The Eighth Commandment
Modern thievery is at an all-time high – and still rapidly increasing. It is permeating nearly every phase of our society. Read God’s answer to this growing problem!
We live in a society that is sick and dying. We have lost the right values! We have cut ourselves off from God. As we have seen in the previous articles in this series on God’s Ten Commandments, obedience to God’s law is the way to peace, to happiness, and to the abundant life.
But with our increasing disobedience to God’s living laws, we are suffering the consequences of physical as well as the spiritual ways. In God’s law, the most important thing is our right relationship with Him – covered in the first four commandments – and the protection of the home, the family and human life itself – covered in the next three commandments.
The rebelliousness of the human mind is remarkably evidenced by the fact that human laws have reversed this order of importance. At the present moment, there are far more laws on the statute books protecting property than there are to protect human life, the home, and the true worship of God.
It is true it is not given to human beings or courts of men to legislate upon the true worship of the Living God. Yet it is an appalling fact of our modern society that the lack of any respect or worship of Almighty God is hardly counted as sin at all in public opinion. And this sin of rebellion is the root from which all others grow!
And so – in spite of the multitude of laws protecting property – men cut off from the true God are stealing in many devious ways more than ever before in human history.
After the God of heaven thundered from the top of Mt. Sinai the commandments ordaining the true worship of Him, and laws protecting the most sacred human relationships - the home, the family, and human life itself, God gave the 8th commandment. This is God’s law protecting all private property and possessions: “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15).
Because men do not think the God who gave this commandment is real – and do not fear to disobey His law – we have more literal theft than ever before. But we also violate the 8th command in hundreds of ways through a “watered down” system of morality.
After discussing some debated scheme by which to cheat a business competitor or customer, executives shrug their shoulders and say: “Well, that’s just business. Or, after deception involving false measurements, poor quality or misleading advertising, a businessman will say: “What’s the difference? If I don’t do it, somebody else will.”
When cheating the government, or falsifying an income tax return, the common American phrase to solve one’s conscience is “Let Uncle Sam sweat this time. The government is taking too much money anyway. So what?”
Yes, so what? Is that “just business?”
Well, it also happens to be God’s business – and He has set in motion a law stating: “Thou shalt not steal.” When you break God’s law – it breaks you! For God’s laws are living, moving things – like the law of gravity. When you transgress them, the punishment is automatic – and it is sure.
According to God’s Word and His law, there are only two right ways in which you can come into possession of anything.
The first is by a free gift of another person, or from God Himself. The second is by honest labour, which earns one that which belongs to him. Any other way is theft – the taking from another that which belongs to him.
The 8th commandment recognizes the legitimate acquisition of property, and forbids theft. It is important to note that, in principle, the 8th command forbids all forms of communism which deny man’s right of property. It also forbids international thievery in which nations forcibly confiscate and steal the property and possessions of others. And, to our lasting shame, all nations stand guilty of breaking God’s law in this respect!
In principle, gambling is also a violation of the 8th commandment. A man who gambles, whether in play or in serious business, puts into his pocket money for which he has done no honest work. By this very fact, he robs the man from whom he receives, and violates God’s law of love.
Yet, throughout Britain and America today, professing “Christian” people gamble in lotteries, sweepstakes and many other ways to the tune of millions of dollars! This lust for possession without toil, this act of trying to get something for nothing, is a blatant denial of the teachings of Jesus Christ.
And it is a well-known fact that whenever any large amount of gambling takes place, the trafficking of drugs, prostitution, and organized crime almost immediately sky rockets!
Young people today are learning to steal in an immensely large and organized fashion. Not only are they purloining articles by the thousands from stores, shops, schools and even churches, but they regularly organize an intricate system of cheating on tests and exams in schools and colleges.
Because it is generally looked on without too much alarm, this practice is growing on an unprecedented rate. But what the young people may not have been told is that “cheating” is taking a score or grade illegally – and is stealing. It is directly breaking the 8th commandment of God!
The industrialist or merchant who uses false weights and measures or a poor quality of material or workmanship to deceive the public is just as guilty of breaking the 8th commandment as a common thief! He is trying to get something more than a legitimate return for his product.
Viewing the illegal excess, he hopes to receive, he is trying to get something for nothing. In principle, he is simply stealing!
Yet, in how many thousands of cases this type of lawlessness and deception is practiced, God alone knows.
Another little realized method of thievery is the modern practice in growing and preparing foods. Through refusal to let the land lie completely idle every seven years as God commanded (Lev. 25:3-4), and through the use of water soluble chemical fertilizers, many farmers are robbing the soil of the nutrients which would bring forth heath-producing foods. Instead, the foods produced on these devitalized fields have been robbed of the natural vitamins, minerals and food elements which God intended should be there.
In effect, the people forced to eat these foods are robbed of health, vitality, and in some cases of life itself! Witness the trend toward vitamin pills and capsules, toward “enriched” bread and milk with vitamins artificially “added.” These artificial vitamins – which in many cases your body cannot use – would never be necessary if the foods we eat had been properly grown and processed in the first place!
The same condemnation is due the processors of food who through greed for “filthy lucre” remove the health-giving elements from the foods we eat. Or, in thousands of cases, they add chemical “preservatives” to foods which are absolutely dangerous to the health of those who eat them.
Needless to say, it is important to realize that millions of human beings in our “Christian” civilization are suffering the effects of man-made deficiency disease. These are brought on partly because of personal ignorance of what to eat and partly because of sin and greed on the part of food manufactures who have knowingly robbed our foods of life-giving elements!
One of the great commercial sins of our age is the common practice of false advertising. The consumer is led to expect that a certain “pill” for instance, will cause him to lose weight, gain weight, increase his potency, restore his thinning hair, or whatever the case may be. And, in most cases, this statement is a direct, willful lie. Without a doubt, such a practice is, in effect, stealing from the people who pay money to acquire the promised result.
Our nations and peoples need to wake up! Just because a sin can be made outwardly to appear “respectable,” does not make it a sin nonetheless.
The Great God has this to say:” Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators nor thieves shall inherit the kingdom of God” (I Cor. 6:9-10).
Lest any misunderstand, remember that it is God’s will that His servants prosper in material wealth – as long as they gain it honestly, and don’t set their hearts upon it. The apostle John wrote: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (II John 2).
However-- we must also learn that an industrialist’s wealth which is tarnished by an unnecessarily high death rate in his plants or factories is ill-gotten gain – and he is branded in the light of God’s law as a thief, if not a murderer!
The principle behind the 8th commandment is broken again and again in the relations of capital and labor. James was inspired to warn the dishonest employer: “Behold, the hire of the laborers which is of you kept back by fraud, cries: and the cries are entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth” (James 5:4).
It is also equally true – and especially so in this era of corrupt unionism – that many a workingman robs his employer! He does this by taking his wage and yet withholding his full share of honest labor. And that is stealing!
All too often one laboring man tells his fellow: “Slow down, buddy, you’re working too hard. If you keep on working like that, we’ll all have to work hard around here!”
British and American laborers, often spending from a third to a half of their working time on “coffee breaks,” and “cigarette breaks” are causing our industries to be badly beaten in the world-wide trade war now going on. It is affecting the destiny of the American and British people!
The 8th commandment of Almighty God has a message for both capital and labor. To the capitalist: “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.” To the laborer: “A fair days’ work for a fair day’s wage.”
The definite, positive application of the 8th commandment is stated in the New Testament letter to the Ephesians:” Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needs” (Eph. 4:28).
On one side, stealing is condemned in this passage. On the other, working and giving are outlined as the way of life the positive application of God’s command dictates.
Property and possessions are to be gained by honest work – not merely to satisfy personal desires and needs but so that any excess may be freely given to the brother in need. In the real intent or “spirit” of God’s law, a man not only steals by taking from another that which is his, but by refusal to work in order to share and give to others in need.
The true Christian should be: “Distributing to the necessity of saints, given to hospitality” (Rom. 12:13). As God’s begotten children, we are to become like Him (Matt. 5:48). And Jesus said: My Father works hither to, and I work” (John 5:17).
God’s kingdom is a creating, a working, a producing kingdom. God creates and works in order to give and share with others!
For the inspired James wrote: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father” (James 1:17). And so the very nature of God – which we all must come to have if we are to have eternal life. That nature is working, producing and giving. It is the very antithesis of stealing in any and every form!
The positive lesson of the 8th commandment is also summarized in these all-inclusive words of Jesus, the Christ: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
If, through God’s Spirit, we can truly learn to live by those words, we will have indeed fulfilled the spirit of the 8th commandment.