You shall not steal.

Exodus 20:15

This eighth commandment is, on its face, a simple instruction. But like all of Scripture, the commandments reward prayerful reflection. And when we approach this command carefully, we find that it reaches further into our lives than we first imagined.

To understand the true offense of stealing, we need to see the two biblical principles that undergird the eighth commandment. One is the right to private property; the other is the sovereign ownership of God over all He has made. In other words, God owns all things, and He grants temporary stewardship to us. So to steal something from someone is an offense against God as the ultimate owner and against the person who is stewarding it.

We will not, however, fully understand this commandment until we grasp the various ways it extends into our lives. Stealing can take many forms. There are the more obvious ones:

• blatant theft

• borrowing something we fail to return

• keeping dishonest records

• misusing our employer’s time

• paying unjust wages, withholding wages, or delaying wages

But there are other, less obvious ways to steal, which this commandment also speaks to:

• slandering others, thereby stealing their reputation

• sinning sexually with another, thereby stealing their moral purity

• plagiarizing, thereby stealing someone else’s work

• cheating in the classroom

• failing to give God what we owe Him (Malachi 3:8)

The eighth commandment leaves no stone of our lives unturned, and, if we are honest, we all find ourselves guilty of breaking it in one way or another. Yet in His grace and wisdom God not only tells us what not to do; He also tells us what to pursue: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need” (Ephesians 4:28). The right response to the eighth commandment is not merely not to steal but to commit ourselves to lives of honesty, integrity, hard work, and generosity.

This is what we see in the life of Zacchaeus. He was a tax collector and guilty of stealing, yet when he encountered the Lord Jesus, he repented of his sin and restored what he had stolen, committing himself to making things right (Luke 19:7-8). This is what repentance and obedience look like when it comes to this command. So consider first: How have I been guilty of stealing? Of what am I being called to repent? And then ask yourself: How will I now commit myself to giving and sharing where once I was stealing?

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Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg, published by The Good Book Company, Used by Truth For Life with permission. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company.