Calvary Road Baptist Church

ďLESSONS FROM THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENTĒ

Exodus 20.15

 

Turn in your Bible to Exodus 20.15. When you find that verse in your Bible please stand for the reading of Godís Word: ďThou shalt not steal.Ē

There are three kinds of lessons to be learned from this commandment, this prohibition, and the place it is found among the Laws handed down from God to Moses on Mount Sinai.

 

First, THERE ARE LESSONS TO BE DRAWN FROM THE PRIORITY OF THIS COMMAND

 

It is likely that you are already aware of the directionality of the ten commandments, with the first four oriented vertically and speaking to manís relationship with God, while the second table of the Law, the last six commandments, are oriented horizontally and speak to manís relationship with men. However, you may not have taken note in your reading, study, and meditation upon Godís Word that there is another priority to be found in the handing down of the Law. Notice, if you will, that the first laws have to do with God, no other gods, no idols, no vain speech using Godís name, and no profaning of the Sabbath, the day God rested from His creative works. The next laws in line have to do directly with manís relationship with other people, the sanctity of the home (honor your parents), the sanctity of life (do not kill), and the sanctity of marriage (do not commit adultery).

This eighth commandment, the one we are considering this evening, is the first commandment that deals with your relationship with stuff, material things. To be sure, it is one of the commands that order your dealings with other people. However, this commandment really orders your dealings with other people by establishing the other personís right to own and exercise sovereignty over his own stuff, his property rights.

What do we see by the priorities of the commands found in the Decalogue? We see that the priorities are God first, people are second, and material possessions rank third in importance as priorities.

 

Next, THERE ARE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM THE PUNISHMENT ASSOCIATED WITH THIS COMMAND

 

The first commandment, which forbids having any other gods before the God of Israel, is punishable by the death of those who violate the Law. The second commandment, which forbids bowing down to any graven image, is punishable by the death of those who violate the Law. The third commandment, which forbids the taking of the LORDís name in vain, is punishable by the death of the offender. And the fourth commandment, which requires observance of the Sabbath as holy, was punishable by the deaths of those who did not observe it. Therefore, you see, transgressing those Laws pertaining directly to oneís relationship with God were punishable by death. As well, when a youngster violated the prohibition against dishonoring his father and his mother, he was summarily executed by stoning, with his parents being the first to cast stones at the offending child, Deuteronomy 21.20. Likewise, anyone guilty of committing adultery or taking anotherís life could be punished by forfeiting his life. Thus, God showed His serious intentions to establish the sanctity of the home, establish the sanctity of the marriage, and establish the sanctity of human life, was clearly seen.

However, when someone was found guilty of property theft, he was not executed. Surprising to many, neither were thieves confined to imprisonment for their property crimes of stealing animals, money, or valuables. What was required instead was restitution. Turn to Exodus 22.1-7:

 

1      If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.

2      If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.

3      If the sun be risen upon him, there shall be blood shed for him; for he should make full restitution; if he have nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft.

4      If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double.

5      If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another manís field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution.

6      If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution.

7      If a man shall deliver unto his neighbour money or stuff to keep, and it be stolen out of the manís house; if the thief be found, let him pay double.

 

Now turn to Proverbs 6.30-31:

 

30     Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;

31     But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.

 

Restitution was variable, but it was always between double to seven times what was stolen. Thus, nonviolent offenders were not incarcerated. They were heavily fined. How would you like to see car-jackers required to pay back the guy whose BMW they stole by giving him four more BMWs, instead of sending him to prison where he could go to car theft graduate school?

What do we learn from a consideration of the punishments for the various violations of Godís Law? We learn that a personís relationship with God and with other people is vastly more important than his relationship to stuff, material possessions, or money. Steal stuff and it will cost you a lot of money, or a great deal of time to work for paying something off. However, violate one of the first seven commandments, dealing with God, Godís Sabbath, the home, the marriage, or another personís life being taken, and the penalty was death. Thus, the punishments meted out show that possessions are far less important than God or other people.

 

Finally, THERE ARE LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM THE PRINCIPLES BEHIND THIS COMMAND

 

It is obvious that principles that are applicable to every area of life lay back of this and other scriptural prohibitions. What can be stated as universal principles from this command? Several things:

First, God is more important than stuff. Does this not make sense? The Creator is more important than the stuff He created, therefore He deserves greater respect and consideration than mere material things. God is more important than a car, any car. God is more important than a house, any house. God is more important than money, which is just stuff in pocket-sized form. How wrong people are, then, who pay more attention to money and other forms of stuff than God does.

Next, people are more important than stuff. Again, this just makes sense. Those who are the greatest of Godís creations, who are actually made in Godís image and after His likeness, are more important than other created things which do not bear Godís image. That means other people are more important than any car. Other people are more important than any house. Other people are more important than money.

 

Is this not terribly simple to understand? Yet there are so many people whose lives do not reflect the lessons we learn from priorities, the lessons we learn from the various punishments, and the lessons we learn from the underlying principles.

Now do you see why some people resort to savage brutality and wickedness in their dealings with other people, and when they take what belongs to others by force or deception? Not acknowledging God, how can they see that God is first and men are second ahead of nice cars and jewelry? Of course, they behave like animals, thinking they have a right to take what they want from others by force.

To be sure, there are moral people who abide by the Law and do their best not to hurt anyone. However, so long as Godís Law does not instruct them, they cannot fully comprehend the proper relationship of a man to his money and possessions. Since God is the Creator and man is created in the image of God, it is only fitting that material things, possessions, property, and money, be useful to both the Creator and the highest of Godís creatures. That is something only the Christian can accomplish by his giving.

Consider. When men give their possessions to benefit men, they are not using their possessions to glorify God. When men give their riches to build a religious building where the gospel is not proclaimed, some seek to honor God, but they do so without in any way benefiting men. However, the child of God alone is capable of observing the proper priority God has established and desires for us to recognize with our lives and ministries. It is God first, men second, and possessions third, with possessions used by men to worship and glorify God, while at the same time most greatly benefiting men by supporting the gospel ministry.

To be sure, it is a wonderful thing not to steal property that belongs to another. However, what God was establishing when He instituted this Law for His chosen nation, Israel, was the establishing of a proper relationship between His people and God, between His people and other people, and between His people and material things.

My hope and desire is that you consider your relationship with God, your relationships with other people, and finally your relationship with material possessions, stuff. How can you best use what you possess? By using what you possess to bring the lost to Christ, thereby seeing them reconciled to God.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org