LESSON 10 March 8, 2015
You shall not steal
“Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” (Eph 4:28)
The eighth commandment concerns the protection of property and covers a wide range of theft modalities on which a Christian person must be watchful not to fall into the wiles of the devil.
Exodus 20:15; 22:1-9
Ex 20:15 – “You shall not steal
Ex 22:1-“Whoever steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep.
2 – “If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed;
3 – But if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed.“Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft.
4 – If the stolen animal is found alive in their possession—whether ox or donkey or sheep—they must pay back double.
5 – “If anyone grazes their livestock in a field or vineyard and lets them stray and they graze in someone else’s field, the offender must make restitution from the best of their own field or vineyard.
6 – “If a fire breaks out and spreads into thornbushes so that it burns shocks of grain or standing grain or the whole field, the one who started the fire must make restitution.
7 – “If anyone gives a neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor’s house, the thief, if caught, must pay back double.
8 – But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges, and they must determine whether the owner of the house has laid hands on the other person’s property.
9 – In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says, ‘This is mine,’ both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to the other.
To show the eighth commandment, pointing out that a theft or an unlawful acquisition of properties are abomination to the Lord and harm others.
I – TO TREAT the scope and the goal of the eighth Commandment
II – TO SHOW what the Mosaic law says about theft.
III – TO LIST some damage that should be avoided, according to the Mosaic law.
IV – TO INTRODUCE work as a blessing from God.
The eighth commandment is the third in the series of absolute prohibitions expressed in four words and speaks basically about money and possessions, work and business. There can be no peace in a society if there is no mutual respect for property. Everyon has the right to have possessions and property, and no one has the right to deprive them of their achievements if they get things in a lawful way.
I. THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT
1. Scope. In a superficial reading, it seems to be just about banning theft itself or even about unlawfully taking away property or possessions from other people or groups. But the commandment goes far beyond that. It refers to any business with an illegal advantage and that brings harm to others (Lv 6:2; 19:11,13). It is even extended to employment provision so that everyone can earn a living in a dignified and honorable way, and this involves social justice (Proverbs 14:34). This is the challenge for governments worldwide.
2. Goal. The purpose of the commandment “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15; Deuteronomy 5:19) is the protection and respect for other people’s property and for neighbors. Linked to this commandment is work as a resource for every person to support their family with dignity (Eph 4:28). The legislation is given to Israel in a hypothetical structure, using assumptions, an easy-to-understand manner (Ex 22:1-15). Dishonesty in all its forms is a cancer in society, an evil that must be eradicated.
3. Context. According to rabbinic tradition, the primary meaning of this commandment was the prohibition of abductiing people to be sold as slaves. The same Hebrew verb ganav, “steal”, is used to refer to human traffickihg (Ex 21:16; Deut 24:7). This type of crime was common at that time; the abduction of Joseph of Egypt evidences that social context (Gen. 37:22-28). The New Testament mentions this evil practice (1 Tim 1:10). Rabbinic interpretation is acceptable and has the support of most of the Old Testament exhibitors, but the eighth commandment is not restricted to that.
II. THE MOSAIC LAW ABOUT THEFT
1. The penalty for stealing cattle and sheep. The structure of the mosaic system here belongs to the spiritual realm (1 Cor 6:10). The penalty for those who stole animals in Israel was the restitution of five head for ox and four head for sheep (Ex 22:1 or 21:37 in the Hebrew Bible). It was a lighter penalty than the Code of Hammurabi, whose restitution was thirty times for each animal. But if the animal was alive, the punishment was to pay back double (Ex 22.4). The penalty was further reduced if the thief voluntarily confessed the theft: it would then be twenty percent (Leviticus 6:4,5).
2. Stealing at night involving breaking into the house. According to the Law, if the owner of the house comes across a thief in his house at night and kills him, he “will not be guilty of blood” (Ex 22 2). It is not, therefore, about a premeditated murder (Ex 21.2,13); Furthermore, darkness does not always enable the identification of the thief, and the burglar may also be armed. The home owner can even claim self-defense.
3. The day thief. The law protects the life of the thief. If he is caught in the act during the day, the home owner “shall be guilty of blood” if he kills him (Ex 22:3a). In this case, the penalty imposed on the thief is restitution: “Anyone who steals must certainly make restitution, but if they have nothing, they must be sold to pay for their theft” ( 22:3b). This passage seems to have been displaced from verse 1. If the captured thief cannot afford to pay back the theft, as required by law, he will be sold as a slave; within the Mosaic Law, with this, he is expected to learn the lesson (Ex 21:2).
III. ABOUT MATERIAL DAMAGE
1. loose animal. Here the law talks about the responsibility of everyone for the welfare of society. Whoever has animals should take care not to disturb their neighbors. The text refers to destruction in the field, farm or in other kinds of plantations. The owner of the animal is condemned by law to indemnify the impaired land owner with the best of his field, since the damage in the field, or in the vineyard of the other person, was not voluntary, he just let the animal wandering loose (Ex 22:5) .
2. Involuntary fire. The law makes the guilty person responsible for the destruction of the property, someone else’s plantation carried out in a lack of care that have led the fire to burn it (Exodus 22:6). The person responsible for the damage must repair the damage by indemnifying the harmed owner. In Palestine there were about seventy species of thorns that served as dividing walls for properties and surrounded wheat plantations (Isaiah 5:5). This also generated conflicts in land demarcation (Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17; Proverbs 22:28).
3. The theft and the thief. The law here speaks about storing up money and possessions. The term used for “silver”, in Hebrew, is Kessef, “money” and “objects”, and kelim, “articles, utensils, pots”, also translated as “outfit, clothing, garment” (Deut 22:5). If any of these things is under someone’s protection and is stolen, the thief will pay back double if he is identified (Ex 22:7). But if the author of the theft is not found, the custodian will have to prove his innocence in court (Ex 22:8).
1. A blessing. In the Garden of Eden, God put man to work even before the fall (Gen. 1:26-28); 2:15). The Bible is full of teachings about work (Ex 34:21; 2 Thessalonians 3:10). Human beings find fulfillment through work. What can sometimes make it boring are low wages, poor working conditions and the oppression imposed by bad bosses (James 5: 4-6), but work itself is rewarding (Ec 3:22). The employer should be careful not to delay the payment of his employees (Lev 19:13) and they must be honest in what they do and say (Col 3:22-25).
2. Possessions. Jesus gave up wealth (2 Cor 8:9; Phil 2: 6,7) and, as it seems, he expected the same from his disciples (Lk 9:3; 10:4; 14:33). Besides, Jesus told the rich young man to give his possessions to the poor (Mt 19:21), but he did not require it of Zacchaeus, who freely offered to donate half of his possessions to the poor (Luke 19.8). It is not required a vow of poverty to be a Christian, but wealth can be a stumbling block in a Christian person’s life (Mt 13:22). Christian faith does not condemn material assets, since they are honestly acquired. It is the love of money, and not money itself, the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim 6:9,10).
3. The New Testament. The eighth commandment is reaffirmed several times in the NT (Mt 15:19; Rom 2:21; 13:9; 1 Peter 4:15), but adapted to grace, because the penalties laid down in the Mosaic Law do not appear in the New Covenant. The Lord Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5:17 The apostle Paul encourages work not only for the support of the family (1 Tim 5.8), but also that everyone may contribute to meeting the need of their neighbors (See 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9).
A Christian person must have a good behavior (1 Cor 10:32) and exhale the fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:15) wherever he lives and wherever he goes, and this way God will be glorified (Mt 5:16).