Has your wallet, purse or bicycle ever been stolen? Ha your home been burglarized?
If so, you are not alone. For example, during 1983 in the United States alone, a theft occurred every five seconds!
If people everywhere could be trusted not to steal, there would no longer be a need for keys, locks, hidden television cameras, burglar alarms, guards or guard dogs. We would feel free to leave our belongings right in the open. And lost items would be returned to their rightful owners if at all possible.
Is such a world possible? Yes! Your Bible shows that a time of universal honesty is indeed coming in the near future.
In this study, we'll learn about some of the ways people steal without realizing it. We'll also learn some basic principles about the Eighth Commandment and discover the benefits that come from keeping it.
Before you begin this study. be sure to get your Bible, a pen or pencil and some paper. Look up, read and then write down the verses that answer each question. This will help you to remember the important principles you'll be learning.
1. What is the Eighth Commandment? Exodus 20:15. Did Jesus Christ teach obedience to the Ten Commandments? Matthew 19:17-19. Did He follow them Himself? John 15:10. And did Jesus' apostles continue to teach obedience to God's commandments after His crucifixion? I John 5:2-3, 2:4.
The Eighth Commandment - "You shall not steal" - is a law of God intended to protect all private property and possessions.
Obvious forms of breaking this law include shoplifting, pick pocketing, robbery, rigged scales, evading taxes, padding insurance claims and passing bad checks.
Other forms of stealing include plagiarism (using someone else's written work as one's own), the destruction of another's property (through vandalism or arson), cheating on exams, photocopying music and duplicating copyrighted tapes without permission.
Less obvious forms of stealing include wasting an employer's money by daydreaming on the job or through shoddy workmanship, borrowing items without asking (or forgetting to return them) and not attempting to return a lost item to its owner.
2. In addition to the Ten Commandments, God gave instructions about how to make restoration when a commandment was broken. What did God instruct should be done when theft occurs? Read and summarize Exodus 22:1-15.
The principles outlined in these verses, if applied today, would dramatically reduce all kinds of theft!
3. Do the Ten Commandments tell us how to show love to God and other people? Matthew 22:37-40. Is refraining from stealing a way of expressing love to others? Romans 13:9.
"God is love" (I John 4:16) and the fulfilling of God's law is love (Romans 13:8, 10). The Ten Commandments express the character of God.
Since God wants us to develop His character (Matthew 5:48), it is His desire that we learn not to steal. Taking anything that belongs to someone else is the opposite of the nature and character of God. A thief simply does not have the true love and concern for others that God wants each of us to be developing. God wants us to give and share (Acts 20:35), rather than take from others.
4. Will a person striving to keep the Eighth Commandment, as well as the other nine, be successful in life? Read and summarize Psalm 1:1-6 and Joshua 1:7-8. What specific benefit will he or she enjoy? Psalm 119:165. But what kind of life can a thief expect? Proverbs 29:24, 22:22-23.
The person who keeps God's commandments lives without a guilty conscience. He or she has peace of mind and contentment. But those who cheat or steal certainly don't have peace of mind. They are in constant fear of being caught.
Thieves can end up losing everything in one fell swoop when their stealing finally catches up with them. They can severely damage their chances for success in life and destroy the good name they once may have had!
5. What does God say of those who are faithful (trustworthy) in the smallest of matters? Luke 16:10, Matthew 25:21.
In God's sight, those who are trustworthy in the smallest things can be trusted with greater responsibilities. Even small, seemingly unimportant deeds such as telling a store clerk about an undercharged item or returning excess change, are noticed by God. And bosses, parents, teachers and friends can't help but notice someone who is consistently honest - who resists the temptation to steal even the smallest of items. Promotions, higher pay and other opportunities flow to such people.
A man known for his integrity and honesty
If people everywhere could be trusted never to steal, there would no longer be a need for locks!was Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States. As a young store clerk, Mr. Lincoln is said to have walked more than two miles one night just to return 6 1/4 cents to a woman he had accidentally overcharged.
Harry S. Truman, another former president of the United States, was careful to avoid taking even the smallest items that were not his. He reportedly refused to use government stationery or stamps for strictly private matters.
6. Will those who work diligently to obtain their needs, rather than steal to get them, suffer from poverty or hunger? Proverbs 12:11. Just how much effort should we put into everything that we do? Ecclesiastes 9:10.
To become successful requires determination, diligence, sacrifice and hard work. But many are unwilling to put forth this kind of effort to obtain what they want. Instead, many resort to playing the angles, cheating and outright stealing.
Those who practice the principle in Ecclesiastes 9:10 not only experience material blessings, they don't have to live with the fears and worries of those who obtain things illegally.
7. What should a person caught in the grip of cheating or stealing do? Ephesians 4:28. Should he also seek advice and counsel? Proverbs 11:14, 12:15.
If you are finding it difficult to be honest, the first thing to do is face up to it by admitting it to yourself. Then seek wise counsel from your parents, minister or another respected person. Finding someone to confide in and asking for help can be of great benefit.
Above all, ask God for help. He is more than willing to give us the strength necessary to overcome any harmful habit, including stealing, if we ask Him (Matthew 7:7-8).
8. Will there be any thieves in the coming Kingdom of God? I Corinthians 6:9-10. What will become of those who refuse to obey God's commandments? Revelation 21:8. But will those who sincerely strive to keep the commandments receive eternal life as sons of God? Matthew 19:16-17, Revelation 21:7.
God has promised membership in His Family to those who strive to obey Him in everything they do. As members of His universe-ruling Family, they will live and rule with God and Christ forever.
Your Bible shows that an awe-inspiring, incredibly wonderful future awaits those who learn to follow God's way of life!
(To learn more about the Eighth Commandment and how to apply it in your life, be sure to read our free booklet, The Ten Commandments.)