Thou shalt not steal. (Ex. 20:15);
Neither shall you steal. (Deut. 5:19)
This commandment is repeated in the New Testament:
Mat 19:18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Mark 10:19 “You know the commandments, Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother. “
Luke 18:20 “You know the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.”
Matt. 15:19 “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.
Rom 13:9 For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Old and New Testaments frequently warns believers against theft and other vices, with the knowledge that God will judge each person with the possibility of going to hell for such theft:
Zech. 5:3 Then he said to me, “This is the curse that is going forth over the face of the whole land; surely everyone who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side, and everyone who swears will be purged away according to the writing on the other side.
1 Cor. 6: 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
Eph 4:28 Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.
1 Peter 4:15 By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler.
Respect for the goods of others
The underlying value of the prohibition of theft is every person’s right to the ownership of property. Personal ownership of property allows and insures a person’s legitimate independence and self-determination. Theft is therefore usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner. Whether civil law recognizes the action as legal or not, theft includes all forms of unjust acquisition of other people’s property. This would apply to the deliberate retention of goods that have been lent to someone or the refusal to replace objects belonging to another person that were lost inadvertently. Other forms of theft include fraudulent business practices, paying unjust wages to employees or not giving an employer the proper labor for the wages that have been paid to an employee (Lev 19:13 You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning.) Poorly done work is another form of theft, as are the forgery of checks and invoices, excessive expenses and unnecessary waste of effort or property. Equally under this commandment would be the unjust increase of the prices of goods or services that takes advantage of the ignorance or hardship of other people. Artificial manipulation of the prices of goods or services is wrong when it seeks to make personal gain to the detriment of other people (Cf. Deut. 25:13 “You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small… 15 You shall have a full and just weight; you shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you. ” Deut. 24:14-15; James 5:4; Am 8:4-6).
Another extremely serious form of theft is the kidnaping of other persons in order to sell them into slavery or do other harm to them:
Ex. 21:16 “And he who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death.
Deut. 24:7 “If a man is caught kidnaping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently, or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you.
Though slavery is outlawed in all Christian countries today, it still exists in the sex slave trade of girls, boys, and young women and men. More people are enslaved in the sex trade than in agriculture of the 18th or 19th centuries. The difference is that instead of working in the cotton fields they are enslaved between cotton sheets, where they contract the various sexual diseases in addition to the degradation of forced labor and the objectification of the intimacies of their sexuality.
Political corruption that seeks to influence the judgment of civil decision makers is a form of stealing. It is theft if a citizen or politician appropriates and uses public property for private purposes, as is tax evasion, or willful damage to private or public property. (Luke 3:14 And some soldiers were questioning him, saying, “And what about us, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages.”)
All people also have a moral obligation to honor the various aspects of morally just contracts and promises regarding purchase or sale of goods, rental of property, or labor and services. A contract is moral if the tasks, services and good promised in the contract are themselves morally legitimate. For instance, a contract to steal property or kill someone is inherently illegitimate. Further, all contracts must be freely and knowingly agreed to and executed in good faith. (Lev 19:11 You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.)
Legal justice concerns issues of what a citizen owes in fairness and justice to the community. Distributive justice regulates what the community (nation, state, county or town and city) owes its citizens in proportion to their contributions and needs, e.g., the government owes health care to veterans. Commutative justice regulates the exchanges between persons in terms of a strict respect for their mutual rights and legitimate responsibilities. Commutative justice strictly requires the protection of property rights, paying debts, and fulfilling obligations freely accepted in contracts. This kind of commutative justice makes other forms of justice is possible.
Because commutative justice is so basic, it requires any person who has stolen another person’s property or defrauded other people in any way to make reparations for the injustices they have committed. This entails the restitution of stolen goods to their owner or reparations for fraud in contracts, for failure to pay just wages or to give a full day’s labor to an employer, or any other type of theft or fraud. This is exemplified by the tax collector Zacchaeus who told Jesus, “If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” (Lk 19:8) At that point Jesus announced that salvation had come to his house because he did restitution for the goods he had taken illegitimately in taxation. Anyone who directly or indirectly stole from another or defrauded another has a moral obligation to make restitution of the stolen goods by returning the equivalent object or pay the money it was worth, along with the profit or advantages the owner would have legitimately obtained from them. Similarly, anyone who took part in a theft or knowingly benefitted from it by receiving stolen goods at a lower price, is obliged to make restitution in proportion to their responsibility and to their share of what was stolen.