The eighth commandment
You shall not steal
God is sovereign in the disposition of blessings, and He calls each of us to exercise proper stewardship over what He has entrusted to us, and to respect and preserve the stewardship of others. We must not, by stealing in any way, violate the divine economy and the stewardship rights and duties of others.
“You shall not steal.”
“‘And you shall not steal.’”
The eighth commandment is accompanied by more statutes, rules, and precepts than any other of the Ten Commandments. What does this say about human beings? Many things: we are not easily contented with the gifts God provides for us; we have a tendency to lust for things; it is easy for us to prefer love of things over love of our neighbors; we think we know better than God what constitutes a just distribution of goods within the divine economy; and so forth.
As we shall see, stealing can take a variety of forms. At base, stealing is an affront to the will and plan of God. It challenges His wisdom, disrupts His design for the stewardship of the earth, and distorts His justice. To take by stealth of negligence or any other means that which God has entrusted to another is to reject His plan and purpose and to put ourselves in His place by asserting that our will over His with respect to the distribution of material possessions. Stealing is not just an act of injustice against our neighbor; it is an affront and challenge to the sovereign pleasure of God.
This series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to www.ailbe.org and click on our Book Store.