Do not steal Unlike the 6th commandment (Do Not Murder) where the sense is specifically murder (as opposed to the more general idea of “killing,”) this commandment begs the generalization. By that I mean it is not limited to simply taking what does not belong to you. Certainly it includes taking what is not yours, but by reason you can see that includes more than mere objects. Indeed, if we understand that “The Earth is the Lord’s and all who dwell therein,” we can imagine that nothing at all belongs to us. Thus any taking of any kind can be construed as stealing.
Why should it not be? Again, we must look inside, where God is determined to make us anew and like Christ, and we must examine the attitude of the heart and self- justifications and rationalizations of the un-renewed mind.
Can a spouse be stolen? Obviously. But what about the children? Can children be corrupted, ruined, or let’s say have their potential life stolen from them? I would say so, even when we do so innocently, believing that we are only doing it for their own good.
How about life? I would say one can make a more general case against killing here than with commandment 6. A person’s life can certainly be taken from them.
And what about time? Consider the understaffed call center and the muzak you are forced to listen to, or waiting at the DMV.
And how about labor? Just say taxes. Theft occurs and can occur on so many levels and in so many ways: from a billion dollar scam to taking someone’s daily bread; from the tangible to intangible; in word and thought as well as in deed.
To be clear, those inalienable rights that Thomas Jefferson talked about–you know, the ones endowed by our creator—are all too easily stolen: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And we are all guilty of stealing from one another all the time—even though we don’t realize it. You may say you have been the victim more often than the perpetrator. That may well be, but…
Some might argue that innocence is excusable. They might say it is only certainly wrong if your gut says it is wrong and you do it anyway. I say it is wrong even if your gut has not caught up with the fact yet.
So the heart: Have you ever been jealous or envious? Isn’t that stealing from the one you are with? Have you ever felt sorry for something you said, that you didn’t mean it? We suck life out of people with our words. Have you ever genuinely said you were sorry that someone had to wait for you? We say, “I’m sorry you had to wait,” but to what extent do we actually mean it and to what extent is it just the right thing to say? And who has worked for you in places where you know you could help? Laundry, dishes, yard work…
Are you a boss? Who have you kept down lately and what demands have you made for your own enrichment? Are you an employee? Ever goof off? And do you concern yourself with the happiness of others? Or do you demand that others be concerned about you and your feelings?
David got it right (Psalm 19): “Who can discern his errors? Forgive my hidden faults. Keep your servant ALSO from willful sins; may they not rule over me.” (NIV). The willful sins are the ones we know about. The hidden faults are the ones we don’t realize, like how much we have actually stolen from others all our life long.
There is almost nothing worth having in this life that we have not stolen from someone at some point. And: “The Earth is the Lord’s and the Fullness thereof; the world and they who dwell in it.” And do we give him thanks or are we like thieves here, too?