Shorter Catechism Qs. 73–75
73. Q. Which is the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment is, Thou shall not steal.
74. Q. What is required in the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.
75. Q. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
A. The eighth commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth, or may, unjustly hinder our own, or our neighbor’s, wealth or outward estate.
“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15 ESV)
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9–10 ESV)
“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 ESV)
Well, what is wrong with stealing? Today, many people seem to answer this question with, “Nothing, unless someone is stealing from me.” Whether it is cheating on taxes, pirating software, music, movies, plagiarizing other people’s works and ideas, theft is a undeniable part of our society. But, of course, theft is not simply a problem of our society. It was also a problem for ancient Israel to whom the eighth commandment was given. In fact, theft is a problem in every place and for every society, because it is an expression of spiritual lostness.
Both religious people (of all religious persuasions, including professing Christians) and professing atheists steal. People who live in sophisticated societies steal, as well as those living in underdeveloped nations. Theft knows no borders or class, because it is a spiritual problem of finding contentment.
Are you content? What does contentment mean for you? If you are a Christian, contentment means resting in your loving Father’s provisions. To some he may give more, and to others he may give less according to his wise will. But we believe that God is good in all the things he grants us, as well as withholds from us. How can we believe this? We can believe this when we remember God who gave us his only Son will not spare us anything good (Rom 8:32).
In other words, theft is an expression of resentment toward God, who, we believe, does not love us enough to give us everything we want. The so-called gods of other religions certainly do not inspire any such faith in their followers. They have done nothing to earn such a whole-hearted trust. Atheists, also, perhaps can be excused for thinking happiness depends on the things they possess. After all, what other hope do they have?
But in Christ we are different. We know and love God. We believe he will lead us safely unto glory, and that contentment is never a matter of what we possess, but whom we know. We know Jesus Christ. We can trust him and rest in him.
The eighth commandment also gives us a right (and righteous!) perspective on other people’s properties. We have a duty to respect what belongs to others, for they have received them from God. As to our own possessions, once we recognize everything we have is from the Lord, we are obligated to use our possession wisely as good stewards, and as instruments of blessing other people. May the Lord bless us, that money and possessions never become the chains that bind us, but instruments of God-honoring good works.