“You shall not steal.”
— Exodus 20:15
Some years ago, the state of Delaware opened a new turnpike. Motorists without exact change could pick up an envelope at the automatic toll booth, take it home, and mail the toll to the state at their convenience. During this experiment, which lasted twenty days, motorists took 26,000 envelopes but returned only 582. Some of the returned envelopes had paper and junk in them, but virtually none contained any money.
What would you have done if given the same opportunity?
As our nation moves further away from God, stealing is becoming epidemic. People learn to steal in part because of their upbringing. Once some parents spanked their little girl for stealing. Afterward that little girl dried her tears on a towel her parents had “taken” from a hotel. Schools have also played a part because they no longer post the Ten Commandments on their walls and because they teach that there are no absolute rights or wrongs in life.
But as Christians, God’s Word is our standard, and Scripture clearly forbids us to steal. It also commands the opposite positive action—that we be honest and generous. Christ taught that a person must repay what he or she has stolen. In Luke 19, Zacchaeus paid back four times the amount he had stolen as a tax collector. God wants us to have the same repentant attitude when we take what isn’t ours.
“But,” you say, “I’m not a thief. I’ve never stolen anything.” While most of us have never held up a bank, a large majority of us have helped ourselves to others’ belongings through seemingly harmless actions. Here are some “innocent” ways in which we break the Eighth Commandment (see if you can read this list without wincing): shoplifting, cheating for grades in school, cheating on taxes, ripping pages from library books, marrying or divorcing for money, taking kickbacks on contracts, faking insurance claims, stuffing ballot boxes, borrowing things and not returning them. We also rob God by not paying our tithes.
Do you have a habit or two you need to break to fulfill God’s Eighth Commandment? Thankfully, if we’ve broken the commandment, God grants us mercy and forgiveness through Christ. May God help you be completely honest in all your dealings with others.