The Eighth Commandment: Don’t Steal

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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“You must not steal.”

Exodus 20:15

The basic meaning of the eighth commandment is clear. It forbids taking something that doesn’t belong to you without the owner’s permission. The Hebrew verb translated here as “steal” (ganav) includes the implication of secrecy, but otherwise has the same basic meaning as the English verb “to steal.”

Most of us would not be tempted to steal in the most obvious sense. We wouldn’t shoplift or rob a bank. But stealing happens all the time, even among faithful Christians. I can think of several examples. My teenage son was complaining recently that his friends “share” music and movies over the Internet. When he told them this was stealing and they shouldn’t do it, they informed him that the media companies “already have plenty of money.” Their rationale was a selfish version of Robin Hood’s mission: Steal from the rich (media companies) and give to the poor (me!).

But stealing isn’t just for younger generations. Every now and then a survey demonstrates just how much on-the-job time employees use for personal matters, including emails, chatting, and online gaming. It a shockingly high percentage. I saw an article not long ago that said time wasted on the job costs American businesses over $700 billion a year.

Then there’s the whole issue of taxation. How tempting it is to try and pay the IRS less than it is due! Yet, in truth, if we shortchange the government, we are stealing. I’m grateful for an accountant who carefully oversees my tax returns. As a Christian, he believes that we should “pay everything we owe, and not a penny more.”

Of course, then there’s the issue of intellectual property. The Internet allows people to “borrow” the published ideas of others without either paying or giving credit. This too is a kind of stealing.

I won’t keep on going with examples. But I would encourage you to consider whether you are violating the eighth commandment in some area of your life. Remember that stealing injures, not only the one from whom something is taken, but also your relationship with God.

QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Are you doing something in your life that constitutes stealing? What justifications have you used if you have taken something that belongs to someone else? What would help you not to steal, even if you’re sure you wouldn’t get caught?

PRAYER: Dear Lord, you know everything I think and everything I do. You see that which I do in secret. You know if I am stealing, and you’re not convinced by my rationalizations. At this moment, I can’t think of ways in which I am taking that which isn’t mine. But I may very well be doing so without being aware of it. So I ask you to help me. Let me see my life as you see it, so that I might honor you in choosing not to steal.

Help me, Lord, especially when I am tempted to “borrow” that which isn’t mine. If I download a piece of music, may I do so legally. If I use someone else’s idea, may I give credit where credit is due. And when I’m filling out my tax forms, may I tell the whole truth, even when it costs me.

Thank you, Lord, for helping me to live for your glory each moment of each day. Amen.

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