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UCG-A Bible Insights Thursday, November 25 2021

The Eighth Commandment

The Eighth Commandment: “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15) conveys to us that God intends people to enjoy the right of private property and also that the property of others should be respected.

The Eighth Commandment
The act of stealing can take many forms.
by Don Hooser

Active stealing—taking something that does not rightfully belong to you—is a sin of commission. Passive stealing—deliberately withholding what belongs to another—is a sin of omission. (An example of passive stealing would be failing to notify a cashier when undercharged or given too much change.)

Numerous scriptures forbid specific types of stealing. Following are some common behaviours that directly or indirectly violate the spirit of the Eighth Commandment:

  • Directly stealing money or physical property from individuals or companies.
  • Stealing from employers - failing to work diligently, being wasteful, embezzling etc.
  • Stealing from employees - overworking them, not paying a fair wage or providing promised benefits.
  • Defrauding with false claims, advertising or labeling.
  • Stealing someone’s good name or damaging their reputation with accusations, slander or gossip.
  • Installing ransomware on someone’s computer to force the owner to pay a ransom.
  • Stealing intellectual property by illegally copying software (including music and movies).
  • Stealing trust by breaking commitments, contracts and promises.

Click on the link below to read more about other examples of stealing.

Stealing From God

People steal from God in two major ways. God owns us because He created us—plus He sacrificed His Son to redeem us (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Therefore, our time, talents and energies should be devoted to serving and glorifying God.

Secondly, God owns everything, but He allows us to have stewardship over most of our earnings. He does however require we first pay a tithe (a tenth) and give offerings from our earnings. In Malachi 3:8, God said, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings.

Restitution For Stolen Goods

Under the covenant God made with Israel, when a thief was caught, he had to restore to the victim the value of what was stolen plus an additional amount (Leviticus 6:1-7). In most countries today, the “justice system” punishes criminals but does nothing for the victims of the crimes. If we have caused someone a loss or injury, we should do what we can to make up for the loss or expense.

The Way Of Give Versus The Way Of Get

If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will treat them like we want to be treated (Matthew 7:12). The following Bible verse teaches three lessons: “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labour, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need” (Ephesians 4:28):

  1. Never steal.
  2. Practice the biblical work ethic and be productive so you have enough to provide for your family plus give to others.
  3. Be compassionate and generous to those who need help.

God, the Judge of all, sees everything, and His Word declares that “thieves” . . . will not “inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:10). But God is amazingly merciful and forgives when there is true repentance.

Herod the Great

Herod had ruled the province of Judea, which encompassed most of the geographical areas of the former kingdoms of Israel and Judah, for almost 40 years at the time Jesus Christ was born, with secular history and archaeology confirming his reign (Matthew 2:1-3, 7-8).

He was a great builder, initiating construction projects in at least 20 cities or towns in Israel and more than 10 in foreign cities: "Archaeological excavations have uncovered a surprisingly large amount of evidence pertaining to Herod the Great Idumean who, in 41 B.C., was granted provisional rule of Galilee by Mark Antony [the friend of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra´s last lover] .... In 30 B.C. Octavian (Caesar Augustus) affirmed Herod's rule over Judea, Samaria, and Galilee .... Herod remained in power until his death in 4 B.C…." (Archaeology and the New Testament, 1997, p. 91).

But Herod was not just known for his great building, political and military skills, but also for his great cruelty. The Bible records his utter disregard for human life by describing his reaction to the birth of Jesus. When his scheme to identify the newborn Messiah failed (verses 7-8, 12), Herod lashed out with great violence: "Then Herod … sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under [the approximate age of Jesus], according to the time which he had determined from the wise men" (verse 16).

This massacre in Bethlehem was not out of character for Herod, who also had many members of his family put to death: “Herod in his rage over his family rivalries and jealousies put to death the two sons of Mariamne [his wife] (Aristobulus and Alexander), Mariamne herself, and Antipater, another son and once his heir, besides the brother and mother of Mariamne (Aristobulus, Alexandra) and her grandfather John Hyrcanus." (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Bible Explorer Software, 1997).

The New Testament description of Herod the Great is thus confirmed by what historians and archaeologists have found concerning his rulership, building projects, political strength and uncontrollable wrath toward anyone threatening his kingship.

The Census of Caesar Augustus

Luke, a meticulous historian, introduces other famous personages in his account of the birth of Christ. "And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered … So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city" (Luke 2:1-3).

Ancient papyrus census decrees have been found for the years 20, 34, 48, 62 and 104. These show a wide-ranging census normally took place every 14 years, although local counts were, at times, taken more frequently. A papyrus in the British Museum describes a census similar to Luke's account, taken in 104, in which people were ordered to return to their birthplaces: "Gaius Vibius Mazimus, Prefect of Egypt: Seeing that the time has come for the house to house census, it is necessary to compel all those ... to return to their own homes, that they may both carry out the regular order of the census and may also attend diligently to the cultivation of their allotments" (Frederick G. Kenyon, Greek Papyri in the British Museum, 1907, plate 30).

Joseph's Occupation in Nazareth

Joseph was a skilled craftsman who worked not only with wood, but with stone masonry. The usual term translated as "carpenter" in the Bible (Mark 6:3) is from the Greek term ‘tekton’, which has the broader meaning of 'artisan,' referring to a skilled worker who works on hard material such as wood or stone or even horn or ivory. “In Jesus' day construction workers were not as highly specialized as in today's workforce. For example, the tasks performed by carpenters and masons could easily overlap" (Richard A. Batey, Jesus & the Forgotten City: New Light on Sepphoris and the Urban World of Jesus, p. 76).

Although Nazareth was a small village in Galilee of no more than a few hundred inhabitants, Joseph and Jesus likely found steady work in the city of Sepphoris four miles away, where huge construction projects were transforming the city into a large, regional centre.

Recent archaeological excavations in Sepphoris show it to have been a bustling, prosperous city during the years Jesus grew up in nearby Nazareth. Shirley Jackson Case, professor of New Testament at the University of Chicago, remarks “.... It requires no very daring flight of the imagination to picture the youthful Jesus seeking and finding employment in the neighboring city of Sepphoris. But whether or not he actually labored there, his presence in the city on various occasions can scarcely be doubted..." (Batey, pp. 70-71).

These historical records help us better understand the background of Christ's teachings, which included illustrations drawn not just from farming and animal husbandry, but also construction, rulers and nobility, the theater, government, finance and other aspects of city life.