The eighth commandment, "Though shalt not steal" (Exodus 20:15, KJV), applies to our interpersonal relationships. Stealing counteracts the building of a healthy, God-honoring community.
Imagine if you loaned your jacket to someone else. It was clearly a loan, not a gift, and you expect to have it returned. How would you feel if the person you loaned it to simply decided to keep it? What if the item was something larger, such as a car, or something seemingly insignificant, such as a pencil? Regardless of the scale, stealing breaks a trust and leaves the victim feeling violated. As Kelli Mahoney expressed, "When we steal from others we hurt them emotionally. Theft is a huge violation of trust and security."
The eighth commandment, "Though shalt not steal" (Exodus 20:15, KJV), applies to our interpersonal relationships. Stealing counteracts the building of a healthy, God-honoring community. Instead, people are left with bitterness, fear, and suspicion. Sadness and cynicism replace hope and trust, plus there is the negative financial impact.
A person's belongings are his or her property. When someone steals them by force or deception, the eight commandment has been broken. A relationship has been harmed, though not irreparably. Reconciliation may be possible but--as the Bible instructs in various passages--reparations may need to be made.
Stealing goes against what is commonly referred to as "The Golden Rule". Expressed by Jesus in the Sermon On the Mount, this "rule" simply states, "Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you" (Matthew 7:12, KJV). Not one of us would want someone else to steal from us--it's bad enough when we inadvertently lose something. Since we would never want to be the victim of a theft, we should never participate in stealing something from another.
So where does the temptation to steal come from? Most times, people break the eighth commandment because they have already broken then tenth: "Thou shalt not covet" (Exodus 20:17, KJV).
The act of stealing flows from an unrestrained desire to have what belongs to someone else. This is what is meant by the word "covet." It refers to a yearning or craving to possess another's possession. Stealing, then, is the action taken in response to coveting.
The person who steals, however, has lost sight of one fact: Regardless of what is stolen, it can never surpass the benefits of pleasing God by doing the right thing. The superficial pleasure attained by stealing the desired object will pass quickly, but the satisfaction of living in a right relationship with God is lasting.
As a side note, a common factor that leads to theft is addiction. Those with a drug habit often find themselves caught in a no-win scenario; they have already devoted all they own toward feeding their addiction, so the only option remaining is to take what others own to continue feeding it. Not only can drugs be gateways to stronger drugs, but they can also lead to other sins.
So what must we remember regarding the eighth commandment?
God commands us not to steal.
Stealing hurts people and damages relationships.
It is never right to take what belongs to someone else.
Stealing violates Jesus' instruction to treat others the way we want to be treated.
The sin of stealing often arises from the sin of coveting.
Life situations--such as addiction--can also contribute toward stealing.
Stealers who repent can experience forgiveness both from God and the victim, though a sincere apology and reparation should be offered.
The Holy Spirit can empower you with the ability to overcome the temptation to steal.
"If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need" (Ephesians 4:28, NLT).