This commandment is about the most common element of the Ten Commandments to be included in the judicial system of every country on the face of this planet. This simple, four word command has been broken down in criminal law into hundreds, maybe thousands of laws, but the core law remains the same, you shall not steal. It is also one law that just about everyone has broken at one time or another, from a lowly ball-point pen or paper-clip to stealing high value objects and embezzlement of millions of pounds, dollars or some other currency. Man's law is there to protect personal our possessions and property from those who would seek to take them away from us and to possess them for themselves, the materialistic basis of the law. Likewise God's basic four word law has also gone much deeper that than this simple instruction. As the criminal laws suggest stealing takes many forms from handbag snatching and mugging to cheating someone or purposely delaying making a legitimate payment to someone. Leviticus 19:11-13 spells this out clearly and includes: dealing falsely, oppressing your neighbour or robbing him, and withholding wages over night. Indeed James the apostle warns the rich people who oppress their employees and take advantage of the poor, he seems to recognise that the fortunes of the super-rich are amassed on exploiting the poor and those who work for them. He says that their money is corroded [James 5:2-5] because they have withheld their wages, to heap up treasure in the last days, which is surely a picture of modern times. Stealing can be through misinterpretation, take our commercial TV stations that earn their income by airing the lies of retailers in our own sitting rooms. How do we view this type of merchandising? Many countries have Advertising Standards Authorities who enforce laws of misinterpretation, however this is often not enough when dealing with shoddy products and services. Employees can steal from their employers by wasting time or performing personal tasks on company time, as well as taking supplies and equipment from the workplace.
There are many lazy people in this world who can take advantage of those who are prepared to help people out of the goodness of their hearts. This was also something that was a problem in New Testament times, just as it is today, human nature never changes, it just becomes more sophisticated. Paul writes about people who would not work, he suggested that if they would not work, neither would they eat [2 Thessalonians 3:10-12]. The Scriptures continually extol the virtues of giving, rather than receiving [Acts 20:35], giving to God, giving to the poor, giving away your coat if you have two [Luke 3:11], and so on. So stealing is the opposite of that, not just receiving, but taking what is not ours. Paul turns this on it head, from the wrong to the right, that a person should stop stealing and work, so that they may give to those in need [Ephesians 4:28]. When we steal we actually steal from God, because He owns the world and everything in it [Psalm 24:1], He apportions everything according to His will. Even so the eighth commandment teaches us to, not only respect other people's property, but also to respect the will of God.
There are many who promote the tradition of tithing that claim that if we withhold even a tiny portion of our ten percent in our giving, that is stealing from God. Tithing is very much an Old Testament/Covenant requirement, one that is omitted from the New Testament. The original basis for tithes was to fund the priesthood, the tribe of Levi [Numbers 18:21], as the priesthood of Levi were not allowed to own property or earn [Numbers 18:20-21; Deuteronomy 10:8-9]. So the Lord provided for His priests by giving them the tithes of the people. Under the New Covenant there were no tribe of priests, so the tithe was no longer needed, and things changed, insomuch that all things belonged to God. In the New Testament the word 'tithe' appears only seven times as opposed to twenty-eight times in the Old Testament of those seven times, not one commands us to continue tithing our income. In two Jesus criticises the Pharisees as hypocrites, because they are more concerned in measuring a tenth of their spices than giving justice and more important matters [Matthew 23:23; Luke 11:42]. In others Jesus questions the validity. The apostle Paul is regarded as the leader of the early church, so if tithing was meant to continue, he and the other apostles could have demanded the tithe from the Christians. Although many churches supported him, Paul chose to earn the money himself, as did many other early Christians, Paul continued his profession as a 'Tent Maker' [Acts 18:1–4], these earning were no doubt added to the general funds, as they had all things in common [Acts 2:44 & Acts 4:32]. Should we consider then that whatever property or money we have is assigned to us for God's purpose, if so, does that not mean that any stealing is stealing from God?
In God's sight there is no such thing, or offence as 'Petty Theft' or 'Petty Larson', God sees that the character of those people who steal very little is exactly the same as those who steal millions. Jesus says that someone who is faithful (fidelity/honest) in very little, will also be faithful in much and who is dishonest in small things will be likewise in big things [Luke 16:10]. Jesus certainly di not like injustice or people cheating others, especially in the name of His Father. Many people today do both, cheating is almost a national sport, and there are many high profile, supposed Christians, who cheat God by selling His word. There is one instance in the New Testament where Jesus became very angry at people who were using God's law to cheat people. Every-day coins could not be used inside the temple, they were considered unclean, so people used to exchange street-money for special money, the many foreign visitors to Jerusalem also had to change their foreign currency. The normal currency also bore the head of the Roman Emperor, as he was considered a god, those offensive images [Exodus 20:3] were not allowed into the temple. It was only he Jewish Shekel that was allowed, and of course this was an opportunity for the money changers to cheat worshippers. Jesus became angry at these people stealing His Father's money from mostly the poor and cast them out of the temple with a whip [Matthew 21:12-13].
One more reason why God is so heavy on stealing is because Satan steals men, if we examine John 10:1-16, we find Jesus discussing how He is the Good Shepherd and that He came to give us believers protection from thieves and robbers that come to steal and destroy us. This is of course a picture of Satan as the thief who comes to steal us away from our salvation. Satan is classed as a thief and murderer This theme continues in the parable of the sower [Luke 4:1-20 & Luke 8:4-15] and in Mark 4:3-4, Jesus a picture of how the sower sows the seed and the birds consume it [Mark 4:14-15 & Luke 8:11-12]. Satan uses this command in many ways, because it is so easy to break, we can sometimes break it without even knowing we have. If we do realise it, Satan places that old thought in our heads, “It doesn't matter, it's just a pen,” or maybe, “They have thousands of them, they won't miss just one,”, or even, “I'm just borrowing it and I'll bring it back at some time (which never happens)”. Poverty will also allow us to justify stealing, hunger and hardship can make us covet and take what is not ours. Robin Hood is a folk hero who robbed from the rich to give to the poor, maybe he did, maybe not, but he was still breaking God's law. So we all must be so careful to protect ourselves from the temptation of Satan.
We must alter our mind-set and focus on what Jesus taught us. Focus on laying up treasures in heaven [Matt:6:19-21 & 24]. Treasures that are laid up in heaven are not at risk from theves or corrosion [Matt. 6:19-21]. Are we blessed by God to be well-off or are we mistaking it for our involvement in materialism [ Revealation 3:14-17]? God's solution for stealing is being a good steward of God's money, realising that everything you have belongs to God
James 4:17 (ESVUK)
In the eighth commandment God commanded us not to steal, despite the fact that it was an Old Testament command it surely pointed to the fact that stealing is not in line with Bible teaching in the New Testament or in keeping with with loving our neighbour as ourselves. Even more when it came to stealing it models how Satan steals away believers through the theft of the word of God . Those who steal on behalf of Satan do so through false teaching and deception.
In God's love.