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  • Alan Salwei

Exodus 20:15 - Short Verse, Big Implications

You're probably not a thief, but the temptation to steal comes often!

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Read Exodus 20:15

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Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 110

Q. What does God forbid

in the eighth commandment?

A. He forbids not only outright

theft and robbery,

punishable by law.

But in God’s sight theft also includes

cheating and swindling our neighbor

by schemes made to appear legitimate,

such as:

inaccurate measurements of

weight, size, or volume;

fraudulent merchandising;

counterfeit money;

excessive interest;

or any other means forbidden by God.

In addition he forbids all greed

and pointless squandering of his gifts.



The 8th Commandment, you shall not steal, is rather ambiguous in its meaning. We are directed to not steal, yet the object of that theft is not defined. There is intentionality in this ambiguity, for what is being outlawed is not one type of theft but a whole spectrum of things that fall into the category of stealing. The laws in the United States outlaw various forms of theft and the punishment for each of these offenses varies based upon the severity of the crime. This is also the case with the Old Testament law, where the restitution necessary for an act of theft will vary depending on the circumstances.

There are many instances in the Old Testament where the restitution to be made for stealing is double what was taken. There are also some specific circumstances, such as with livestock, where the punishment is more severe. An example of this can be found in Exodus 22:1, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep.” Instead of doubling the amount stolen, a stolen ox demands 5x and a stolen sheep 4x restitution. While all forms of theft are a violation of the 8th commandment, the consequences may vary based upon the circumstances.

Dig Deeper

There are many types of theft that fall under the umbrella of the 8th commandment. At different times I’ve had money, property, or bank card information stolen from me. These types of theft are more obvious than other ways the people violate the 8th commandment. Robbing a bank is clearly theft, yet there are other ways that people steal that are not as obvious. Over the next couple days we will review some of these examples from scripture and the catechism. Not all forms of theft are on the same level as grand theft auto or an Oceans 11 type of heist, however we are called to be faithful in all matters, in that which is both big and small.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, whose very character defines honesty and truth;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that you will be able to avoid the shortcuts in life that stealing might give you;



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - John 1


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