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Posts Tagged ‘stealing’

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In Exodus 21:33-22:15 God elaborates on the eighth commandment: You shall not steal.  Most of the laws written here pertain to animals because when they were given, animals were the sum total of a man’s wealth.

In verses 33-36 of chapter 21 and verses 6-15 of chapter 22, the Lord gives instruction on what justice looks like in cases of accidental death of animals belonging to others caused by negligence on your part.  The Lord makes clear that we are always responsible to repay the owner from whom our negligence or carelessness has taken something valuable.  Accidental or not, the owner no longer has his possession and therefore someone must be held responsible for avoidable accidents or injuries.  God is just and he not only cares about our losses, he expects us to care about others’ losses – especially if we are at fault.

In chapter 22:1-5 the Lord deals with overt stealing of another’s property.  Depending on the value of the thing taken, a man was required to pay back two, four, or even five times what the value was.  If he was caught and killed in the act, no punishment was given for the thieve’s life.  Still, if the thief was sought out after the fact and killed later, that murder would be punishable because we are not to avenge ourselves.

The whole idea here is that we ought to consider others’ belongings with great respect and make every attempt to protect and avoid damage to them.  If we will not do that, we will make ourselves guilty of breaking the eighth command even if we are not stealing from them intentionally.  Furthermore, if we would break the eighth command and steal from our neighbors, we will be required to pay back many times what we took.

“We should be more careful not to do wrong than not to suffer wrong, because to suffer wrong is only an affliction, but to do wrong is a sin, and sin is always worse than affliction…It will make us very careful of ourselves if we consider that we are accountable, not only for the hurt we do, but for the hurt we occassion though inadvertently.”  ~Matthew Henry

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“You shall not steal.” ~ Exodus 20:15

This command is pretty self-explanatory.  I think we all know what stealing is – taking something that belongs to someone else.  I have not really struggled with stealing in my life but I have stolen things before.

The two instances I can distinctly remember were both when I was young.  The first, I was about six years old and my friend had a doll I wanted.  I stuck it in my shirt and thought no one would notice as I was leaving her house.  I was caught.  The second time I stole lipstick from a store because my friend encouraged me to and when I walked out the alarms went off.  I am pretty sure that is the last time I ever tried stealing anything that did not belong to me.

Still, as I meditated on this verse this morning, I began to consider ways in which “good moral Christian people” do steal from one another in ways we may not realize.  Not materially – other ways.

I looked at the other commandments in order to put it in perspective.

With the first and second commands, if we break them we steal what belongs only to God – namely our worship – and give it away to other, lesser things, people, etc.  When we take the name of the Lord in vain we steal God’s honor by failing to respect him appropriately.  When we refuse to rest we steal God’s time filling it with earthly things or work in our own strength apart from him.  It is pride that causes us to steal time from God and refuse to rest in Him.  We steal honor from our parents when we break the fifth command.  We steal life when we break the sixth command.  We steal someone else’s spouse when we break the seventh command.  We may also steal another’s purity or steal affections and attention that belong to someone else.  When we bear false witness we steal another’s good name and reputation by the evils of slander, gossip, misrepresentation, and purposefully misleading others concerning their character.  Lasting, when we covet we steal the encouragement and love we should for others and fail to give it to them out of jealousy.  Jealous people always seek to bring down, discourage, avoid and injure the party of whom they are jealous.  I have encountered many jealous people who refuse to build up, love, or even know others simply due to their own covetousness.

Therefore, stealing is so much more than taking material things – although it is that.  I personally would rather have my lipstick stolen before my reputation.  But the latter is what “good moral Christians” in the church do again and again to one another by gossip, slander, and jealousy.  God help us.

Amen.

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