“You shall not steal.

As I recall, it was only a video recorder and a little bit of jewellery that was taken. We had only been out of the house for about thirty minutes, but the shock was palpable, and it lingered. To think that someone had broken into our home and taken away that which was our’s and not their’s!

Sadly, it happens all the time – probably taking place somewhere every day of the year – and is another mark of a society/culture/world out of step with its Maker.

‘The Decalogue does not go in for a ‘league table’ of sins-as is evident by the way in which it puts an offence against property alongside offences against life, marriage and truth. Currid notes ‘the lack of specifics’ following the prohibition of theft; the command ‘simply transcends any conditions or circumstances’, whether it is a matter of carrying off goods or kidnapping people and whether the thing stolen is valuable or trivial. In a word, Scripture respects private property and demands integrity over the whole range of personal, economic and commercial relationships.’ Alec Motyer: ‘The message of Exodus’, p.229.

That said, Tom Hale notes:

‘God owns everything in the universe; when we steal, we steal ultimately from Him. Furthermore, when we steal we hurt our neighbour; but God commands us to love our neighbour (Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:31).

The person guilty of stealing was required to compensate the injured party in accordance with the value of the stolen property. The death penalty was never demanded for theft, because God puts much higher value on human life and on marriage than He does on property.

Stealing can take more subtle forms: to deprive a person of his or her rights is stealing; to withhold just wages is stealing; to neglect paying a debt is stealing; to defraud a neighbour in any way is stealing (James 5:4).’ ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.244.

I think, for example, of the form of theft involved in plagiarism, when we pass someone else’s work off as our own. Is this not also a form of stealing? All theft is wrong

Believers should be known for their honesty. This moves us seamlessly into the next command.