Dan Popp
Theft
Written in stone: Thoughts on the Ten Commandments
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By Dan Popp
October 30, 2012

You shall not steal. (Exodus 20:15, NASB)

The ancient Hebrew language had no asterisk. If only the "ignorant shepherds" who "wrote the Bible" had possessed some means to show exclusions, qualifications and afterthoughts, several of the Ten Commandments might read quite differently.

Of course I'm being facetious. The problem is not with the Word of God; it's with the people who think they're wiser than the Author. If no asterisk appears in the inspired text after You shall not steal, then there can be no such thing as Christian Socialism. Theft is simply not allowed — not of any kind, at any time, from anyone. It's not permitted in order to level-out inequalities of wealth; not to fund necessary services; not even to feed the hungry. You shall not steal yourself, you shan't form a mob, you may not redistribute by proxy. You would not, could not with a fox. You would not, could not for your lockbox. Private property is — in the full sense of the word — sacred.

In our day, self-described "compassionate" people demand to steal from you on behalf of others. You've really got to start thinking more about the needs of the village, you know. But God knows that the community is fundamentally damaged, not edified, by condoning theft. "Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry; but when he is found, he must repay sevenfold; he must give all the substance of his house." (Proverbs 6:30, 31) We understand why you did it, but it's not OK.

God certainly cares for the hungry, but if we allow the hungry to steal, there will be a lot more theft in the name of "rights," and then more resources will be diverted to theft prevention. The end result will be more hungry people, along with social upheaval.

Hear the Law again: "If the thief is caught while breaking in and is struck so that he dies, there will be no bloodguiltiness on his account. But if the sun has risen on him, there will be bloodguiltiness on his account. He shall surely make restitution; if he owns nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft." (Exodus 22:2,3) God had just brought the Israelites out of slavery. It was unthinkable that they would enslave one another — except in this case. The implication is that a convicted thief lost one of his native rights as a Jew; he was punished as if he were an outsider. This can only be just if his crime is an offense against the entire community. The burglar, the con man and the "social justice" activist have struck at one of the building blocks of society: the right to be secure in our persons and our property.

This Commandment was confirmed in the New Testament.
    Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11)
Let me add this. I think we've become muddled about what "property" is. In the heyday of Napster I had a discussion with someone who thought that stealing music was perfectly moral. I asked him whether he would steal a car belonging to his favorite singer. Then I asked him what's the difference between stealing the car, and stealing the money with which the singer would have bought the car. My point is that intellectual property, promises of payment, cash, personal property and real estate are all forms of property. They're fungible; you can turn one into another. So when the government takes your money on April 15th, it is confiscating your property without due process of law and without just compensation, as required by the Fifth Amendment.

The Puritans said, "It is a sin to steal a pin." Later Americans said, "It's OK if we steal from the people who have too much. After all, the village needs it more than they do." God calls such people fools, robbers and sinners; but never "compassionate."

You can search those tablets until your eyes bleed; the Eighth Commandment has no asterisk.

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Previous articles in this series: God, Images, Name, Rest, Parents, Murder, Adultery.

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© Dan Popp

 

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