The Eighth Commandment – Stealing, Dishonesty, and Oppression

This study touches on subjects that have been gone over in detail in previous studies. Before going over this study, please make sure you have a complete understanding of the the study on The Third Commandment – Bearing God’s Name.

 

As the first four commandments have to do with our relationship with YHVH and loving Him, the last six commandments are all about our relationships with our neighbors, loving them, and our treatment of them. Concerning loving our neighbors as ourselves, the eighth commandment simply states:

“You shall not steal.”      Exodus 20:15

The commandment to not steal seems like a very simple and straight forward commandment, but have you ever stopped to consider what all is included in the idea of stealing? The Hebrew word for steal is “gānaḇ” and means to steal, be a thief, kidnap; to deceive. Many times we can look at the original Hebrew or Greek word to gain understanding of the definition of a word, but many times it takes looking through scripture and seeing how it is used in context to gain a full understanding. It is through the method of contextual scripture that we that we can gain a full understanding of the commandment to not steal.

As I studied this commandment, two points stood out to me. Obviously stealing has to do with the way we treat others, but this commandment does not make difference in whom we are to refrain from stealing. The statement made is not “Thou shall not steal”…from this specific person or groups of people. It simply says, “Thou shall not steal.”

The second thing that stood out to me is that this commandment is really about honesty. Are we honest with those around us? You will see these points come up again as we look through this commandment and some of the aspects in how to keep it.

Most everybody would agree with the most basic definition of stealing, which is to take something that belongs to somebody else. It could be from the store or from a friend. Though you may not think of yourself as a thief or think you may have never stolen anything in your life, it is possible that you may have stolen at one time or another without even knowing it. Leviticus gives an instance of stealing that is probably not often thought about – in the area of commerce.

“You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am YHVH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.      Leviticus 19:35-36

just balancesAncient Israel was such an agricultural society that even the Paleo-Hebrew language was based on agriculture. Many of the items that were sold or traded at that time were agricultural items like produce, animals, or skins.  Items like these were often sold or traded based on weight – just like what we do when we buy fruits and vegetables at the grocery store. Although the commandment in Leviticus is given in terms that the people of the time understood (in terms of agricultural business), it truly is to be applied anytime business of any kind is done. When measuring items that are to be sold, we are commanded to have truthful weights – to make sure that if the scale says something weighs an ephah or a hin, that it actually weighs an ephah or a hin.

How does this apply to us today? Consider anything you sell – whether it be something you made, grew, or any services you offer – whatever it is, you should sell it for a fair price. If you sell anything that is based on weight, make sure that you are selling exactly the amount that you say you are. In other words, be honest! Being perfectly honest in business means that we are to never exaggerate the value or condition of any item so that we can get more money out of it.

Towards the end of the instruction in Leviticus, YHVH puts His name on this commandment.

“You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measures of length or weight or quantity. You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin: I am YHVH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt.      Leviticus 19:35-36

As the third commandment states, we are to bear His name.

“You shall not take (bear) the name of YHVH your God in vain, for YHVH will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”      Exodus 20:7

When we agreed to make YHVH our God and to bind ourselves to His covenant, we agreed to be bearers of His name, or perfect representative of who He is. When we are honest, we present YHVH as an honest God – just as He is.

For the word of YHVH is upright,
and all his work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
the earth is full of the steadfast love of YHVH.      Psalms 33:4-5

When we are dishonest, we present YHVH as a dishonest God. This is a gross misrepresentation. Claiming YHVH to be our God while misrepresenting Him is an abomination to Him, and all who are dishonest are an abomination to Him.

“You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that YHVH your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to YHVH your God.      Deuteronomy 25:13-16

Another area that YHVH touches on when it comes to dealing with others honestly is in an area of the employer/employee relationship.

“You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning.      Leviticus 19:13

oppressionWhen looking at this scripture, it appears that YHVH had the system of business set up so that a person was paid for the work they did on the same day the work was done. If an employer robs his employer by not paying him, or even if he just holds on to his payment until the next day, YHVH says that the employer is an oppressor to the employee.

In today’s culture, we tend to hire people with a pay schedule that is longer than a day at a time. Most times it is weekly, bi-monthly, or even monthly. Regardless, in order to refrain from oppressing your employee, you are to pay them at the agreed upon time. Looking back at the previous scripture that talks about fair balances, it would also be safe to say that the amount you pay or agree to pay your employee should be fair to them and the work they provide.

What if you don’t own a business? Does this still apply to you? Consider what is happening when you go to a restaurant to eat. Are you hiring somebody to serve you? Your waiters/waitresses work and expect a standard gratuity. As somebody who bears YHVH’s name, how should you tip them? What if they do a poor job? Have you ever hired somebody to mow your grass?

What happens if you pay utilities? Are you hiring the company that provides that service? Is there an agreed upon time at which you are to pay for services rendered? By failing to make your payments on time, is it possible that you are stealing? Is it possible that somebody could be getting the short end of the stick when you fail to make your payment on time?

Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.      James 5:4

“If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against YHVH by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby – if he has sinned and has realized his guilt and will restore what he took by robbery or what he got by oppression or the deposit that was committed to him or the lost thing that he found or anything about which he has sworn falsely, he shall restore it in full and shall add a fifth to it, and give it to him to whom it belongs on the day he realizes his guilt.      Leviticus 6:2-5

Did you know that deception in the matter of deposit or security is considered stealing? Have you ever held or stored something for somebody? Have you ever borrowed something from somebody? You are responsible for the condition of the item while it is in your care. (Ex. 22:7-15) You must be trustworthy and honest in the care of the items you have, being sure that the person you borrowed from receives exactly what they left with you, in the same condition in which it was left with you.

Have you ever found something that belongs to somebody and didn’t return it – or worse – lied about finding it? That is a dishonest act of stealing.

All of the things listed that concern stealing is a sin against you neighbor and against the love you are to show your neighbor, but did you notice the statement in Leviticus concerning how stealing effects our relationship with YHVH?

“If anyone sins and commits a breach of faith against YHVH by deceiving his neighbor in a matter of deposit or security, or through robbery, or if he has oppressed his neighbor or has found something lost and lied about it, swearing falsely—in any of all the things that people do and sin thereby—      Leviticus 6:2-3

If you steal, are dishonest with your neighbor, or oppress them, not only is it a sin them, it is a breach of faith against YHVH! You are breaking your vow to Him by being unfaithful to Him! This goes back to the point made earlier of being a representation of YHVH. When we are faithful to Him, we represent Him perfectly. By stealing, being dishonest, or oppressing others, we are making YHVH look like a thief. Misrepresentation is an act of unfaithfulness to our God.

As we have found, stealing is far more than simply breaking into somebody’s house and taking something that belongs to them. Stealing is about honesty and the way you treat your neighbor. It is about avoiding being oppressive to others. It is about loving your neighbor as yourself. This command is only part of what Jesus was talking about when he said to love your neighbors as yourself.

Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”      Mark 12:29-31

When it comes to the last six commandments and any of the law having to do with our relationship to our neighbors, I have heard many say that all we have to do is love our neighbor as ourselves in order to fulfill the law. As we have seen with this commandment, it’s not always that simple. Just as the word steal has so many aspects, so does loving your neighbor as yourself. Without the whole law, it would be easy to miss the fact that deception and oppression are included in stealing. Without the whole law it is difficult to understand all of the many ways to love our neighbors. This is just one of the many reasons why the law is necessary – to teach us how to love our neighbors.

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