The Eighth Commandment

"Thou shalt not steal."
(Exodus 20:15)




        Thievery, cheating, stealing, burglary, robbery, purse snatchings, muggings - all are commonplace in our inccreasingly violence-prone society!

        Most stealing comes from lust.

        Consider your own home environment. What about that bulging wad of keys you carry in your pocket or purse? What about the locks you must keep on your home, sheds and garages, your automobile, bicycles, motorcycles and practically everything else?

        When you go to the neighborhood supermarket, you may be unaware of the little television cameras slowly rotating throughout the store, the rounded mirrors giving the clerk a bird's-eye view of all the aisles and corners, and other antishoplifting devices. They are there because shoplifting - meaning the breaking of the Eighth Commandment, which brings the death penalty - is engaged in like a "sport" by millions today!

        Losses by supermarkets and big department stores soar up into the hundreds of millions.

        The greatest season during which shoplifting causes enormous losses to retailers is the greatest "Christian" holiday of the year, Christmastime!

        During the season of "the spirit of giving," it seems hundreds of thousands of shoppers, and tens of thousands of clerks, are more interested in the spirit of getting! Getting illegally, by stealing!

        Police statistics on the amount of "petty theft," pilferage and shoplifting are simply staggering.

        Look at the various categories of crime, and see how the Eighth Commandment is broken so flagrantly.

        Automobile theft ranks as one of the largest crimes in our society. Crime rings have been revealed wherein professional crooks steal automobiles, drive them to another state where they are repainted, serial numbers changed or altered, new license plates installed, and then the cars are resold.

        Theft of aircraft, boats, motorcycles, trailers, practically anything that isn't anchored down is enormous.

        And why this avalanche of stealing?

        It is traceable to unbridled human lust, a desire to have what a person has not earned, not worked for, not produced and cannot (or will not) pay for!

        Even in corporate business, executives at the management level have admitted in surveys that more than 90 percent of them got where they were "dishonestly."

        Stealing is an ugly sin. Reaching out one's hand to take something which does not belong to that person is an embarrassing, shocking, ugly deed!

        Have you ever stolen? Have you ever had something stolen from you? Probably, if you are completely honest, the answer is yes in both cases!

        What teenager did not, at one time or another, try to "swipe some marbles" from the five-and-dime? How many have never stolen a hubcap? How many have never chortled at their escapades in the neighbor's watermelon patch, laughed at their expertise in eluding the "cops" after they siphoned someone's gas, or gleefully recounted how the clerk gave them more change than they deserved?

        Thieving takes many forms. How many employees freely and cheerfully use equipment, machinery, gasoline, paper clips, envelopes, stationery, stamps or other materials on their job sites?

        How many people attempt to "cut corners" on their income tax returns, cheerfully (because they feel they "have it coming") stealing from the government?

        There are millions of people who would not think of sitting down with a known burglar for dinner. Yet, those same millions will cheerfully recount how they got the better of their neighbor in a deal, sold a practically worthless item for great price as if it were a priceless antique, cheated on their income tax or managed to get the better of someone in a financial deal.

        Let's face it - we all know we are living in a civilization where practically anyone including our closest friends and even our own children may be given to stealing!

        But reaching out the hand to take that which you have not earned and does not belong to you is a capital SIN, punishable by death!

        God inspired Paul to say, "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth"!

        Stealing, like any other sin, can he repented of! Just as Jesus said to the woman caught in the very act of adultery, "Go and sin no more," so the apostle Paul instructs, "Steal no more"!

        In our society of an endless array of glittering gadgets, devices, manufactured commodities, toys and attractive products, it is easy for people to begin to lust after hundreds of items they don't need and can't afford.

        Is there a day in our lives when the constant flow of all these goods around us - the shop windows filled with beautiful things, the TV commercials blaring at us that we should "save" by spending our money for this or that - does not, subtly, tug at the back of your mind and cause you to say, "1 wish I had that"?

        Typical of this attitude is what you see on some of the television game shows.

        As the voice of the off-camera announcer soars up, excitedly talking of the prizes to be won on this particular game show, the drapes are whisked back and there, shining in its new coat of paint, is the latest imported sports model automobile! When the announcer says, at the top of his lungs. the contestant has won this "NEW CAR!" the person who has won the prize almost faints with excitement! People jump up and down, clap their hands in glee, utter incomprehensible monosyllabic sounds, scream, cry, whirl about, clap their hands over their faces, roll their eyes wildly, gasp in amazement!

        This example of the unbridled lust for the possession of things is shown, every day, on various of the TV game shows.

        Remember, human nature is vanity, jealousy, lust and greed! GREED, the insatiable desire for more of everything, is a driving force in the hearts and minds of many individuals.

        It is found in every stratum of society.

        The "Abscam" revelations of congressmen taking kickbacks certainly prove that!

        Unfortunately, this flagrant double standard practiced by public officials leads to the practice of excusing crime on the part of the layman.

        The average person seems convinced no one is honest, that everyone is "on the take." And millions justify themselves in dishonest acts by saying they are only doing what everyone else is doing.

        Many cynics say the only difference between crooks and "honest" people is that the crooks were the ones who got caught.

        While two wrongs do not make a right and one evil deed does not justify or excuse another, one can understand how powerful an influence it is - and when vaunted public officials are found taking kickbacks, embezzling and lying - for average citizens to justify their own illegal behavior, saying, "Even members of Congress do it!"

        A comment on the crookedness of society is found in the example of the two burglars who, upon returning to their car with their stolen TV set, discovered "some dirty crook" had stolen their tires!

        The breaking of the commandment against stealing is one of the most common of all crimes - indulged in by millions. But it is not merely a "crime" against neighbor or society; it is sin, and the penalty is death!

        What is "wrong" with a law commanding mankind not to steal? Obviously nothing. Is it "done away"? Obviously not. The Ten Commandments are in living force and effect today.

        Again, let your mind imagine what the world would be like if everyone were perfectly honest. What if there were no locks, keys, security devices, armed guards?

        Why, the nations could do away with prisons and jails, reform schools and detention homes; all police and law enforcement agencies could be disbanded. Society would be a happy, safe place to live!

        What a righteous command! "Thou shalt not steal!"