The eighth commandment is one that most people learn…Christian or not. Stealing is bad. We know this. It doesn't just come with spiritual consequences, though. This is a commandment that definitely comes with worldly ones, too. This commandment continues the trend of telling us how we should treat others (or not treat them, in this case).
Where is this Commandment in the Bible?
Exodus 20:15 - You must not steal. (NLT)
Why This Commandment is Important
The first four commandments really have a lot to say regarding our relationship with God. The remaining commandments tell us more about how we treat one another. Stealing is an incredibly selfish act that does an immense amount of damage to everyone involved. Some people think that stealing is a victimless crime, because it's just things. Yet, stealing not only means taking something you didn't earn, but it also can cause people to feel vulnerable and less safe, even if they weren't physically harmed in the theft.
Stealing is not, however, limited to worldly possessions. It can also involve stealing spiritual items. We find ways to rob God of what is His. For instance, if we have successes in our lives, we need to give due credit to God. He is the one who provides blessings. When we pull people away from God, we are stealing His people.
What This Commandment Means Today
Stealing can come with some hefty penalties. In some countries, if you are found stealing you may lose a body part or be whipped to near death. In some cases, it could mean death. However, in most cases it can mean a criminal record that can impact your ability to get a job or even in jail or prison time.
Stealing can also mean losing friends and family. It is an utter violation of a relationship to steal from someone you know. Even if you aren't stealing from them, how do they know they can trust you if you steal? Relationships are build on a foundation of trust and honesty. Even the appearance that a we can't be trusted means relationships can shatter.
And what happens when we take from God what is His? When we don't use the spiritual gifts that God has provided, turn people away from God, and more, we steal from God. We destroy that relationship we have with Him by telling him through our actions that He cannot trust us. Eventually we will face a spiritual judgement for our actions.
How to Live By This Commandment
There are several ways you can begin living by this commandment:
- Know your heart. What is in your heart matters. If you constantly desire things you don't have and start to think about just taking them, it can lead to actions of stealing.
- Learn your gifts. God has provided each of us with spiritual gifts. When we learn about our gifts, we give back to God by using them. By using our gifts, we avoid robbing from God.
- Think hard about the consequences. There are consequences on both a worldly and spiritual level. In the world, you can face probation, jail, lack of job security, and more if you are caught stealing. Yet there are consequences that go well beyond this world that we cannot even see yet.
- Think of others. When we steal from others we hurt them emotionally. Theft is a huge violation of trust and security, and it does a lot of damage to people that we may no think about. Think about how you would feel if something was stolen from you before you take something you didn't earn.