Ten Commandments Series
Do Not Steal – Respect Personal Property
We are over halfway in our series looking at the commandments of our God.
Jesus, as always, has been and is, our guide. He says “Do not think I have come to do away with the Law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. I have not come to do away with them, but to make their teachings come true. Remember that as long as heaven and earth last, not the least point nor the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with… not until the end of all things.”
So… the Law stands.
Jesus does say that He has come to fulfill the law and we have looked at what that means – we have seen that of the 638 laws in the Old Testament, they can be identified as ceremonial laws, ritual laws, and moral laws.
Ceremonial and ritual laws have been fulfilled in Christ – you don’t have to circumcise your boys; women who are menstruating can attend worship; you don’t have to confess your sins to me.
So, many of the laws are fulfilled and we are not bound by them in 2012. We can keep them, we can circumcise our sons if we want to, but we don’t have to.
The moral law remains in place in it’s totality. The 10 Commandments and many other commandments, for example, “Love your neighbour"…... these moral laws stand, even in 2012.
Now, the Law is not there to show us how to be saved or even to help us to be saved, it is there to show us how to live as God's people in God's world. It shows us how to be a shining light to the nations.
God's moral laws show us how to live ethically, they reveal moral behavior to us. I don’t think anyone would disagree that our nation has lost it’s moral compass… and we lost that compass a long time ago… a long time ago.
Never mind current affairs, many of us grew up in a nation where huge numbers of people were denied things, purely because of the colour of their skin.
We live in a nation where people who should have spoken out, remained silent while others put tyres on people's bodies and set fire to them.
We live in a nation where women and children were rounded up while their men folk were out at war, and placed in inhuman conditions in concentration camps.
This part of Africa where we live has been without a moral compass, or perhaps it’s better to say, has gradually lost it’s moral compass over many years.
I think, and I am not alone in this, that many of us South African’s have forgotten how to act with moral integrity – we see it in government, we see it in industry like banking and mining, we see it in companies that print and supply schools books.
God's laws impart morality and the more God is mocked in the way we treat the poor, the sick, the hungry, the thirsty, the foreigner,...... the more He is mocked as those in power and as those of us who have the ultimate power, the Holy Spirit in us, the more He is mocked by the way the poor, hungry, sick, vulnerable are treated by those of us with POWER the more immoral we become.
God's laws impart morality. So what is the morality that underlies the command: ‘Do not steal’?
I suggest it is this: Respect Personal Property.
Respect that there are things that belong to other people and that are valuable to them.
Respect the skill that God has invested in that person which should make him worth R5000 to my business… don’t rob him by trying to pay him as little as possible.
Don’t bargain on the desperation of the poor who will work for far less than what they are worth simply because they are desperate. It might be legal to do that, but it is immoral to do that.
So and so, I have found someone who will do the same job as you have been doing for me but for less. Times are tough, you understand! It may be legal, but is it moral?
Do not steal.
Is it moral that the poor, who pay in advance for their electricity by buying a coupon, is it moral that they pay much more for a unit of electricity than those of us who have an account and pay 30 or 60 days after we’ve used it? It’s legal but is it moral?
Cell phone air time – is it morally acceptable that those of us who pay in advance, pay more for an sms or a call, than those who are on account and will only pay much later. It’s legal… it’s based on a certain business model… but is it morally acceptable in the eyes of God, specially as it is the poor who are the main users of pay as you go.
Do not steal.
Respect personal property.
So as we’ve seen with all the other commandments there is an underlying morality behind God's laws which show us how to live as God's people in God's creation. There is more to ‘do not steal’ than simply do not steal.
As we’ve done with all the other commandments, let’s see what God sees as stealing (just as we’ve looked at what does God sees as murder, what does God sees as adultery, what God sees as rest, and so on…)
Many of us are not going to like this, but it is the word of God.
In Malachi 3:8, God says:
“Will a man steal from God?” You ask “How do we steal from God?” God says: “In tithes and offerings… you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe....”
We’ve looked previously at whether God sees our use of money as a ceremonial issue, a ritual issue or a moral issue, so we don’t have to go into that.
Gods laws impart morality, they show God's people how to live in God's creation.
Do not steal. Respect personal property.
Jesus shows us of course, as He has shown us in all the other commands, how it is possible to live a life that does not take from others. He received from others… food, bread, fish, money, a donkey, perfume, nails, water. He never took, He had no part in the exploitation of others, He didn’t exploit the rich or the poor,..... plain and simply: He did not steal, He respected personal property, and in living the way He did He showed us just how abundant life can be, He showed us life in all its fullness and best of all He invites us into His life, into His way and into the Truth which is embodied in the Laws of His Father who is our Father in Heaven.
One of them is: Do not steal.