Commandment #7: Don't Steal

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, November 26, 2018 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)

Ever seen two toddlers fight over one toy? We’re a selfish people by nature, so we’re taught from a very young age that stealing is wrong - we aren’t supposed to take what doesn't belong to us. We realize how it feels when someone takes what is ours, so we should learn that just like it hurts us when our belongings are taken against our will, it hurts others when we do that to them. Seems simple enough, right?

But even that motivation is somewhat self-motivated in nature. Being stolen from makes us feel bad, so likewise we shouldn’t do that to others. It’s clear that taking what isn’t ours without the owner’s permission is wrong, but what about our motivation?

Luther’s Small Catechism gives the meaning for this commandment as, “We should fear and love God so that we do not take our neighbor’s money or possessions, or get them in any dishonest way, but help him to improve and protect his possessions and income.” Just as with the other commandments, this meaning starts out with, “We should fear and love God so that…” Our motivation for every action should always be our love for God. Because we love God, we love the people and things He has created and desire to treat them well out of that love.

The other part of that meaning is that we should “help him to improve his possessions and income.” That takes it one step further, doesn’t it? Not only should we not harm our neighbor (which, by the way, is every other person) but we should help them improve what they have!

Let’s say I ask my next door neighbor if I can borrow her lawn mower, and it has a full tank of gas. If I never return it, that’s clearly stealing. If I return it but with no gas in it and it’s filthy, I may tell myself that I didn’t steal it since I did return it, but in reality I did steal some of its value by not replacing the gas I used plus not cleaning my mess. If I return it full of gas and I cleaned it up all nice and shiny, even getting rid of some debris from her previous uses of it, then I have improved it. That’s what this commandment urges us to do.

How are you doing with this commandment? You may have been thinking you’re off the hook on this one since you’ve never shoplifted, but my guess would be we’re all guilty of some kind of stealing.

Stealing comes in more forms than simply taking a possession and not returning it, or taking something from a store without paying for it. We can also steal time from others. If I spend 3 hours telling you a story that I could have told you in 10 minutes, I stole your time. If I play solitaire at work for 8 hours instead of doing the tasks I’m supposed to do, that’s stealing time and money from my boss and the business. If I hear a great idea that someone else came up with and claim it as my own, that’s stealing. If I don’t give to God the money that He’s calling me to give to Him through whatever church or ministry, that’s stealing.

If we were able to love God totally and fully with our whole hearts, we would love Him so much that we wouldn’t desire to take anything (whether time, money, possessions, or anything else) from another person. I encourage you this week to take a look at where you might be stealing from others and therefore from God, and figure out how the Holy Spirit can help you correct that in your life.

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