I cannot sin and enjoy it.”  (Ajith Fernando, Preaching the Word: Dt, 229)


There are now more than 30,000 self-storage facilities in the country offering over a billion square feet for people to store their stuff.  In the 1960s, this industry did not exist.  We now spend $12 billion a year just to pay someone to store our extra stuff!  It’s larger than the music industry.  (John Ortberg, When the Game is Over It All Goes Back in the Box, 83)


Imagine that you are a 15th century sculptor and one day receive an email from Michelangelo asking if you would be willing to come to his studio to complete a piece of work he has begun.  He mentions that you are expected to continue his work in such a way that Michelangelo’s own reputation will be enhanced by the finished product!  God’s call to us to “have dominion” over his creation entails this sort of compliment to what we are capable of achieving as his stewards.  It also brings a correspondingly heavy responsibility for what comes out of our stewardship.  If this is what being “in the image of God” involves, then clearly our service for God is to be as wide as the creation itself and will include taking good care of the environment.  (Craig G. Bartholomew & Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 37-8)








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