Steal Not!

Catechetical sermons preached in PCC Evening Worship Services, Feb 2013 to Dec 2017

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Thou shalt not steal. 

Exodus 20:15

WSC 73. Which is the Eighth Commandment? 

A. The Eighth Commandment is, Thou shalt not steal. 

1 Ex 20:15 

WSC 74. What is required in the Eighth Commandment? 

A. The Eighth Commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.1  

1 Gen 30:30; 1 Tim 5:8; Lev 25:35; Dt 22:1-5; Ex 23:4,5; Gen 47:14,20 

WSC 75. What is forbidden in the Eighth Commandment? 

A. The Eighth Commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbour’s wealth or outward estate. 

1 Prov 21:17; Prov 23:20,21; Prov 28:19; Eph 4:28 

When considering the Sixth Commandment, we suggested that many people who are superficially acquainted with the Ten Commandments will be able to recite “You shall not murder” as one of the commandments. If you ask the same persons to name a second commandment, they will probably say, “You shall not commit adultery” or “You shall not steal!”  

We studied the Seventh Commandment previously. In our present study, we must continue our series by looking at the Eighth Commandment. 

The Eighth Commandment, of course, is “Thou shalt not steal.” This is taken from Exodus 20:15, which is cited in our Catechism, Question 73. We have six brief points ordered according to the acrostic “THEFTS” on this commandment: 

  • Taking or withholding anything against God’s will is theft 
  • Hijacking, kidnapping and robbery are thefts, too 
  • Evasion of tax, tithes and dues is also theft 
  • Fraud and all dishonest gains are likewise thefts 
  • Taking steps to gain wealth lawfully is anti-theft 
  • Seeking wealth by gambling is not lawful to God 

1. Taking or Withholding Anything Against God’s Will Is Theft 

The Eighth Commandment is simply worded as “Thou shalt not steal.” However, we must remember that stealing can manifest itself in many ways.  

We will talk about some of these ways in this sermon, but I think it is necessary for us to understand what exactly is covered in the Eighth Commandment by way of principle. 

Question 75 asks: “What is forbidden in the Eighth Commandment?” 


The Eighth Commandment forbiddeth whatsoever doth or may unjustly hinder our own or our neighbour’s wealth or outward estate.

In other words, the Eighth Commandment teaches us that we must obtain and maintain our worldly wealth in legitimate ways. And what are legitimate ways? Legitimate ways are simply ways appointed by the Lord in His Word. 

The Word of God insists that everything in the world ultimately belongs to God, who “made all things for himself” (Prov 16:4; Rev 4:11). But it also teaches us that God apportions wealth to whomever He wills.  

Think of the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25). The master in the Parable refers to the Lord. The talents are not only about spiritual gifts but anything that God has assigned to us in our lives that can be used to glorify His name.  

This parable teaches us not only that we are stewards of all things that God has given, but also that He gives us different portions. Since all things belong to God, He alone has the prerogative and right to assign various portions to His creatures. Some of us are assigned five talents, some two, some one. To some, He assigns gigantic portions; to others, minuscule portions. He is always right. 

How does God assign the portion? He assigns by His providence through lawful means. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we do not expect God to rain manna from heaven. We believe, instead, that He will provide according to the lawful and, in general, natural means. What are these? Basically, there are two ways. One is to receive it as a gift from someone who lawfully owns it. The other is to work for it. The servants in the parable of the talents had to work. On account of his labour, the five-talent man gained five talents; and the two-talent man gained two; and on account of his non-work, the one-talent man gained nothing. 

Anything that comes into our possession by lawful means may be said to belong to us in so far as we are their rightful stewards. But anything that did not come by lawful means is deemed stolen.  

Remember that by the term lawful in this context, we are referring to God’s law. For example, it is probably legal to watch anything you can find on YouTube. But if someone puts up a movie that is still copyrighted, then watching it may, in fact, be theft! 

We may say, then, that taking or withholding anything from anyone unlawfully or contrary to God’s will is theft.  

This is what the Eighth Commandment is about. 

2. Hijacking, Kidnapping and Robbery Are Thefts Too 

Now, this is very clear, and we hardly need to spend time to talk about them. Hijacking is one of the worst forms of stealing, for you would be forcibly taking over something and commandeering it.  

Kidnapping is also a wicked crime, for it is stealing another person’s time and freedom, and then demanding to be paid for it. In the Old Testament, kidnapping carries the death penalty.  

We need not talk about robbery, burglary, pick-pocketing and shoplifting. Whether you take something by force or it is there for you to take when no one is looking, it is still theft and forbidden in the Eighth Commandment. 

3. Evasion of Tax, Tithes and Dues Is Also Theft 

Again, this is relatively straightforward. The Lord Jesus himself says:  

Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.

Mt 22:21

We are to render unto God what is due to God, and we are to render to men what is due to men. 

What are we to render unto men? Taxes and dues! The apostle Paul says: 

Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.

Rom 13:7

Withholding tax is keeping something that no longer lawfully belongs to you. It is a breaking of the Eighth Commandment. Underreporting the purchase price of your flat or car so that you pay less tax is a breaking of the Eighth Commandment. So, too, would failing to display a parking coupon when required. 

Moreover, note that we can steal not only from man, but also from God. How do you steal from God? 

Listen to the Lord’s words through the prophet Malachi: 

Will a man rob God?  Yet ye have robbed me.  But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee?  In tithes and offerings.

Mal 3:8

Tithing or giving a tenth of our income is a very primitive principle set in place even before the nation of Israel existed. It is, as such, a creation ordinance. As God requires us to return one-seventh of the time He has appointed for us, so He requires us to return one-tenth of the material wealth He has appointed to us. 

Remember, beloved brethren and children, evasion of taxes, dues and tithes is forbidden in the Eighth Commandment, whereas a faithful keeping of the Eighth Commandment often results in the Lord’s blessings beyond our expectation. 

4. Fraud and All Dishonest Gains Are Likewise Thefts 

Again, this needs little explanation. Many of us, I am sure, have encountered corrupt customs officers trying to get a bribe from us when we travel to nearby countries. And some of us have been scammed before. You buy something on the internet, and it is never sent. Or someone sold you something that does not work. Or someone pulled at your heartstrings with a sob story, and out of pity, you gave him some money only to realise that you had been deceived later. Or someone agrees to pay you for something or a service, but afterwards gives all sorts of excuses not to pay.  

I trust that while some of us might have been victims of fraud, none of us are guilty of the same. Remember that all fraud, bribery, dishonest gains, and withholding of payment break the Eighth Commandment. “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him,” says the Lord (Lev 19:13).  

Let us, therefore, be very careful in our dealings with others. If you are selling something, it is not wrong to charge a higher price than others as long as your buyer agrees. Perhaps they are willing to pay a premium for your service and reliability. That is legitimate. However, you must never cheat your customers by making false promises or giving less than what your customers paid for. Solomon says: 

 “Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD” (Prov 20:10). “A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just weight is his delight” (Prov 11:1). 

Conversely, if you are a buyer, it would be a breaking of the Eighth Commandment to try to manipulate the seller into lowering his price to below the market value.  

This is a complicated issue, but Proverbs illustrate it well:  

It is naught [no good], it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth. 

Prov 20:14

Translate this to buying a used car. A person may try to bargain down the price by saying: “Look, the bodywork is bad; the tyres are worn out; the suspension is not up to standard.” If this is genuine, it is fair. But if after you drive away the car, you snicker and say: “that was a good bargain; that seller is so naive,” then you know you’ve broken the Eighth Commandment.  

Or suppose you pick up a wallet or some money, and you know who it belongs to? In some countries, I am told, the law says, “finder’s keeper.” But what does the law of God say? Well, Moses tells us, in Deuteronomy 22:1-3, that if you find an ox, a sheep, an ass or anything that you know belongs to someone else, then you must return it to him, or safe keep it for him until he claims it. 

Translated to modern terms, this means that if you pick up a wallet, you must not take the money, nor should you leave it where you find it, but you should hold it in custody for the owner. But what if you found a $1 coin? What if it’s a $10 note? There is no way to ascertain who the owner is. What would you do? Perhaps this is a question you can discuss at family worship. 

But remember that all forms of fraud and dishonesty regarding money and material things break the Eighth Commandment. 

5.  Taking Steps to Gain Wealth Lawfully Is Anti-Theft 

There are two sides of the coin to every commandment. We have seen what the Eighth Commandment forbids. But what does it require? 

Our Shorter Catechism, Q. 74, teaches us that: 

The Eighth  Commandment requireth the lawful procuring and furthering the wealth and outward estate of ourselves and others.

This is remarkable, isn’t it? The Eighth Commandment is not just about stealing; it is also about making money or furthering our wealth. This agrees with what the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:28: 

Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.  

The idea is simple. The Eighth Commandment has to do with stewardship. God has appointed that we should receive an outward estate and use the wealth and outward estate to glorify Him, the ultimate owner of all things. We are not to obtain anything contrary to God’s will. But if that is so, we must seek to obtain them according to God’s will. What would that be?  

It would be to work hard according to whatever vocation the Lord has given us. You can be a cleaner, a doctor, a mechanic, a domestic helper, an engineer, a carpenter, a manager, a nurse, a teacher, a labourer, a businessman, a soldier, a policeman, or a clerk. Whatever job does not violate God’s law is a legitimate calling.  

You may even invest your money to further your wealth so long as it is legitimate. The Eighth Commandment urges us to take steps to procure and further our wealth and outward estate lawfully. This is also one of the reasons we say that the Eighth Commandment is against communism, for in communism, where everything is owned by the state and the individual owns nothing, there is no incentive to further your wealth. 

6. Seeking Wealth by Gambling Is Not Lawful to God 

The Eighth Commandment can be indirectly violated through gambling and lottery. Why? Because nowhere in God’s Word are we taught that we may tempt God by playing with chance, and nowhere are we told that it is legal for us to gain something through a game of chance.  

Ordinarily, we are required to work hard to gain anything. This is the lawful means, as we saw earlier. It is not lawful to gain anything by lottery.  

We will talk about gambling again when we come to the Tenth Commandment. But I trust you can see how any attempt to get rich through gambling or lottery simply violates the Eighth Commandment since we would be testifying of our unwillingness to wait upon the Lord to supply us with our needs through hard work. 


Well, here again, are the six points to remember regarding the Eighth Commandment: 

  • Taking or withholding anything against God’s will is theft 
  • Hijacking, kidnapping and robbery are thefts, too 
  • Evasion of tax, tithes and dues are also thefts 
  • Fraud and all dishonest gains are likewise thefts 
  • Taking steps to gain wealth lawfully is anti-theft 
  • Seeking wealth by gambling is not lawful 

Beloved brethren, children and friends, are you guilty of breaking the Eighth Commandment?  

If you ever had the opportunity to ask an unconverted person whether he knows he is a sinner, one of the most common answers you will receive is: “No, I don’t kill, I don’t steal, and I don’t tell lies.” It seems that most people know that stealing is a sin. But sadly, most do not grasp that you do not have to be a robber or burglar to be a thief. 

The fact is: If we understand what is required in the Eighth Commandment, then we will realise that none of us can claim to have never stolen. 

Have you broken the Eighth Commandment by taking something that does not belong to you? Children, did you take something that belongs to your brother or sister without his or her permission? That is stealing. Those of you who are older: Did you download things from Did you deliberately not put a parking coupon because you could watch your car from the coffee shop? Did you rob God of tithes? Did you rob your friends of time by habitual lateness? Did you buy the lottery or gamble secretly? Did you refuse to work to earn a living when you could? All these are violations of the Eighth Commandment.  

Are you a thief, beloved brethren and children? Make no mistake. Stealing is not a minor offence. There are no thieves in heaven. That’s what the apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthian 6:9-10. Thieves shall not inherit the kingdom of God, he insists.  

But thank God there is forgiveness in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have broken the Eighth Commandment, and I know you have, as I have, then will you not repent of your sin and go to the Lord Jesus Christ to seek His cleansing and forgiveness? He alone can permanently remove your record so that you would no longer be a thief in God’s sight. You will not be admitted into heaven unless you are forgiven in Christ and your sins are purged. 

Go to Him for cleansing. Go to Him for strength to keep His commandment. 

Indeed, the Lord specifically identified Himself with thieves like us. At the Garden of Gethsemane, when the priests and the captains of the temple came to arrest our Lord, He said to them, “Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?” (Lk 22:52).  

Later, our Lord was nailed to the Cross, and we are told, “Then were there two thieves crucified with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left” (Mt 27:38).  

This fulfils prophecy, which teaches us, “He was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa 53:12b). 

It is because of Calvary that we may live. But as Christ has freed us from the bondage of sin and Satan, let us stop stealing. Let us seek to be holy as He is holy. For He is coming again, and He says: 

Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.

Rev 16:15

Even so, maranatha, come quickly, O Lord. Amen. 

—JJ Lim