Nearly everyone knows and understands that taking another person’s property without permission is wrong. We simply shouldn’t take something that doesn’t belong to us, or use something that belongs to another without first asking. But the sad truth is that as sinners in need of redemption, we steal from one another every day, most times without even realizing it. Studying the seventh commandment gives us much to think about as we consider what it means to live as God’s children in a broken world.
God said, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). As with all of the Ten Commandments, this commandment is not only a prohibition against stealing another person’s property; it is an invitation for its hearers to resist the temptation to steal. Through this commandment, God calls people to protect that which belongs to their neighbor, help him guard and protect his property and his reputation.
In reading the creation narrative, we understand that God dignified humankind by giving us vocation. In Genesis 2:15-16 we read that God put the man in the garden to till it and to keep it. The reward for his labor was that he may eat of the fruits of the trees in the garden and share these gifts with the woman given as his companion. Through our labors, God blesses us with all that we need; food, home, and purpose.
God calls all people to vocations according to our gifts and talents. Just as we live together in community; we enjoy sharing that which God has blessed us with through our work. In these regards, stealing is not only depriving our neighbor the fruit of his/her labor, it is also an act by which we fail to accept the rightful presentation of such gifts. Stealing deprives our neighbors and us of God’s intentions for creation. Some of these examples seem victimless, but there is always a victim when it comes to theft and stealing. Not only do we cheat and deprive one another, we also deprive ourselves of honor and reputation, and we sin against God.
Stealing is denying God and humankind the fullness and richness of God’s creative intention. The seventh commandment calls us to protect that which belongs to our neighbor, working and caring for that which God has provided. As we do these things, we honor God and share his many blessing with those who have also been placed in the garden.
Generous and loving God, you are the giver of all good gifts. Help us to share these blessings with others that all might know the richness of your kingdom. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.