There are multitudinous ways in which the 8th commandment can be violated, and they are almost all running rampant in American society.  God’s law against theft goes back to Mount Sinai, and even before.  It is understood, in some degree, by every culture, although the further a culture departs from God, the less regard it will pay to this law, or to any other.

Ordinarily, when we think of stealing, our minds go to burglars, pickpockets and the like.  This kind of thievery is all too common.  Talk to an older man or woman, and you will most likely hear stories about how they would go to bed with the doors unlocked, without the slightest concern for their property.  Today, we are so concerned about robbery that we pay large sums to have an alarm system installed in our homes, which will give us warning when a burglar is trying to break in, or for a few dollars more even summon the police to our homes.  Only the blindest mole could fail to observe and acknowledge that this gigantic shift in culture over the past half century or so has nothing to do with the casting aside of God’s moral law.  It is only too obvious that the more into the background God’s law has been shoved, the greater and more heinous outbreaks of all manner of crime do we see.  Murder, rape, blasphemy, and indeed theft, have multiplied in correlation with the abandonment of God’s moral establishment.  Local governments may complain about having to expand their police forces to protect the lives and property of their citizens, but do they have a legitimate gripe when they have expelled the 10 commandments from their courthouses?  Disregard for, or ignorance of, God’s law, will inevitably result in disregard for human statutes.  Thus, the power of the state has to become more and more tyrannical in order to contain the outbreaks of an increasingly lawless citizenry.  Ultimately, the fear of God is always a far better detterent to crime than fear of the state.

The churches are unhappily complicit in fostering this culture.  When a foolish misinterpretation of “Judge not” becomes the highest standard of many religious bodies, what they effectively tell their people is, “Do not let anybody else criticize your moral decisions.”  Thus, the people can become lawless, and have a religious excuse for it.  Greatly to be blamed are those preachers who invent the excuse that freedom from the law means the abrogation of the 10 commandments.  It is little wonder, with the increasing prevalence of this type of religion, that we have a society where the words “Thou shalt not steal” have but little impact.

Stealing is hardly the occupation of only petty criminals.  In recent years the news has been full of the crooked machinations of business tycoons, Wall Street bankers, corporation heads, and the like.  We have congressmen who engage in insider trading, something for which the rest of us could be imprisoned were we to try it.  Lawlessness affects every strata of society.  Sometimes we like to fool ourselves into thinking that poverty breeds crime, and that if we can only lift people up out of poverty, then they will lead honest, decent lives.  But the human heart is the issue, not poverty.  The crooked CEO who misuses his position to soak money out of unsuspecting investors does so not out of personal need, but because the poison of sin has infected his heart.  It is the same corruption which inspires him to his nefarious deed as that which causes the petty thief to snatch a purse from the woman on the sidewalk.

Lawlessness creates moral indifference, which can lead to violation of the spirit of the 8th commandment.  A man does not have to be a purse snatcher or an embezzler to be a thief.  When we tell somebody that we will call them back, or that we will meet them at a certain place and time, and fail to do so without proper reason and without notifying them, then we are stealing their valuable time.  When we recklessly run ourselves into debt, we put ourselves in position where we may have to default on our obligations, which is tantamount to stealing.  And even more seriously, when we permit ourselves to become so entangled with the affairs of this life, that we do not take time to worship God and pray to Him, we rob Him of that which is His due.

From street gangs to government, from the atheist to the most religious, stealing of one variety or another has become commonplace.  Government imposes onerous taxation, which it then distributes to our fellow citizens or upon foreign governments.  Gangs, burglars, embezzlers, identity thieves, and vandals, are a plague upon society.  Wealthy investors and corporations, along with their friends in the central banks, conspire to inflate the money supply, robbing currency of its value, and thus de facto stealing from the industrious laborer.  Church goers fancy they placate God by sitting through an hour of religious service every week, and then ignoring the Most High for the remainder of the time.  We must all confess a measure of guilt upon these counts, and pray that God will grant a spirit of repentance to us as individuals, as communities, and as a nation.