Greg Laurie is the author of 12 inspirational books, which are available online.
Have you ever noticed that we live in a culture that assumes people will steal things, if given a chance? This is such a widespread problem we’ve simply grown accustomed to it:
- Clerks at gas stations and convenience stores take our money from behind bulletproof glass;
- Signs tell us that cashiers can’t open safes;
- Red lights blink on our dashboards indicating the car alarm is activated;
- Signs on our front lawns warn others that we have an alarm system installed;
- Security cameras monitor our every move in most stores.
A recent Newsweek article – “The ‘Thrill of Theft’: It’s not just movie stars. Why, each year, ordinary people shoplift $13 billion of lipsticks, batteries and bikinis from stores” – reported that there are over 800,000 incidents of shoplifting that occur each day in this country. Some retailers even use shoplifting as a guide to taste! “We know what’s hot among teens by seeing what they steal,” one retail analyst said.
An article from USA Today reports that nearly half of U.S. workers admit to taking unethical or illegal actions in the past year:
- 24 percent of Americans say they have lied and cheated on their income tax, at an annual cost of about $100 billion to the government;
- 22 percent of workers feel that stealing from their companies is sometimes justified;
- 33 percent confess to falsely calling in sick and collecting their sick pay.
In fact, according to a University of Florida survey, retail stores lose more to employee theft than to shoplifting. Most employee theft goes unreported, but employee-screening company Guardsmark estimates it at over $120 billion a year!
Even though most people know that stealing is wrong, many don’t know why. When asked for reasons why they shouldn’t steal, the most common answers are:
- No.1 Reason: “I might get caught.”
No. 2 Reason: “The other person might try to get even.”
No. 3 Reason: “You might not need the item.”
Newsflash! How about the fact that God says “You shall not steal”?
In previous articles we’ve been looking at God’s “Top Ten list” of all time, the Ten Commandments. We noticed how the first four commandments have to do with our vertical relationship with God, and the remaining five have to do with our horizontal relationship with other people.
Now we’re ready to look at the eighth commandment that says:
You must not steal. (Exodus 20:15)
This commandment is repeated in the New Testament:
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. (Ephesians 4:28)
Here are three simple principles on how to live our lives as Christians.
First, steal no longer. Don’t take anything that belongs to another person, or company, or whatever. If you have stolen something, give it back if at all possible! Remember the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19? He had made his living taking advantage of others, overcharging them in their taxes. But one day Jesus saw him up in a tree and invited himself over for a meal.
The two disappeared behind Zacchaeus’ closed door, but when they re-emerged, Zacchaeus said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.”
Second, do something useful (“but he must work”). Renew your commitment to work for everything you have. Like it or not, man must earn his bread “by the sweat of his brow.” (Genesis 3:19) As the apostle Paul wrote:
Even while we were with you, we gave you this rule: “Whoever does not work should not eat.” Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and wasting time meddling in other people’s business. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we appeal to such people – no, we command them: Settle down and get to work. Earn your own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12)
Look, the world doesn’t owe you a living and your parents can’t support you for the rest of your life, so get a job! Learn a work ethic!
Third, share what you have (“that he may have something to share with those in need”). Sharing is the opposite of stealing. God wants us to help others who are in need, and we need to work to do that in an honest and meaningful way!
Finally, did you know that it’s possible to steal from God Himself? Everything we have comes from God – since God is the Giver and Creator of life and its blessings. Everything you have is a gift from God! But when we withhold giving to others, we are taking what ultimately belongs to God and hoarding it for ourselves.
Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, “How have we robbed you?” In your tithes and contributions. (Malachai 3:8)
The Bible plainly teaches that each Christian should give to God on a regular basis. If you say, “I don’t have any money left for God,” then you are living in fear that God will not provide for your needs. You need to remember Jesus’ words:
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33)
Instead of stealing and living in fear that God won’t provide for your needs, seek God’s kingdom and righteousness, and trust that your needs will be met. Trust God, do something useful and share your blessings with others who are in need.