The Ten Commandments or the Law of God Series
The Eighth Commandment
Thou Shalt Not Steal
The Eighth Commandment protects your right to legitimately buy or inherit and own property. God intended that right to be preserved.
Let us review what Keach has to say of this Commandment:
78. Which is the eighth commandment?
The eighth commandment is, Thou shalt not steal. Ex. 20:15
79. What is required in the eighth commandment?
The eighth commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others. Gen. 30:30; 1 Tim. 5:8; Lev. 25:35; Deut. 22:1, 2, 3, 4, 5; Ex. 23:4, 5; Gen. 47:14, 20
80. What is forbidden in the eighth commandment?
In another writing on this matter, we find: Both public and private sins are included in this prohibition. The eighth commandment condemns theft and robbery. It demands strict integrity in the minutest details of the affairs of life. It forbids overreaching in trade and requires the payment of just debts or wages. Solomon stated this truth when he wrote, “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so” (Proverbs 3:27). This commandment declares that every attempt to advantage oneself by the ignorance, weakness, or misfortune of another is registered as fraud in the books of heaven. It requires us to practice the golden rule, always treating others the way we desire them to treat us. The eighth commandment requires honesty and fairness in all of our dealings.3
Thomas Watson proposes in his work the following (beginging page 2108) in this matter:
This commandment forbids all violations of the rights of property. The right of property in an object is the right to its exclusive possession and use.
The foundation of the right of property is the will of God. By this is meant, (1.) That God has so constituted man that he desires and needs this right of the exclusive possession and use of certain things. (2.) Having made man a social being, He has made the right of property essential to the healthful development of human society. (3.) He has implanted a sense of justice in the nature of man, which condemns as morally wrong everything inconsistent with the right in question. (4.) He has declared in his Word that any and every violation of this right is sinful.
This doctrine of the divine right of property is the only security for the individual or for society. If it is made to rest on any other foundation, it is insecure and unstable. It is only by making property sacred, guarded by the fiery sword of divine justice, that it can be safe from the dangers to which it is everywhere and always exposed.
As with all the Ten Commandments, they are moral in nature. The dos and don’ts of God’s Holy Morality. In America and most “civilized” countries today we seemed to have forgotten this.
Though it is sometimes violated by the government today, the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that no citizen should be deprived of his or her “property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” Given the unquestionable influence of the Ten Commandments on constitutional law, the eighth commandment, found in Exodus 20:15, clearly shaped the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition.1
Abstract2: The Eighth Commandment, “You shall not steal,” has massive implications for human life on earth. Exodus 20:15 provides the necessary foundation for a system of private ownership of property, stewardship, and accountability, and of an expectation of human flourishing. This article also argues that “business as mission” is a legitimate calling and that founding and running a profitable and ethical business glorifies God.
Answer: The duties required in the eighth commandment are, truth, faithfulness, and justice in contracts and commerce between man and man; rendering to everyone his due; restitution of goods unlawfully detained from the right owners thereof; giving and lending freely, according to our abilities, and the necessities of others; moderation of our judgments, wills, and affections concerning worldly goods; a provident care and study to get, keep, use, and dispose of these things which are necessary and convenient for the sustentation of our nature, and suitable to our condition; a lawful calling, and diligence in it; frugality; avoiding unnecessary lawsuits and suretyship, or other like engagements; and an endeavor, by all just and lawful means, to procure, preserve, and further the wealth and outward estate of others, as well as our own.
Exodus 22:1 is case law that provides precedent against much more than just the theft of livestock. For example, a farmer’s tractor is of greater value to him than the family automobile. This is true not only because the tractor costs more, but because the tractor is his means of livelihood, while the car is only a means of transportation. Therefore, an apprehended tractor thief should be required to pay the equivalent of five tractors, whereas a car thief should pay the equivalent of four cars. If instead, the victim is a traveling salesman who owns and uses a tractor only for property maintenance, the judgment would be transposed. Purpose, not price, determines an object’s worth and the rate of restitution.
Whether the rate of restitution is four or five times, Yahweh’s judgment for stealing is a deterrent to potential thieves, whereas current American jurisprudence provides little deterrence whatsoever. Under Yahweh’s laws, only the victim is compensated. The State should not receive any remuneration whatsoever. Under man’s laws, however, the victim receives little or no compensation and is further victimized by the very system that is supposed to protect him. After the State slaps the thief’s hand and collects its fines two or three times, the repeat offender may finally be thrown into a prison funded by the victim’s tax dollars. The offended party is preyed upon first by a low-class thief and then by a high-class thief.
Exodus 20, Deuteronomy 5, The Ten Commandments
Keach’s Baptist Catechism of 1677 – Modern #44-92
Thomas Watson’s classic The Ten Commandments
Systematic Theology, Charles Hodge, Chapter XIX, The Law
The Ten Commandments, by A. W. Pink
The Doctrine of Law and the Grace Unfolded – John Bunyan
A Treatise on the Law and the Gospel by John Colquhoun, D.D