The Property of Ourselves and Others
Exodus 20:15 Thou shalt not steal
Introduction: In the Mosaic economy, violation of any of the first seven commandments incurred the death penalty. This was not so with regard to the last three, proving that in the realm of importance, the first seven are greater.
Human laws have changed the order of this importance. There are many more laws that deal with the protection of property, than those that deal with the protection of life. This law and our obedience to it, however, is of importance to God. If this were not so, He would not have included it in these ten commandments.
I. The Right of Ownership.
A. All things belong to God. Genesis 1:1; Exodus 19:5; I Corinthians 10:26. We are His trustees. A trustee is one who holds and handles property for the benefit of another. Matthew 25:14--30.
B. Man's Right of Ownership -- This is implied in this commandment. A man has a right to own property and God forbids others from stealing it from him. Communism and Socialism have their roots in Atheism. Pure communism says everyone owns alike. Socialism says the state owns the property and people just use it. In such societies there is no room for God or for man's initiative, and the desire to get ahead is quenched. Man becomes a machine and nothing else. In the Old Testament, we find that God's greatest men owned property. The children of Israel inherited the Promised Land and the property was divided among them. In the New Testament, we learn that all property is given to us by God. James 1:17.
Property is obtained by the free gift of another person, by toil, or by theft. This commandment recognizes the first two and forbids the third. The first two ways of obtaining property are God- given or provided. Either God has allowed or purposed for someone to give us property as a gift or He has enabled us to toil and thereby obtain property. This involves two laws of human inter-relationship, namely; that of law and work.
This emphasizes the dignity of ownership. The man who owns something has a bigger stake in society, and is a better man for it, and usually is a better citizen.
II. The Right of Ownership violated.--How do we rob others?
A. There is the theft of property. This is the most common type of theft, but it is not the only type.
1. You can rob by direct seizure. Eg. Robbing a bank, stealing from a home, etc. A small theft is just as bad as a large one. Also, sometimes, someone says, "But one has to live," and gives this as an excuse for being dishonest. No, you don=t have to live, but you do have to be honest. It's better to die and be honest than it is to live and be dishonest. Mark 9:42--48.
2. You can steal by fraud. In this area, there are hundreds of ways to be dishonest. The commandment that governs a very large percentage of commercial life today is not, "Thou shalt not steal," but, AThou shalt not be found out." Unjust weights, false measures; lying advertisements, all break this commandment. Deut. 25: l3--15; Proverbs 20:14.
3. You can steal by gambling. God's principle is that we obtain what we need by working for it. But the gambler wants to get something for nothing. The thief and gambler are twin brothers. They both pride themselves on outsmarting someone else. They both are trying to get something without working for it and they violate the laws of love and work.
4. You can steal by not paying your just debts. Many people judge Christ, the Church, and Christianity by the way we pay our debts.
5. You can steal by being dishonest as an employer or an employee. Employers steal from their employees when they do not pay them a just wage. Employees steal when they do not give their employer an honest day's work. James 5:4
B. There is the theft of a person. Kidnaping or slavery violates this law.
C. There is the theft of purity. Leading someone into sin is a violation of this commandment.
D. There is the theft of peace and happiness. A man or woman who would steal the mate of another's home. David was guilty of this. We can steal by neglecting to provide happiness and peace in our homes.
E. There is the theft of reputation.
F. There is the theft of character. Parents who do not keep their children from evil influences are guilty of this.
G. There is the theft of faith. Preachers, teachers and others, who by their statements or their lives rob others of their faith in God and spiritual things are guilty of this.
H. There is the theft from the needy. God-given wealth. Eccles. 5:19. Since that is true, we owe it to God to use our money to help those who are less fortunate. Eph. 4:28, says we ought to work and provide for others, but, we must remember, this is a voluntary thing, and not something that should be legislated as socialism would demand.
I. There is theft from God. Mal. 3:8-10. We owe God our first debt, and after that, come the others.
Conclusion: The remedy for breaking this law is to trust Christ as Saviour, if you are not a Christian. Acts 13: 38,39. If you are a Christian, you need to forsake your sin, and ask God's forgiveness. I John 1: 9.