You shall not steal. (Exodus 20:15)
The Law of Moses addressed the basic problems of the carnality of man. Since the beginning of time, the covetous nature of man has driven him to bring harm to his neighbor in stealing what is not his. Emboldened by a spirit of superiority, one man will steal from another and often bring about great harm to affect the sin. Nations have waged war to take lands from the neighbors inflicting death on millions of innocent people. Families have been torn apart through the savagery of greed. The Law of Moses included a simple statement of truth yet profound in its impact upon the people. Burrows suggested that when a man steals he wrongs himself and the community. A community of distrust is established for fear of those who would take what is not theirs; often by force. Stealing does injury to the community. It does not seek the good of the neighbor and does not promote the welfare of the interrelationship needed for a community to enjoy peace and security. In high crime areas where stealing is common, people live in fear not knowing if they would become the victim of an attack.
Stealing changes the mindset of the world. Man was created as a family unit that would help and preserve a community of sharing and benevolence. Stealing is a harsh reality of the depravity of man’s thoughts to hate his neighbor taking from him whatever he desires. The failure of stealing is that all that is taken is temporal and of no value. What is left is animosity leading to revenge, retribution and sometimes death. And for what? All that is taken is a trinket of no value that becomes the property of a man who now must guard his own things less someone steals from him. Thieves never live in peace for fear of being caught or from others stealing from them.
The nature of stealing is the iron rule: what is thine is mine we will take it. Sadly, there is no reward in stealing. Giving the law against stealing the Lord shows to man the harmony of living together and sharing for the needs of all men. The apostle Paul would later write that men should not steal from one another but rather labor with their hands so they may help others. Stealing is wrong because it destroys trust and the harmony of the community. Sharing increases the accord of the benevolence of one to another so that all men can work together for the common good of all. When a community lives in a world where stealing is not accepted the world becomes a place of peace and security.
Remember when doors were never locked or windows closed because the community trusted in one another? Stealing is a state of mind. It involves the selfish desires of one person over another gaining some kind of power over the other. When the community becomes selfish, self-centered and everything is about the “me” person, stealing increases. In some countries, thief’s hands are cut off as penalty for stealing. While this may be an effective deterrent to stealing the real problem are not the hands that steal but the heart that moves the hands. Pride, hatred and arrogance fuel the heart to covet the possessions of the neighbor. The Law of Moses was not just dealing with a judicial law of practicality but the spiritual failure of men who hate their neighbors. Stealing was a sin before the Law of Moses and remains a sin after the Law has been abolished.
The final tragedy of stealing is what is gained in dishonor is lost in death. If a man steals all the money in the world, he leaves everything he takes when he dies. No man takes anything with him as he came naked in the world so he returns to the dust from whence he came. Stealing has no lasting value. There is sadness in those who spend their life taking from others because at the end of the road there is no happiness. Thieves are caught and incarcerated for their crimes. Those who get away with their crime will never take anything with them in death and leave for others to steal. The reality of stealing is made crystal clear when naked they stand before God in judgment and give account of taking worthless things from their neighbors. There is a futility in stealing and complete madness. When you steal, you harm yourself. Repentance is the only cure for stealing returning what is taken to its lawful owner. Then the heart can be at peace and find happiness. More importantly, the soul is preserved for eternity.