Exodus 20:15 You shall not steal.
Today, we turn to the eighth command, the fourth commandment of the second table that speaks of our respect for our neighbor’s person and property. If we really believe in God’s providence, if we really believe that our neighbor is made in the image of God, if we really care about the community more than we care about ourselves, then we will never distrust God’s providence so as to take from someone else something that does not belong to us. We will never steal from our neighbor to provide for our own. We will never do injury to our neighbor’s welfare, knowing that he’s an image-bearer, knowing that the sin is a sin against the community, knowing that God provides for us.
Our focus is going to be on Christians, rather than society in general. I want us to look at ways that we ourselves may be participating in stealing which has become socially accepted, respectable stealing. From an Old Testament perspective, stealing is not just a crime between one individual and another. It is a crime against the whole community. It hurts the whole community. And the statistics that we can quote today show the reality of that fact when we look at the socially common forms of stealing today. We see how stealing hurts not just individuals, but the whole society.
Aspects of Theft-
The basic reason is that they desire the object that was stolen by them. They could steal food because they are hungry or they can steal an object because they are greedy. The desire can be inbuilt or it can be fanned by the temptations.
Theft is usually deceptive – thieves perform their actions when no-one is looking.
Theft is an expression of prayerlessness, even when done because one is hungry, as lack of prayer indicates lack of trust in God.
Theft is an expression of discontentment, of not being satisfied with what God has given to us in his providence.
Theft is an expression of indifference to God’s requirements, clear evidence that faith in God is absent from the heart.
Theft is a form of laziness. People often steal because they are too lazy to work.
1. Old Testament Commentary on Theft
As we look at the commandment, “You shall not steal,” you will notice that it doesn’t say what you won’t steal, it doesn’t say when you won’t steal, it doesn’t say from whom you won’t steal, and it doesn’t say why. It is a generic command. There is no object. And the reason that it doesn’t tell what, when, from whom, or why you shouldn’t steal is because it intends to enforce this: you won’t steal anything from anyone at any time for any reason. It’s a comprehensive command. And the Old Testament teaching indicates that because the believer trusts in the providence of God, and trusts in His kind provision for us in all things, so also we will refuse to take what is not ours from others. We won’t take persons who don’t belong to us, we won’t take money, we won’t take goods, we won’t take land, and we won’t take the fruit of the other’s labor. In other words, in the Old Testament, stealing is a sin against God’s providence. It is a sign that you don’t trust that God will provide for you. It is a sin against the image of God in man because it does harm to a person created in the image of God and it’s a sin against the community because it hurts the whole community.
Exodus 21:16 (ESV)
16 “Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.
Exodus 21:16, and see some of these examples. First of all, this command forbids kidnapping. It forbids person stealing, man stealing. It’s not just, you can’t take things, it’s you can’t take people. “He who kidnaps a man,” Exodus 21:16, “whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.” Man stealing was punishable by death under Hebrew law.
Exodus 22:1 (ESV)
22 “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.
Secondly, look at Exodus 22, verse 1. This command forbids stealing animals. If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox and four sheep for the sheep. And so the law forbids the stealing of livestock animals. Note also that the law requires five-fold restitution for a stolen ox, who has been slaughtered or sold, and four-fold restitution for a stolen sheep that has been slaughtered or sold, indicating the relative value of those two domestic animals.
Killing one who breaks in to your home is not manslaughter-
Exodus 22:2 (ESV)
2 If a thief is found breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there shall be no bloodguilt for him,
Thirdly, look at Exodus 22:2. The Law of Moses even allowed you to use lethal force to repel a burglar at night. A night burglar coming in to your household came in literally at his own peril. You could kill him and you were not guilty of manslaughter or any kind of homicide. He was on his own if he came into your house at night. Exodus 22:3, “If a thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no blood guiltiness on his account.”
Notice that the Old Testament demands either restitution or slavery as the penalty for theft. If you had money that you could pay over and above what you had stolen for restitution, you did it that way. If you didn’t, slavery was the response until the debt had been restored. Exodus 22:4.
Exodus 22:4 (ESV)
4 If the stolen beast is found alive in his possession, whether it is an ox or a donkey or a sheep, he shall pay double.
You see that double restitution is required for the theft of livestock here when it found in the person’s possession. It hasn’t been slaughtered; it hasn’t been sold. You have a person who has stolen it. You find them with it. Even if everything is all right, the person has to do double restitution. The point of this offence is designed to make the injured party whole and to make sure that crime doesn’t pay. You’re not left off where you were if you did the stealing. You are worse off if you did the stealing and got caught, whereas the one who is the victim is not worse off, ideally. The offense is designed to make sure that he’s whole and that things have been set right with him.
If you look at Exodus 22, verses 5 and 6, you’ll see a requisite for restitution if one of your animals gets loose in your neighbor’s fields or vineyards and messes it up, you have to make restitution to your neighbor from the best of your fields and vineyards. Exodus 22:6. You are required to make restitution to your neighbor if you have caused him loss by a fire that you for responsible for starting.
Exodus 22:5–6 (ESV)
5 “If a man causes a field or vineyard to be grazed over, or lets his beast loose and it feeds in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best in his own field and in his own vineyard.
6 “If fire breaks out and catches in thorns so that the stacked grain or the standing grain or the field is consumed, he who started the fire shall make full restitution.
Exodus 22, verses 7 through 15, allows for judges to assign restitution to neighbors when one’s goods or livestock are kept by a neighbor, but lost or stolen while they are in his keeping. In fact, the neighbor may be required by the judge to make restitution even for something that he was holding for you that was stolen.
Exodus 22:7–15 (ESV)
7 “If a man gives to his neighbor money or goods to keep safe, and it is stolen from the man’s house, then, if the thief is found, he shall pay double. 8 If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall come near to God to show whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. 9 For every breach of trust, whether it is for an ox, for a donkey, for a sheep, for a cloak, or for any kind of lost thing, of which one says, ‘This is it,’ the case of both parties shall come before God. The one whom God condemns shall pay double to his neighbor.
10 “If a man gives to his neighbor a donkey or an ox or a sheep or any beast to keep safe, and it dies or is injured or is driven away, without anyone seeing it, 11 an oath by the Lord shall be between them both to see whether or not he has put his hand to his neighbor’s property. The owner shall accept the oath, and he shall not make restitution. 12 But if it is stolen from him, he shall make restitution to its owner. 13 If it is torn by beasts, let him bring it as evidence. He shall not make restitution for what has been torn.
14 “If a man borrows anything of his neighbor, and it is injured or dies, the owner not being with it, he shall make full restitution. 15 If the owner was with it, he shall not make restitution; if it was hired, it came for its hiring fee.
2. The New Testament’s Application of the Eighth Commandment
First, the eighth commandment is still binding on Christians today. When someone is born again, the thief stops stealing. It is a mark of a new heart and the new birth.
Ephesians 4:28 (ESV)
28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
To stop stealing, according to John the Baptist is a sign of true repentance…
Luke 3:10–14 (ESV)
10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”
Making restitution for past sin is a mark of salvation…
Luke 19:1–10 (ESV)
19 He entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. 3 And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. 4 So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. 5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. 7 And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
The Gospel is the remedy for stealing. Like so many things, the Gospel is the remedy.
The Christian is no longer one who only thinks about himself…
Rather, he engages in activities that help others. In Ephesians 4:28, Paul teaches those who previously broke this commandment: ‘Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.’ Paul’s implication is that a thief is lazy and selfish; his remedy is not merely to get rid of the laziness (that is reform without grace), but to replace idleness and stealing with diligence and compassion as the thief by virtue of his new life in Christ has a heart for others.
Galatians 6:10 (ESV)
10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
3. Crucified Between Two Thieves
Matthew 27:38 (ESV)
38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left.
Jesus was crucified between two thieves. This was to fulfill what Isaiah wrote…
Isaiah 53:12 (ESV)
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.
It is well know that Jesus was crucified between two thieves but what we must understand here is that as far as God was concerned, there were three thieves. Jesus was of course not a thief but was counted as a thief. He was counted as a sinner.
So, the great comfort for all who have ever broken the eighth commandment is that Jesus dies for thieves. Every thief who trusts Christ as Lord and Savior will be forgiven by God because Jesus bore the wrath from God that was due His people. Jesus bore the wrath of God for everything that God’s people had ever stolen throughout the ages.
Here Jesus’ Words for all who trust in Christ…
Luke 23:39–43 (ESV)
39 One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”