Q. What does God forbid in the eighth commandment?
A. God forbids not only outright theft and robbery, punishable by law (1). But in God’s sight theft also includes all scheming and swindling in order to get our neighbor’s goods for ourselves, whether by force or means that appear legitimate (2), such as inaccurate measurements of weight, size, or volume; fraudulent merchandising; counterfeit money; excessive interest; or any other means forbidden by God (3). In addition God forbids all greed (4) and pointless squandering of his gifts (5).
Read: (1 )Ex. 22:1; 1 Cor. 5:9-10; 6:9-10; (2) Mic. 6:9-11; Luke 3:14; James 5:1-6; (3) Deut. 25:13-16; Ps. 15:5; Prov. 11:1; 12:22; Ezek. 45:9-12; Luke 6:35; (4) Luke 12:15; Eph. 5:5; (5) Prov. 21:20; 23:20-21; Luke 16:10-13.
You and I engage in stealing activities every single day. When we watch or buy pirated movies or goods; we steal. When we take the pen or clips that belong to our offices; we steal. When we talk about another person wrongly; we are stealing her reputation; when we shame someone; we are stealing her self- confidence; when we are late to a meeting we are stealing the other person’s time. Sister, we steal all the time. Sometimes unknowingly. So today we will study question 109 of The Heidelberg Catechism to really understand what it means not to steal.
By definition, stealing implies private property. Ownership has to happen in order to steal. You cannot steal from someone that owns nothing. But everybody owns something. Even in societies where communism and socialism reign. See, when we speak about stealing, we usually focus on material, tangible things but yet God encompasses so much more!
“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12). Sister we are called to live lives that glorify God. That have no hint of wrongdoing. That expose our heart’s true worship. That live confidently trusting in God’s provision and sovereignty. Stealing proves the opposite. Stealing shows a lack of faith in God’s provision. Sure, you could be making more money. Sure, that purse looks identical like the original one and no one will know. Sure, it’s only a pen. Sure, it’s only ten minutes. Sure, it’s only what you heard…. what your stealing of material and immaterial things proves is that you do not trust God fully and therefore, taking things into your own hands, you need to provide for yourself by stealing, cheating and misappropriating.
The consequences of stealing are terrible as we will see in our next teaching. They are not little things of little consequence. But today, I want to focus on your heart so as we finish this teaching I want to ask you: what are you stealing? Where are you not trusting God’s provision? Is it a job that you want and therefore you steal another’s reputation? Is it money and therefore you steal material things from others? What are you worshipping more than God’s provision? And when you pinpoint this, would you repent and trust that God has given you what you need and will provide according to His mercy? I end with a quote from C. H. Spurgeon: “I have heard of a godly old woman in a poor cottage, who had nothing but a piece of bread and a little water; and lifting up her hands, she said, “What! all this—and Christ too?!”