By Bryan Kirby
Are we under the Ten Commandments today?
The eighth commandment seems pretty straightforward: “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15 ESV). No person is to take property that does not belong to him or her. Other passages in the Old Law expand upon this initial prohibition to include a variety of other actions that could be defined as “stealing.” Leviticus 19:11-13 reads: “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD. You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning.”
It is plain that lying in business transactions is also considered under the Law to be stealing. There were also many who would use the name of God as a promise that their business dealings were on the up-and-up, when in fact they were making false promises. This is a clear violation of both commandment one and commandment eight. It was also considered theft to withhold the wages of a worker until the next day.
In a society where we regularly expect to be paid for our labor either weekly or every two weeks, we don’t fully understand why this prohibition was so important. Ancient Israel was an agrarian society that depended on manual labor and farm production. Each one of these laborers did not likely have any other money aside from what he or she earned that day. If they were not paid, they might not be able to purchase food for themselves or their families. A worker simply MUST be paid.
The New Testament also has many prohibitions against such thievery. In Ephesians 4:28, the Apostle Paul writes: “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” This was not just a command for a thief to stop being a thief, but instead for him to become something more. Each person is encouraged to become a productive member of the society around them so that he or she can not only provide for his or her own needs, but that they might also give back to those who cannot do for themselves.
Paul also points out in Romans 13:9-11 that if we follow the idea of loving our neighbor, we don’t have to worry about being in violation of the Law. When we love our neighbor, we are not going to seek to take things that belong to them away from them. Love will prevent us from cheating someone in a business dealing or withholding what a worker deserves to be paid. Love also calls us to be productive and not take advantage of those who may be tender hearted, if a little naive, and give to those who would not work even though they could.
Let us all live lives of love and seek to do what is right for our neighbor and in the eyes of God.
- Bryan Kirby preaches for the Goodwood Boulevard church of Christ in Baton Rouge, LA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.goodwoodchurch.org