The Series on the Ten Commandments: In Case You Missed It

Recently, I completed a series on the Ten Commandments. In the series introduction, I offered three reasons why the Ten Commandments remain important for our day:

1. The Ten Commandments communicate the character of God;

2. They show us the need for mediator;

3. They show us God’s grace.

In case you missed any of the series, here are the links to the series.

The First Command: You Shall Have No Other gods Before Me

Quick Summary: From the hit movie, The Life of Pi, to the gods of Mount Olympus, the Bible’s rationale for why worship should be exclusive.

The Second Command: Do Not Worship Idols

Quick Summary: Idols are not simply found on the silver screen of Indiana Jones movies or inside the pages of  National Geographic magazines.

The Third Command: Do Not Take the Lord’s Name in Vain

Quick Summary: More than profanity, God’s name is trademarked and copyrighted.

The Fourth Command: Remember the Sabbath

Quick Summary: Remembering our need for rest.

The Fifth Command: Honor Your Father and Mother

Quick Summary: Exploring the biblical stories of Noah and Joseph in how best to honor our parents.

The Sixth Command: You Shall Not Murder

Quick Summary: Thoughts on the practice of suicide, euthanasia, and abortion in looking at God’s rationale to protect human life.

The Seventh Command: You Shall Not Commit Adultery

Quick Summary: God designed sex as act that glues two people together. Sex is relational cement that belongs only in marriage.

The Eight Command: You Shall Not Steal

Quick Summary: Ask any mother of a preschooler and she will tell you children possess a keen sense of ownership.

The Ninth Command: You Shall Not Lie

Quick Summary: From former Notre Dame coach George O’Leary to the famous court cases of Casey Anthony and George Zimmerman, a look at the level of honesty in contemporary culture.

The Tenth Command: You Shall Not Covet

Quick Summary: The command that places handcuffs on our hearts in addition to our hands.

God Isn’t Tired: Thoughts on Psalm 121

If you were a “fly on the wall” in heaven, you would never hear God ask for a break. God’s workplace has no break room. OHSA’s standards of safety and work regulations do not extend to God’s home. Further, God owns no bed. He doesn’t pay attention to the TV ads about the “Sleep Number” bed. Nor does He wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

God never sweats. Though He upholds the universe at all times (Hebrews 1:3) and continually watches over sparrows (Matthew 10:29), He never perspires and His energy level never fails nor falters. You will never find Him grabbing a cup of coffee to caffeinate Himself. God doesn’t need anything to keep going. He doesn’t drink energy drinks like Red Bull or Rock Star. Why? Because God is a continual, never-ending source of energy. The Bible tells us that He has life in Himself (John 5:26). Everyone and everything receive their energy from Him.

I remind you of God’s work ethic because of what God does for His children. Listen to how the Bible describes God’s work on behalf of His followers:

I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?
 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore” (Psalm 121:1-8).

obama-mccain.jpeg-1280x960During the 2008 United States presidential election debates between President Obama and Senator McCain, there was a great deal of talk about relying on foreign oil. That is, America has too long relied on power sources from foreign entities that do not like us. There was a major push to seek new energy sources and rely on natural resources inside the United States. But God is telling us to rely on foreign sources to supply us energy. Our power source is outside of us and it doesn’t come from “eating our Wheaties” in the morning. Christians serve by relying on a foreign power source, by relying on a wealthy energy philanthropist … God. When we rely on Him, there is no burnout. When we take energy from His wallet, there is infinite power. More importantly, when we lean on Him, we are humble and He receives the glory. The Bible continually reminds us how God loves to give His strength and energy to His followers (2 Chronicles 16:9; Mark 10:45). Indeed, He asks that we cast our every care upon Him (1 Peter 5:7).

Sleep is daily reminder from God that we are not God. Once a day, God sends us to bed and while we sleep, God handles the world quite nicely. Sleep reminds us that we are not in control. God is. God is the Great Worker. Not you.

The Eighth Command: You Shall Not Steal

The well-known painter, Norman Rockwell, often painted humorous scenes that resonated with American culture. Among his more memorable paintings is a scene from a butcher’s shop. Behind the counter is a jolly butcher, with his apron stretched over his belly and rockwall butcherhis pencil tucked neatly behind one ear. Also in the picture is his customer, a respectable looking woman of perhaps sixty. Like the butcher, she looks pleased. The two of them exchange a knowing smile, almost as if they were sharing a joke, but the joke is on them.

The painting shows what each is secretly doing. The butcher is pressing the scale down with his finger so as to raise the price. At the same time, the woman is trying to get a better deal by pushing the scale up with her finger. The reason both of them looked pleased is that neither is aware of what the other is doing.

The Eighth Command

Honesty is a rarity. Yet, even people who do not read the Bible respect the eighth commandment:

“You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15)

While the Bible’s promotion of honesty is simple and straightforward, it becomes more complex in real life. Stealing has become big business in our wireless age. A survey of 583 companies in the United States revealed ninety percent of those who responded said their organizations’ computers had been breached at least once by hackers over the past twelve months. More than forty percent of the businesses surveyed stated they had spent more than $500,000 in security measures in an attempt to stop the security breaches.

In the United States, someone steals another’s property every three seconds. (Source: Mark Rooker, The Ten Commandments). Stealing goes by many names in our society: burglary, robbery, larceny, hijacking, shoplifting, embezzlement, extortion, racketeering, pick pocketing, or purse snatching. Yet, no matter the name, it’s all the same – it’s stealing.

The Necessity of Integrity

The act of stealing is the secret taking of another’s property without the owner’s knowledge or permission. Put simply: to steal is take something that doesn’t belong to you. This includes withholding what rightly belongs to another. And, as if stealing itself were bad enough, often this immoral act is often followed with acts of deception and trickery.

Ask any mother of a preschooler and she will tell you children possess a keen sense of ownership. One of the first words each of our children learned was, “mine!”

The whole human race is a band of thieves. Stealing is when we underpay our taxes. Stealing is making false claims about disability and Social Security. Stealing is when the employer demands longer hours than agreed upon. Stealing is keeping some transactions off the books. Stealing is false advertising and deceptive packaging. Stealing is when a salesman exaggerates the value of their product. Stealing is a credit card company charging twenty percent interest.

Stealing happens at work. Stealing is filling out false time cards. Stealing is calling in sick when you want a day off. Stealing is when you fail to put in a full day’s work for your employer. Stealing is surfing the internet at work. Stealing is emailing your friends on company time. Stealing is playing computer games instead of putting in a hard day’s labor. According to some estimates, as much as one-third of a product’s cost goes to cover various forms of stealing that occur on it’s way to a retail store. Employee theft and shoplifting together account for the largest source of property crime committed in the US annually.

Stealing is insurance fraud. Stealing is plagiarism. Stealing is identity theft. Stealing is violating copyrights. Stealing is cheating on a test. Stealing is gambling. Again, the whole human race is a band of thieves.

Stealing in the Bible

In the Old Testament, dishonest acts included secretly moving boundary markers (Deuteronomy 19:14), the use of false measures and weighted balances (Deuteronomy 25:13-16), selling goods of inferior quality (Amos 8:4-6), and charging interest to poor people (Exodus 22:25). The Bible says, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” (Proverbs 11:1)

There are all kinds of examples of stealing within the pages of the Bible:

Achan steals items that were devoted to God (Joshua 7:1). Micah steals 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother (Judges 17:1-3).

When Naboth, an average citizen of ancient Samaria, had a vineyard that King Ahab of Samaria wanted, Ahab’s wife Jezebel conspired to get the property for her husband (1 Kings 21:8-14). Jezebel colluded with false witnesses to charge Naboth and execute him for his trumped-up crime. As soon as Naboth’s body was cold, Ahab took possession of his property. The king is confronted by the prophet Elijah and it is Elijah who tells him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Have you killed and also taken possession?” And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood’” (2 Kings 21:19). Just a short time later, dogs are licking up the blood of the king after his death (1 Kings 22:28).

The prophet Nathan tells the story of a man stealing a sheep from a poor family before King David. David is incensed and demands that the poor family be repaid four times the amount stolen. Nathan points his finger in the king’s face in order to tell him that David himself has stolen. Only the king has stolen another man’s wife, or as it is known today, committed adultery (2 Samuel 12:1-4).

Early in the pages of your Bible, Joseph is kidnapped by his brothers and sold into Egyptian slavery.

Luke tells us the story of Zacchaeus, the story of a short man who climbed up in a sycamore tree to see Jesus over the crowds. When Jesus entered Zacchaeus’ home, Zacchaeus turned from his sin and said he would restore fourfold anything he had stolen (Luke 19:1-10).

As the story of Jesus continues, we encounter more thieves. We discover that even one of Jesus’ followers is a thief; Judas stole from the moneybag when the money was supposed to be going to the poor (John 12:6). Jesus Himself was crucified between two thieves (Matthew 27:38). Jesus refers to Satan as “the thief” (John 10:8-10). People who steal have no part of the kingdom of God outside of experiencing Christ’s forgiveness on the cross (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

The Goodness and Importance of Hard Work

There’s more to the eighth commandment than meets the eye. This command not only forbids stealing and promotes honesty, it also encourages work. In the opening pages of the Bible, we witness God at work (Genesis 2:1-3). More than simply serving as a model for humans, God commands everyone to work. Prior to the first sin of Adam and Eve, God commanded Adam to work. After Adam and Eve’s first sin, work becomes harder, or drudgery. Nevertheless, work is seen as good in the perfect Garden of Eden. So, we see that work is not a bad thing (1 Timothy 5:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). The Bible teaches the value of honest labor. Work is God’s gift to us as we receive dignity and respect from our work.

Avoid Stealing by Giving Generously.

There is still more to the eight commandment than simply being honest. Listen, carefully to how the New Testament expands God’s eighth command:

“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.” (Ephesians 4:28)

As Christ’s people, we know that we actually have no rights over property or wealth (Psalm 24:1; Haggai 2:8). Nothing is “ours” for it all belongs to God. I do not own my house or my car any more than I own library books or the latest Netflix DVD. Everything – in different ways – has been issued to me on loan. They remain the possessions of someone else and one day they will be returned to Him. The difference is that while the librarian may merely smile and say, “thank you,” God is going to ask me what I did with all that He loaned to me. So, we delight in being generous and we don’t make generosity a duty.

 

Programming Note: I will post on the Ten Commandments each Tuesday and Friday morning for the week. For the introduction to this series, visit: Three Reasons Why the Ten Commandments Remain Important. For previous posts, see the featured posts column on the right hand of your screen.