“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15, NIV)
Here is a definition of ‘stealing’ that will get you thinking about the struggle of the eighth commandment: Stealing is trying to get as much as possible, while giving as little as possible.
Remember, these commands speak not to one sin, but to a whole category of sins. We know this from Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. We also see this in the Old Testament, where the rest of the law is an exposition of the Ten Commandments, showing how it applies to particular situations.
It’s helpful to think of each command as being like a train track, with many stations down the line. If you go to the station at the end of the line and look at what the thief does when he breaks into a home, for example, that involves an attempt to take everything and contribute nothing.
You may never have gone to this particular station at the end of the line, but all of us have traveled somewhere along the track. It may be that you’ve stopped at the station of taking advantage of other people, or the station of using others, or the station of being a taker without becoming a giver.
If stealing is about trying to get as much as possible while giving as little as possible, then there is a lot of stealing that goes on in marriages, families, churches, and communities. Every attempt to have much and give little is addressed by the eighth commandment.
This definition also shows the root problems behind all forms of stealing: Greed – the desire to get as much as possible, and laziness – the desire to contribute as little as possible.
What do you find most surprising/helpful about this definition of stealing?