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What It Really Means to Steal

By Chip Ingram

Have you ever stolen something?

When we read the Ten Commandment’s eighth command – “Do Not Steal” – most of us tend to think this is reserved for criminals in ski masks who break into homes or snatch people’s purses. So, we don’t always think we are guilty of breaking this command.

But most of us, if we really thought about it, would probably admit to regularly doing one form of stealing at some point in our lives. If not, we’re probably not being honest.

Some of us are still trying to rationalize our stealing. We think things like, “I know I’m not doing anything worse than anybody else … Everyone at work does it … Everyone else leaves early, but I work really, really hard and sometimes I do things at home and I’m sure I make up for it…”

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When we study Scripture, we find that the heart of the eighth commandment is not simply about taking people’s stuff. It involves taking or receiving anything that rightly belongs to another person.

That means don’t take someone else’s product, don’t take their copyrights, don’t take illegal discounts, don’t take another’s reputation, don’t take another’s ideas, don’t take supplies from work, don’t use phone lines that don’t belong to you, don’t use copy machines that don’t belong to you, and don’t use time that doesn’t belong to you.

If your employer pays you for “x” number of hours and you have “x” amount of time for lunch, then the beginning of that time and the end of that time is your time, and the ten or fifteen minutes you come late is not.

Another form of stealing could be taking advantage of someone unjustly. All throughout the Old Testament, stealing means to rob the poor or the widow or the orphan. Today, people can steal by enacting unlawful laws. Or by making unjust decisions that exploit them.

We can also steal by withholding what is due to another. When a company or business owner doesn’t pay an employee the fair wage they deserve, that’s stealing. Or when you owe someone something and you don’t deliver it even though you have it, that’s stealing, too.

And, finally, stealing can mean defrauding, or trickery. Even though you may never actually take an object, you’re stealing when you deceive another’s heart or mind to get an unfair advantage.

What’s the common motive behind all these examples?

At the root of it all is greed.

But the good news is, we can overcome greed with the antidote of generosity. And I don’t mean just by giving our money to God.

It starts with facing the facts about how we steal and then deciding to be a generous person. This means being generous with our time, generous with our thinking, and even generous with how we treat people. Having this mindset and beginning to live this way will begin to change our hearts.

To learn more about God’s Ten Commandments, check out Chip Ingram’s series God’s Boundaries for Abundant Living. 

Written By

Chip Ingram

Founder & Teaching Pastor, Living on the Edge

Chip Ingram is the CEO and teaching pastor of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. He is the author of many books, including The Real God, Culture Shock and The Real Heaven. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and twelve grandchildren and live in California.

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