I want to describe a Norman Rockwell picture. An elderly lady is in a butcher shop buying a turkey. The turkey is on the scale while the lady and the butcher are smiling at each other. Behind the counter the butcher has his thumb on the scale pushing it down to make a little extra profit from this lady. But what makes the picture so unique is that the old lady is on the other side smiling up at him with her finger pushing up on the scale trying to balance it out.
This picture is true to life in our culture. Two people are admiring each other and at the same time cheating each other. Each is really stealing from the other pretending that everything is ok. Many people in our culture try to steal from each other. Sometimes stealing is obvious like when a thief breaks into a house and steals a TV. Sometimes the stealing is not so obvious like when people try to take advantage of others by cheating them behind their back like in the picture.
I want to answer three questions about the eighth commandment in this message. First, what does God ask of us when he says, “You shall not steal”? Second, why does God tell us not to steal? Third, how can we obey this commandment today?
First, what does God ask of us when he says, “You shall not steal?” God is saying that it is morally wrong to take things that belong to someone else. We should keep our hands off of other people’s stuff. The New Testament tells us about the positive side of this commandment. Ephesians 4 says that we should use our abilities to work to get things rather than steal and that we should also help people who do not have things to get what they need. We should be generous and share our possessions with people who have nothing or who have very little.
Second, why does God tell us not to steal? We should not steal because if we respect a person we should respect that person’s property. Possessions are a part of someone’s identity so if we steal something from them it is disrespecting them. Another reason that stealing is wrong is that it destroys community by breaking trust. When people are afraid that their things might be stolen they build walls around their houses and shut themselves out from people in need.
Third, how can we obey this commandment today? I want to answer that question by looking at how Jesus explained it in a story he told in Luke about the Good Samaritan. Jesus wants us to obey the eighth commandment, “You shall not steal”, but he also tells us to do something positive by saying, “You shall share.” In this story there are three attitudes that people have about possessions. Jesus’ story was about a man who got beat up and had things stolen from him. Then a priest and a Levite came by but did not help him. Finally, a Samaritan came by and helped him by sharing with him.
The first attitude is a stealing attitude. Robbers beat up a man and took his stuff. This is an obvious violation of the eighth commandment and is not the way we should get things. Lewis Smedes has a motto for this attitude: “What’s yours is mine, I’ll take it.” Ephesians 4 says that we should work to get things and not steal.
The second attitude is a selfish attitude. The priest and the Levite saw the man who got beat up and kept walking. They did not want to help the man. This is also a violation of the eighth commandment even though people do not think so. Even though they did not take anything, they did not give anything away either. Lewis Smedes’ motto for this attitude is: “What’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine, I’ll keep it.” Sometimes people might even rob God by not giving him offerings. That is selfish.
The third attitude is a sharing attitude. The Samaritan helped the man and shared with him. He took time to bandage the man’s wounds. It also cost him money to pay for a motel room. This is an example of how Jesus wants us to keep the eighth commandment. He wants us to share our possessions. Lewis Smedes’ motto for this attitude is: What’s mine is yours, I’ll share it.” Many people are selfish and want to keep what they think belongs to them. The Bible says that we do not own anything; all of our stuff belongs to God.
I want to conclude with a story. A father and a son went to McDonald’s to eat. The boy got a Happy Meal and the dad got a Big Mac and coke. The dad saw his son’s fries and wanted some and said, “Can I have one of your fries?” The son grabbed his fries and said, “No, they are mine!” The dad thought that was selfish. First, the dad thought, I paid for those fries; my son did not have any money. Second, he thought if we need more fries I have more money to buy some more fries. That is what we do many times. God asks us to help, give and share, but we say, “No, it is mine, I cannot give that up.” God says, “I gave all of your stuff to you in the first place, it is not yours. If you have a need because you share I can give you more.”
You may think that you are not breaking the eighth commandment if you are not a thief and break into people’s houses. God says if you are not sharing you are breaking the eighth commandment. It is a good thing that God decided to share with us. He shared his only Son for our eternal life. Let us have the same attitude as God by sharing what he has given us.