Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 22, 1949

Thou Shalt Not Steal

Homer Hailey

If what one reads in the papers is any criterion, thievery of many forms must be prevalent throughout the land. Much of what one reads pertains to it in some form, ranging from that of values insignificant to that of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The roster of persons includes all ages, from juveniles to the aged, and in social standing from thugs to preachers of various sects.

In both covenants God condemns stealing. "Thou shalt not steal," was the eighth commandment of the decalogue; while to the Ephesians, he said through Paul, "Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need" (Eph. 4:28). To the Corinthians he declared, "nor thieves shall inherit the kingdom of God" (I Cor. 6:10). Let the Christian consider this principle of honesty and dishonesty; for the temptation to take that which is not one's own may be more subtle than we had thought.

The tendency of the age is to get something for nothing, or all one can for as little as possible. The symptom is not healthful; the inclination is dangerous; but it is seen in every walk of life.

School teachers complain that the students of today are not given to study, they want to pass their courses without work. Likewise the teachers charge that students have many devices for carrying information into the examination rooms—information not in the head, but secretly hidden to be used in making the grade. This is a form of stealing. It is the cultivation of a disposition toward dishonesty in the formative period of life, a disposition that will affect the whole of the individual's life. Here is a place where parents must manifest vigilance, and instruct their children in the "way that is right." Teach the child an honest "failure" is more noble than a dishonest "A". But better, teach him that a little hard work will make unnecessary either one.

The economic and political structure of our society during the past generation has been conducive neither to honesty nor hard work. The general tendency has been and is contrary to the Bible teaching on both points. God demands honesty of heart, and that "in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." He commands Christians to "study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your hands," (I Thess. 4:11). He further commanded, If any will not work, neither let him eat... We command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread" (II Thess. 3:10, 12).

How often is heard today the complaint from one who has engaged the services of another or of several that those employed will not work. How often one passes by a place where men are employed, only to find them standing about, or killing time in some trifling manner! Or one leaves his car to be repaired, to have a bill run up for things he did not order, nor is he sure have been done. These are merely the symptoms; beneath the symptom is the real condition: the disposition to steal—to get something for nothing.

But as in everything, so in this should Christians set the example to all about them. The man who is employed for a certified amount, for a definite number of hours, is obligated to give to the man who employs him an equivalent amount of work for what he receives.

Paul says of the service of the employee, that it is to be "not in the way of eye service, as men-pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service, as unto the Lord, and not unto men" (Eph. 6:6, 7). Note, it is "from the heart," "unto the Lord." He seeks to please Christ. Christ sees and God knows whether one is giving value received, or whether he is stealing. The man who "loafs" on the job, who dodges the boss, who gives not the day's work for the day's wage, is a thief—he steals. He violates God's law of working "as unto the Lord;" and he steals, taking that for which he has not given a proper exchange of value.

This disposition to steal is not confined to the laboring classes only. How many could at this moment name gospel preachers, men who should be an example for good in all things, who set the example in stealing. Not that they would take the property of another; but men who, in the improper use of their time, and in the failure to give a real day's work for what they are paid, steal from the Lord and from the brethren, True, these are in the minority among preachers; but this minority is hurtful to the cause of Christ.

When the preacher uses the week to help his wife about the house, to run here and yonder for himself, to look after matters of no worth to the cause of Christ, to the neglect of the work laid upon him by the Lord, he steals. The Lord said, "give heed to reading, to teaching, to exhortation. . . Be diligent in these things; give thyself wholly to them." The preacher's work is definite, as set forth in the epistles to Timothy and Titus. That he does not purpose, and with afore-thought intend to steal alters not the fact in the case. Like the child who gets the grade without earning it; as the laborer who trifles on the job, not earning what he gets, so the preacher, upon whom the Lord has laid a certain task and who is supported for the performance of that task, steals when he accepts the money but does not give an equivalent value in service.

Many a sermon falls flat, and many a soul goes hungry, because preachers have stolen valuable time from study and work, only to squander it on trifles. This is not to mention the stealing that goes on within the church —as members steal time, service and money from the Lord. But that is not the point of this paper.

In an age when stealing in so many forms is the accepted order of the day, it becomes Christians to set the example in all expressions of honesty. But the example in conduct will be easy when honesty becomes the basis of the character of the individual "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life"—this is the place to begin.