“You shall not steal”- Exodus 20:15
The Christian’s one never-ending obligation on the human level is to love other people, especially fellow believers (Rom. 13:8). As we have seen, the love demanded of us is not mere sentimentality or feeling of affection; it takes concrete form. The Ten Commandments, in particular, show us what love looks like in everyday relationships, and in today’s passage we come to the eighth commandment, which prohibits stealing (Ex. 20:15).
Few acts show the deep depravity of the human heart more than theft. Thievery shows a particular contempt for another human being, as well as a deep desire for that person to suffer. When we take from others what they have labored diligently to earn, we scorn their efforts. Moreover, theft demonstrates hatred toward God. When we steal the blessings that the Lord has given to other people, we reveal a deep-seated conviction that our Creator was wrong to distribute His gifts in the way that He has. We show our sinful belief that we know better than God how we and others should be blessed.
Stealing is not limited to the outright theft of the goods of another. Taking another person’s wallet or stealing a candy bar from the grocery store are obvious examples of theft, but there are many other ways that we steal from people as well. For instance, we steal from our employers whenever we fail to work diligently during the hours we have agreed to serve or when we intentionally produce less than what we are capable of producing.
In the United States especially, we find people committing theft when they regularly and impenitently fail to pay their bills on time. The number of people who rack up more debt than they can afford to repay is almost incalculable, as is the number of people who file bankruptcy before doing all that they can to meet their obligations. Additionally, we see theft institutionalized in the system of progressive taxation that allows us to vote money out of others’ pockets by electing leaders who promise to impose a higher tax rate on others than the rate that we must pay.
Though they are violations of the eighth commandment, these examples of thievery pale in comparison to our theft in relation to God. Malachi 3:6-12 tells us that our failure to tithe is akin to robbing the Lord, and the problem of people who do not contribute to the work of the church has reached epidemic proportions. Malachi also has good news, however. If we bring our tithes to the Lord, He will pour out incredible blessings upon us (v. 10).
Our primary motivation to give to the Lord’s work should not be to get something in return. Nor does God promise a specific one-to-one correlation between our tithing and the blessings He will give. Nevertheless, our Creator graciously pledges to bless us tremendously when we faithfully support His work. Let us purpose anew to fulfill our responsibility and give to those churches and institutions that are carrying out the Lord’s mission on earth.
Passages for Further Study
1 Kings 21