Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Eighth Commandment

Let’s examine ourselves this morning in light of the eighth commandment, which is, “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:16).

The commandment forbids us to appropriate for ourselves what rightfully belongs to someone else.

While the commandment perhaps conjures up images of a masked gunman robbing someone at gunpoint, or a burglar dressed in black breaking and entering into someone’s home by night and making off with his treasures, we should understand that there are many, many other ways in which the commandment can be broken. None of us, I suppose, are too likely to break the commandment in either of these two ways.

But what about in other ways? What about honesty in the work place? Do you pilfer items from your employer? We’re told that hundreds of millions of dollars are lost by companies each year because employees steal from their employers, and not just in the obvious way of embezzling funds; but in taking little things, in small amounts, for personal use: postage stamps and envelopes, and other office supplies; tools; etc.

Is that you?

We’re told that hundreds of millions of dollars are also lost because of employees being idle when they are supposed to be working: slacking off when the boss isn’t around; taking longer and more frequent breaks than what is allowed; not working with sufficient diligence and care so as to avoid quality control issues.

Do any of these things hit home with you?

It is not only employees, however, whose dishonesty in the workplace can violate the eighth commandment. Employers also can break it by failing to pay their employees what they have agreed to pay them, or by failing to pay them on time.

Another form of stealing takes place when we borrow an item and never return it, even if the failure to return it is simply due to negligence or forgetfulness, rather than due to a plot to steal it—because the result is the same, we have deprived some the use of what rightfully belongs to him.

A word or two should be mentioned here also about state-sponsored theft. The eighth commandment presupposes that people have a right to the exclusive use of their possessions, which of course, illegitimates all forms of fascism, socialism, and communism as economic systems. It is not by accident that it has only been after we have departed from a biblical basis for a just society that we have even entertained the notions of a welfare sate, of government intervention in the market place, and of the re-distribution of wealth.

I must tell you that if we vote for candidates because they promise to tax others so that we might benefit personally—that is in order that the money that is in other people’s pockets might find its way into ours by some government program, then we are guilty of participating in government sponsored theft.

In short, any appropriation of someone else’s money or property by stealth, fraud, coercion, or force, is forbidden by the eighth commandment.

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