You shall not steal.
Because God wants us to respect the property of others, because God wants us to treat others in the way we want to be treated, because God wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves, he tells us plainly not to steal.
Stealing is more nuanced than we might think.
One way to steal is seizure – old-fashioned theft. This includes burglaries, shoplifting, car theft, muggings and store robberies. It includes pilfering items from your workplace. Moreover, we can steal productivity from our employer if we consistently come in late, take too long for lunch or work on personal things. Unless we make this time up, we are stealing time from our employer.
Another form of seizure could be called long-term borrowing. We borrow something from a friend. A ladder, a book, a CD. We intend to return it, but the days go by, perhaps the months go by, and we just don’t return it.
Besides seizure, there’s deception. We are not honest about the house or the car we are selling. A businessman is not honest about a product or a service. A mechanic is not honest with a customer about the brakes. A physician is not honest with a patient about a surgery. We lie on our income tax return. Will Rogers once said that “the income tax has made more liars of the American people than the game of golf has.”
In addition to seizure and deception, there’s fraud – withholding something that belongs to someone else. If we hit a car in a parking lot and don’t leave a note, if a husband does not make child support payments, if a landlord does not return a deposit that is due, if we do not pay a bill we owe (assuming we are not unemployed and make some provision to repay), in all these cases, we violate the eighth commandment.
There are a lot of ways to steal besides robbing a store. And God tells us,“Do not steal. Treat your neighbor the way you want to be treated. In obeying my commands, you are liberated, liberated to enjoy life and to enjoy me.”