Eighth Commandment: You Shall Not Steal

The Eighth Commandment is found in Exodus 20:15: “You shall not steal.” The Bible describes many forms of stealing to avoid. Instead we should learn to give.

Many human laws have been made to try to protect personal possessions and property from those who would seek to take them for themselves.

There are laws against larceny, laws against embezzlement, laws against grand theft and petty theft, laws against robbery and armed robbery, laws against burglary, laws against receiving stolen property, laws against fraud, laws against stealing intellectual property and laws against shoplifting.

All of these break God’s commandment, “You shall not steal,” and some of them also break the Ninth Commandment against lying.

But the intent of God’s Eighth Commandment goes even deeper.

Many types of stealing

Stealing can take many forms, including cheating someone or even delaying paying someone what you owe him or her.

God gave this additional instruction in Leviticus: “You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. … You shall not cheat your neighbor nor rob him. The wages of him who is hired shall not remain with you all night until morning” (Leviticus 19:11, 13).

In Colossians 4:1, the apostle Paul also addressed a principle that applies in employer/employee relationships today: “Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.”

The apostle James strongly warned the wealthy people who oppressed their workers and the poor: “Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.

“Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter” (James 5:2-5).

Companies can attempt to steal from people with misleading advertising and shoddy products and services. Employees can steal from their employers by wasting time or doing personal things on company time.

Lazy people can try to take advantage of the goodness of others, leading the apostle Paul to write: “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

Thieves in the Bible

Achan brought great trouble on Israel by stealing accursed things from the city of Jericho (Joshua 7).

The book of Judges tells the story of Micah, who robbed his own mother of “eleven hundred shekels of silver” and later used it for idolatry (Judges 17:1-6).

Perhaps the most notorious thief in the Bible was Judas Iscariot, a disciple of Jesus. He was entrusted with the money box where donations were kept, but “he was a thief … and he used to take what was put in it” (John 12:6). This sin seems to have set the stage for his final treachery of betraying Jesus Christ.

Barabbas was a robber as well as a rebel and murderer (John 18:40; Luke 23:19). Yet he was the one the crowd picked to be released when Pilate offered them the choice between Jesus and Barabbas. (To learn more about Barabbas, read “Who Was Barabbas?”)

And that same day Jesus was crucified between “two robbers, one on His right hand and one on His left. So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors’” (Mark 15:27-28).

It seems at first both criminals reviled Jesus, but one realized that “this Man has done nothing wrong,” and he asked Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom” (Luke 23:41-42; for more on this, see our article “What Happened to the Thief on the Cross?”).

Getting versus giving

The Eighth Commandment protects personal property and teaches us to respect the property of others. More than that, in its spiritual intent it contrasts two ways of life: getting versus giving.

The Eighth Commandment protects personal property and teaches us to respect the property of others. More than that, in its spiritual intent it contrasts two ways of life: getting versus giving.Consider how the apostle Paul describes the opposite of stealing: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28).

“It is more blessed to give than to receive”

The Bible repeatedly extols the virtues of giving. Consider these passages:

  • “He answered and said to them, ‘He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise” (Luke 3:11).
  • “Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away” (Matthew 5:42).
  • “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Jesus Christ summed up the benefits of God’s way of give this way: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Stealing from God?

The Eternal God is the Creator of everything that exists. Therefore He is actually the owner of the entire universe:

  • “The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1).
  • “Who has preceded Me, that I should pay him? Everything under the heaven is Mine” (Job 41:11).
  • “‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Haggai 2:8).

It is to our benefit to remember that God is the source of every good gift that we have (James 1:17). So God allows us to enjoy His blessings, and He only asks that we acknowledge Him with a tenth (a tithe) of what He provides.

“Will a man rob God?”

The Bible warns against stealing from God the tithes and offerings owed Him, but promises blessings to those who do give to Him:

“‘Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, “In what way have we robbed You?” In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed Me, even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it’” (Malachi 3:8-10).

Learn more about what the Bible says about stealing and the Eighth Commandment in these resources: “Tithing: What Is It?” “Is Digital Piracy Really a Sin?” “Avoiding Time Theft” and our video “The Eighth Commandment: What’s Yours Is Mine.”

For further study of the rest of the commandments, read the article “What Are the 10 Commandments?

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine, the Daily Bible Verse Blog and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter (including World Watch Weekly). He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who have the privilege of answering questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

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