The Seventh Commandment

The Seventh Commandment safeguards everyone's right to legitimately acquire and own property. God wants that right honored and protected.


“You shall not steal.” Deuteronomy 5:19


The Seventh Commandment, which forbids theft, calls our attention to two opposite ways of thinking and living. An approach that emphasizes getting rather than giving wins all contests for popularity. But the giving approach epitomizes God's love for others.


Theft is the ultimate assertion of the greedy, lustful way of life, one that emphasizes acquiring material and intangible things with no regard for the rights and feelings of others. It scorns conventions and boundaries established by society and God. It is the epitome of selfishness. The spiritual intent of the Commandment against stealing tells us where the battle against selfishness begins. It originates when we learn to appreciate the rights and needs of others.


The Seventh Commandment safeguards everyone's right to legitimately acquire and own property. God wants that right honored and protected. His approach to material wealth is balanced. He wants us to prosper and enjoy physical blessings (3 John 1:2). He also expects us to show wisdom in how we use what He provides us. But He does not want possessions to be our primary pursuit in life (Matthew 6:25-33). When we see material blessings as a means to achieve more important objectives, God enjoys seeing us prosper.


To Him it is important that generosity rather than greed motivate the choices we make. Because they are qualities of His own character, He asks that from the heart we put giving and serving ahead of lavishing possessions on ourselves.


God is willing to be our partner in serving others if we replace greed with a devotion to serving. He looks at the measure of the intensity of our commitment to that giving way of life. Paul expresses it clearly. “Every man according as he purpose in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work:” 2 Corinthians 9:7-8


God rejoices when He sees us, once our own needs are met, using any additional abundance in blessings to increase our usefulness and service to others. He then can know we are beginning to understand and follow His way of life.


A thief must go far beyond simply ceasing his larceny to please God. Someone once wisely observed, “A thief who has quit stealing may still be a thief at heart—a thief just temporarily unemployed. He really ceases to be a thief only if and when he replaces stealing with giving.” A thief has to change his heart and outlook.


Directly taking another's possessions is not the only way to steal. Con artists use sophisticated scams to swindle their victims. Deceptive advertisements do the same. Manufacturers who misleadingly advertise their products of substandard quality cheat their customers. Laborers who bill for more hours than they work or charge more than their services are worth are stealing from those who hire them. Then there are those who “borrow” but never return. There are so many ways to take what is not ours that we must stay on our guard. We could be breaking God's Commandment against stealing without realizing what we are doing.

Employees who do not work although paid to do so are stealing from their employers. People who delight in consuming what others produce while refusing to carry their share of the load and responsibility or their part in the production of goods and services engage in still another form of stealing. They siphon away what others produce but make little or no contribution themselves. They take and give little in return. Notice Jesus Christ's parable of the person who refuses to assume personal responsibility: 24 "Then he who had received the one talent came and said, 'Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours. 26 "But his lord answered and said to him, 'You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.” Matthew 25:24-26  The man in this parable knew that his job was to produce for his master. But because of his own distorted outlook, he willingly chose to be unproductive. He knew the rules and responsibilities placed on him. He had no excuse for his slack behavior. Jesus' parable continues, 27 “So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. 28 Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.” Matthew 25:27-28. The man's employer called him “wicked and lazy.” At heart he was no different from a thief. Therefore his boss gave his reward to another who had worked hard to benefit someone besides himself. Jesus used this parable to illustrate God's low opinion of self pity and selfishness.

God wants us to have confidence in the future. His Word is full of promises concerning our future in His Kingdom. If we believe those promises, we will invest our time and energy in acquiring a wealth of spiritual treasures that will last forever and treasures that no thief can take from us. That is the advice of Jesus Christ. 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; Matthew 6:19-20


We need to understand and apply true values to life. We need to concentrate on building character traits that will endure beyond physical life. At the heart of it all is love. Godly love defeats the desire to steal.