Respecting Ownership

Respecting Ownership

Scripture: Exodus 20:15
Date: 06/08/2013 
The eighth commandment about stealing is not only about never taking something that does not belong to you, but also about honesty and integrity in all aspects of life.

In Granite or Ingrained? by Skip McCarty

In Granite or Ingrained? by Skip McCarty
NOTE: If you have a Bible question for Pastor Doug Batchelor or the Amazing Facts Bible answer team, please submit it by clicking here. Due to staff size, we are unable to answer Bible questions posted in the comments.

Please note: Approved comments do not constitute an endorsement by the ministry of Amazing Facts or Pastor Doug Batchelor. This website allows dissenting comments and beliefs, but our comment sections are not a forum for ongoing debate. Please be civil to one another.


If you're visiting, we should just let you know that you're coming into a series. This is a series that we've been doing on the Ten Commandments as probably is evidenced by the little monuments that we have behind us. This would represent the eighth commandment today. And there's actually nine so far that we've done but one was an introduction to the law. Now we're on commandment number eight and our sermon title is 'respecting ownership' because this commandment really encompasses that theme.

And it's based upon the eighth commandment which is pretty easy for us to remember: 'you shall not steal.' Got king James? 'Thou ' - thou is you - 'shalt not steal.' If they - if that seems short to you, it's even shorter in the original. It's two words and it would translate 'don't steal' and the word for 'steal' in the Hebrew is the word 'ganab'. It means 'to thieve; to deceive; to carry away secretly; to bring; to steal away by stealth'. And it really encompasses - it's a broad comprehensive truth that you're not to take something that you don't have a right to. And there's - the first - you notice, the first three of the last six commandments - the last six commandments are on the second table of stone - really deal with human right.

The last three are dealing with property in some respect - talking about stealing - property. It would be talking about taking someone's reputation or name or covetousness that often leads to destroying a person's name or taking their property. The other commandments, the penalty was almost always death. For the last six commandments - I'm sorry, the last three of the last six commandments - it was a lesser penalty - varying degrees based on what was stolen, with the exception of one thing you could steal the penalty was also death - that was if you stole a person - namely kidnapping. Read about that in Exodus 21:16, "he who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.

" And, you know, even in some countries that's still the case. There are very stiff penalties for kidnapping in North America as well. Now the Bible really speaks, in this commandment, to something that's very important: property rights. You notice that God is not a communist. God says that you have a right to property and that that must be respected.

There are four ways that you really come in possession of something. You typically either buy it or you receive it as a gift or you find it or you steal it. Now some things you legitimately find, but some people find things in other people's houses. And so I'm not talking about that kind of finding, I'm talking about the legitimate finding - where you just cannot find the owner or sometimes you dig something up that's been gone long - the owner's long gone and you found a treasure. But property rights is really something that God endorses in the Bible.

Even when ananias and sapphira were struck down by the Lord, in acts chapter 5, and it was for a combination of lying and they claimed they were giving 100% of their property and they really only gave part of it. They were trying to get the credit for this big, generous gift. Peter said to them, 'while it was in your hands was it not your own?' I mean, God recognized that it was in their control. But ultimately, who is the real owner of everything? Genesis 14:19 - God is called the possessor of heaven and earth. That would cover everything.

'In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth' and if it says he's the possessor of heaven and earth, he owns everything. Exodus 19:5, "...for all the earth is mine." Everything belongs to God. Psalms 24, verse 1 - you know this - "the earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof;" so everything ultimately belongs to God, but even the Garden of Eden - God made it clear to adam and eve he was inviting them to be stewards of his property. And so, respect for the property of others is a commandment of God that must be regarded. When somebody has stewardship and ownership of something, we are not to be taking that which is theirs or under their stewardship.

And there's a lot of things that fall under this category of 'thou shalt not steal'. We're going to talk about some of them today. I went to an indian restaurant. I like indian food - most of it. Some of it's pretty hot.

And it was a buffet and, for whatever reason, in the buffet line of the indian restaurant, there were small spoons and I thought, 'well I guess I'm going to need one of those.' And so I took the napkin, I took the small spoon - but I wanted to hold my plate and serve with my other hand so I took the spoon and I put it in my top pocket and I got my food and went back to the table and ate with my friends and it didn't even occur to me that there was also a spoon at the table. I don't know why they had little spoons there at the buffet, but not until I got home and I was changing out of my work clothes did I realize I've got this spoon in my pocket. I thought, 'what's that?' And then I was overwhelmed with a sense of guilt. I thought, 'I just pilfered. I filched.

I stole. I absconded with someone else's property right from under their nose I - I stole their silverware. That's how I felt. God knew I didn't mean to do it so I thought - I heard one voice say, 'oh doug, it was an accident. Don't worry about it.

This spoon probably costs 25 cents. They buy them in bulk, no big deal. And another voice said, 'that's not your spoon, that's their spoon.' And I thought, 'well, I've got to take it back. I drive by this place on my way to work. So I stuck it in my little briefcase I take to work and it was a couple weeks - every time I went - got back home with my briefcase I thought ,'oh!' Or one time I thought about it and I thought, 'man, I'm late.

I've got to go' and I drove by the indian restaurant - I still had their spoon. It started bothering me. I thought there probably are people who aren't eating dessert because they don't have that spoon at that restaurant and I knew I'd never have peace. So finally, I just made a special trip to that restaurant - I didn't even eat there - I just walked in the front door and the man said, 'hi, can we get you a table?' I said, 'no.' I pulled out this little spoon - I said, 'I took this by accident the other day and I'm bringing it back.' And the man had a look of amazement on his face. He said, 'you're a good man!' - He said it with a hindu accent - he said, 'let me give you a soda.

' I said, 'thank you, no. I don't need a soda.' But he was amazed that I would bring back the spoon because I guess they have their silverware diminish all the time and they've got to constantly replenish it. I thought, 'you know, that's a good witness then. That may have done some good today if someone knows there are still people that have a conscience that will bring back' - now I'm not saying that my conscience is perfect. I'm not telling the story for that reason, but I am telling this because I was convicted.

I had a voice inside my head that said, 'ah, it's just a spoon.' And I was convicted. You know, you can go to hell for stealing a million dollars and you can go to hell for stealing a pen from the bank. Stealing is stealing and it's pretty commonplace in our culture today for people to just short of shrug off petty theft. Theft is forbidden under this commandment. How many of you remember the time when you did not need to lock your front door? And even when you went on vacation and some just when you went on vacation, but most of the time, day and night, the door was open.

I grew up in what they called universal city - tujunga, California - living with my grandparents. The door - I don't ever remember the door being locked. And it's hard to imagine in southern California now, but - boy, not today. People have alarms and alarm systems and security cameras and there's good cause for that. Something's happened to the morals and the values in our country and in our culture in the last forty years.

Some have traced it to the time when they took prayer out of the schools and they took the Ten Commandments off of the walls in the schools. I remember when I was a kid, I used to think - was I just imagining this? I didn't go to religious school when I was young. I went to public school in California and we had the ten commandments on the wall and we said prayer in our class. Do you remember that? And something happened. I mean, you think something as basic as 'you're not supposed to steal' the public school wouldn't have a problem with leaving that on the wall.

But those things were taken down and there are even some churches that have taken it off the wall. I know one church in a town where I was serving as pastor, they used to have the Ten Commandments on the wall in their Sunday school building. Then we did an evangelistic meeting in that town. The Sabbath commandment became a problem for some in that congregation. They went to the pastor and said, 'what do we do about that?' He said, 'we're not under the law now, we're under grace.

' They said, 'then why do we have the law on the wall in our Sunday school class?' He took it down. It's the truth. And so, that has an impact on a culture. It begins to filter down and right now, in North America, stealing is at epidemic levels. Let me just give you a few examples: shoplifting - more than 13 billion dollars' worth of goods are stolen from retailers every year in North America - 13 billion.

Most companies, when they are itemizing their budget for the year - along with budgeting in how much paper they're going to use and travel expenses and everything - they budget in loss due to theft. It's just a factor. That's more than 35 million per day is stolen in North America. More than 10 million people in our nation have been caught - 10 million - there's only 300 million - 10 million have been caught - those are the ones caught - shoplifting in the last five years. I read a statistic last night - one out of eleven people will admit to having shoplifted in the last year.

You know what that means? You better find your purse and pull it a little closer to you, right? Look at that person to the right and to the left - no. I'm hoping we're an exception but you'd be surprised. There are some people, even Christians - I've got a friend who is a leader in the Christian church who admits, even after he accepted Christ, he had a problem with kleptomania - with stealing things. Shoplifting affects more than the offender, it overburdens the police and the courts, it adds to a store's security, it costs consumers more for goods. It hurts children and families - not to mention the shame of being caught.

Some people shoplift because they say, 'well, the company charges too much so I'm just evening the score.' They rationalize it. 'Their prices are too high' or 'they're insured - they've got insurance that will cover it.' And it's amazing because I used to be one of those people. Now, when I talk to you about this commandment, I'm not proud to say it, but I was just a plain unadulterated thief. And, it's not my fault - I'm a victim. My father was a multi-millionaire and I saw him steal - shoplift.

He thought it was clever. It was almost just the thrill of getting away with it and trying to look - so what do you think that says to a kid? I never, ever, ever forgot that. There's a lot of things I've forgotten, but I never forgot when I went with my father to a boat store and while the salesman wasn't looking, we had - one of the boats we were looking at was missing a part and he stole a part off the boat and what do you think that says to a kid? And my mother, she would tell me the finer points of how to steal from bloomingdale's and because she was an actress, she was a very good thief. She could just look so smooth and clever but, you know, to me it said, 'if you can get away with it' - and they weren't poor. So if that's any indicator, how many people out there that don't need to steal, steal? And you know, a lot of people that go into a store to shoplift did not plan on it when they first went to the store.

And a lot of people who go in a store to shoplift also buy something. And so, they justify it by thinking, 'well, you know, I'm also making a purchase.' What about going in a store and going through the vegetable section and you sample a few grapes? You ever see that? But you don't buy any. That's called stealing. Well you, yeah, if you want to - if you're going to sample them. Let's have that conversation later.

Now I have gone into a store before where I was so thirsty I got the soda or the juice or whatever I was going to drink - I opened it and I'm drinking it at the cash register and I haven't paid for it and then I tell them I left my wallet at home - no - then I buy it. Have you ever done that? That's different. You know you're going to buy it. They just know you're just really thirsty and the line is long. But even then you have a tinge of guilt because it's not technically yours until you've paid them.

Many shoplifters steal and buy merchandise at the same time. Percent of shoplifters don't plan to steal when they go in. Percent of shoplifters are kids - 75 percent are adults. This is from a website - national association for shoplifting prevention - nasp - and I just want to give them credit for that. There's quite a few statistics.

Professionals - most non-professional shoplifters don't commit other types of crime. They'll never steal an ashtray from your house and they'll return twenty dollars that they owe you, but they somehow don't have a problem stealing from a store. It's interesting. Some do it just for the excitement of getting away with it. They get a rush out of it - stealing.

It's kind of epidemic in our culture. This is not the worst way it happens. Romans chapter 13, verse 9, "for the commandments, 'you shall not commit adultery,' 'you shall not murder,' 'you shall not steal,'" - notice how Paul bunches this group of commandments: don't murder - we wouldn't do that - don't commit adultery - shouldn't do that - don't steal - don't bear false witness - "'you shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, all are summed up in this saying, namely, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. If we love, we don't steal from each other. We'll respect one another's property and, yes, even the store.

And if you think they charge too much, God has other ways of dealing with that. God has not appointed you to be robin hood. Some people think, 'well, but I give away what I steal. And so that justifies it.' No, there is no good excuse. Sometimes the government thinks it's robin hood - steal from the rich and give to the poor.

And what that insinuates is that the government doesn't believe that the people are inherently good enough to do it on their own so they're going to make them do it. Well, that's a whole different subject so I'm not going to go down that road. A Sabbath school teacher was talking to her children one day about the Ten Commandments and the teacher said, 'now what do you call a person that reaches into a man's pocket and takes his wallet with his money?' Little boy jumped up and said, 'his wife!' The Bible says stealing can also happen through just not being fair. We should have just scales. We should be honest in our business dealings with people, amen? Christian businessmen should 'give good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over' why? 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is the principle when it comes to this.

And if you're a Christian and you go to a hotel room yes, you are invited to use the soap that they've provided and there's usually some toilet paper - it doesn't mean you're supposed to take every little ounce of shampoo and all the extra toilet paper with you and put it in your suitcase and say to yourself, 'well, I paid for it.' If people came to your house and did that - when you go to a hotel you're a guest in the hotel. You're paying to be a guest. It doesn't mean you're supposed to clean out everything in the room before you leave. It got a little quiet - some of you - when I said that. That wasn't in my notes, I just thought of it.

Deuteronomy 25:13, "you shall not have in your bag differing weights, a heavy and a light." - Weight is supposed to be a certain weight - "you shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. You shall have a perfect and just weight, a perfect and just measure, that your days" - you want to live a long life? - "That your days may be lengthened in the land which the lord your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who behave unrighteously, are an abomination to the Lord your God." One more on that, Proverbs 11:1, "dishonest scales are an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight." We should be fair and honest. You know, in the Bible they measured everything out. They had little scales and if you bought - whether it was silver or gold and they weighed your gold and your silver or the food and the grain - they'd weigh things and they'd have fair weights.

I sold firewood for several years and firewood sells in a tier - three tiers to a cord unless it's stove wood, which is 12-inch and there's four tiers to a cord because a cord of wood is 128 square feet. Square feet is 128 square feet and when you stack up firewood, you'd stack it up four feet high, four feet wide, eight feet long - that's a cord of wood. And one day there was a man in town who was hiring people to split wood and he had a crew down there splitting wood and I thought, 'well, you know, I'll go work for him and let him have the headache of trying to do all the sales.' And so I said, 'do you mind if I work for you splitting wood?' And so I worked for him for a few days and when he was stacking the cords - I knew right away because - I don't know if he knew I sold my own wood - and I said, 'this isn't a full cord. Are we selling these as a cord?' He said, 'well, you've got large cords and small cords. These are the small cords.

' And I thought, 'what? There's no such thing as a small cord. It's 128 cubic feet.' Well, he was a dishonest businessman and he would tell these old ladies, he said, 'well, there's two kinds of wood. These are the small cords.' But he was charging full price for a cord of wood. It might not hurt to mention to you - a few years later he was murdered. 'That your days may be long on the land.

' Did we just read that? God does not look favorably on people who cheat each other. And some people steal from their employers and some employers steal from their employees. It works both ways. You can read in the book of James about those unjust employers - in chapter 5, verse 4 - and it says, 'the wages of their laborers they have not paid is crying out to God for justice.' Being fair in your dealings - you know, sometimes when you're negotiating with somebody and you're going to buy something and you try to get the price down and that's fun. You know, we always do that and - have you ever traveled and bought something overseas and you barter a little bit and they say, 'ten dollars' and you say, 'no, no, no - that's not ten dollars - eight dollars.

' They say, 'nine dollars!' You say, 'eight fifty' - and there's nothing wrong with that because what you're doing is you're trying to find a fair price. But if you know that t-shirt you're trying to buy is easily worth more than five dollars, and you're trying to get them down to three dollars and you can see that they're poor, that's not good. And I've met people like that and they claim to be Christians. They come away from a deal like this and say, 'oh, I got a good deal.' I said, 'yeah, well you took advantage of that person because they're desperate.' You ought to be fair with people. I had someone come to our house to do some work recently and they said they'd do it for such and such an amount.

I said, 'it's worth more than that.' And when it came time to pay them I paid them more. They were pleasantly surprised. The Bible talks about a man who shocked his laborers - by the end of the day he paid some of them more than others, who he paid one group what he had agreed but he decided to be generous with some and pay them more - maybe they needed it more, who knows? But there's nothing wrong with being generous with people, just don't take advantage of people. It's okay to try to get a fair deal - we all agree? But sometimes we push it too far and we're trying to take advantage of someone's desperate circumstances and - just remember this: 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' However - and you know what I've found is when I'm fair with people - I remember not too long ago bartering with someone over a used truck. Our family just bought a used truck to replace my truck that was already 27 years old.

And I thought to myself, 'well, how far do I want to push this guy? I want to be fair.' And I picked what I thought was a fair price and he was happy - I was happy. And, you know, I've got this little superstitious belief that, that truck's going to run better because I didn't take advantage of him. I agree. Maybe it's my own superstition but it seems to be running fine. I've found in the past when you try to take advantage of somebody, God just can't bless.

You might think, 'I got a great deal on this' but let's see how long it runs. You see what I'm saying? There's a principle there that if you're fair with people God'll bless you. He'll be fair with you. So have an honest scale. You heard the story about the lady came in just about the time the butcher store was closing and she rushed in, she said, 'I've got some company coming over, I need a chicken.

Do you have a chicken?' He said, 'yeah, ma'am, I've got a chicken.' He goes back to the freezer, he's got one chicken left in the freezer. He doesn't tell her that. He pulls it out and he brings it out and he plops it on the scale. It's one pound and a half. She looks at it and she says, 'do you have another one? I need a little bigger one.

He didn't have another one but he didn't tell her that. He said, 'I'll see what I can do.' He goes back, he takes the chicken, sticks it in the freezer, pulls it back out again, puts it on the scale - except now he rests his knuckle on the scale and it says two pounds. She said, 'well, I think I'll just take both of them.' He got busted. You will reap what you sow. What do you do if the clerk gives you too much change at the store? As soon as you - what if you don't find out until you get home? Take it back.

We all heard the story about honest abe, ostensibly. One of the campaign stories was that he got home - or someone bought something - he found out that they gave him a nickel too much and he walked ten miles to give them the nickel and I'm kind of inclined to believe that it was true. He had - he had principles. So, otherwise, you keep what's not yours and, you know, there's all kinds of things the devil will tell you. He'll say, 'oh well, serve's them right.

' 'Look how the Lord's blessed me with extra money the cashier gave me. Thank you lord.' No, he's testing you. This eighth commandment requires honesty and fairness in all of our dealings. Leviticus 19:11 repeats it: "you shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another." 'For I am the Lord.' Every attempt to gain from the ignorance, weakness or misfortune of another person is registered as fraud in the books of heaven. The golden rule is here, 'always do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

' But, is it wrong to steal if you're poor? The teacher asked the kids in school, 'if you found a purse left on a park bench with money in it, what would you do?' One little boy raises his hand, he says, 'if there was a poor family you should take it back.' Implying if they're not a poor family you don't. Is that accurate? Or did God say, 'rich or poor don't steal.' And if you find something that belongs to someone, you take it back. It doesn't matter how much they have. I have met even Christians that have thought, when it came to paying a debt, if it was to a poor person, they were more obligated than to a rich person. If you've got a debt to pay, you have a debt to pay.

And, as a Christian, it's a principle. And God has not appointed you to even things out in the world by, again, doing that robin hood where 'if they're rich I should not pay it back, but if they're poor, well, I probably should.' Stealing is stealing. Proverbs 30, verse 9, it says, "lest I be full and deny you, and say, 'who is the Lord?'" - He says, 'if I have too much I'm liable to deny you and forget the Lord.' - "Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God." Poor - stealing - profaning the name of God. There's something extra special about poor people that also are honest, that you can trust, with integrity. Exodus 22:1, here's what the law said - verse - Exodus 22:1 through verse 4, "if a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep.

If the thief is found breaking in, and he is struck so that he dies, there shall be no guilt for his bloodshed. If the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt for his bloodshed." - In other words, if, you know, maybe he's clobbered by the man who catches him and he's been stealing - breaks into his barn or his house and steals and if he survives it, he still is required to pay. If he survives it - "if the sun has risen on him, there shall be guilt...he should make full restitution; if he has nothing, then he shall be sold for his theft." - Wait, he's a poor man, lord, he has nothing. What does God say? - I didn't write this. You take it up with him.

Rich and poor - don't steal. That law is not just for rich people. And I've just seen this attitude that's permeated our culture that it's really bad when there's corporate theft in high places because they make millions and it's just - and boy, poor people it just makes them really mad because they've got so much money that it sort of justifies stealing from corporations or it justifies stealing from rich stores and - stealing - you steal from yourself when you steal. You steal your character. You steal your integrity.

You're stealing from other people. If a person steals from a store, that raises prices for everybody else. You're stealing property from everybody. And you never, ever, ever, ever, ever - take it from me, a recovered thief - you never get ahead by stealing from somebody. It's just amazing - they say what goes around comes around.

I would steal something and then my friends would steal it from me. Or I stole a car and then it broke down. I spent two days hitchhiking back in the rain. Or I'd steal a stereo, nearly risk my life, and it was a broken stereo and just everything went wrong. Or I stole and - I stole a tv and woke up - found out that someone broke in and stole my tv and I had the audacity to call the police.

And so I - it took a long time but I finally learned, there seems to be some higher power out there because you never ever - do you know, nobody has ever committed the perfect crime. And don't be thinking, 'well, I'll be the first one.' Because no one can, you know why? You cannot really break God's law because you will always be paid. In this life or the next, nobody ever gets away with it. Most of the time, because God is good, there's consequences in this life because he's trying to redeem us and teach us to turn from that bad behavior. But stealing, the Bible calls it a sin - rich or poor, it's what put Jesus on the cross.

Isn't that right? Do not steal. How about paying your debts? Do some people steal by just not paying what they owe? Psalms 37:21, 'the wicked charges it and does not repay." No, I changed that a little bit. "The wicked borrows and does not repay." When you use your credit card, aren't you borrowing? You're borrowing money in advance. And when you don't pay what happens? Everyone else, in order to compensate, the credit card companies must charge a higher interest. The cost of money, the cost of products, everything goes up.

Now, I recognize sometimes there are businesses and there are laws about chapter 11, chapter 13, chapter - whatever chapters there are - chapters if you don't pay - these laws. It used to be if a person couldn't pay a debt they'd be put in a debtor's prison and that was pretty harsh. And so there are laws that deal with how to pay back debt. Sometimes people don't plan and God is merciful. If you file bankruptcy it doesn't mean you've committed the unpardonable sin.

Do you all hear me? I think bankruptcy ought to be the very last thing that a Christian resorts to as an option because if you have debt because of choices you've made, you ought to do everything in your power to pay it back. There are a lot of programs out there to help. 'Oh, but Pastor Doug, it will take me years.' A lot of people are in debt because they're buying things that they don't really need, trying to live a lifestyle that they have not yet earned, and then they can't pay for. Is this true? And then they end up being thieves because they say, 'well, I just can't pay it back.' But you've got that stuff still in your house or you've used it and it's gone and you've taken property that wasn't yours. Now I'm talking to all of us now.

God wants us to pay our debts. Any of you ever borrow anything from your neighbor? You still have that shovel? If you go to a store and you tell macy's 'i'd like to just borrow this.' Is that called borrowing? If you borrow something from your neighbor and just because they didn't tell you the day when it was supposed to come back, it doesn't mean it's not stealing that three weeks later you still have it and they don't. God wants us to be faithful to return things. We've got a problem with hymnals at the church that have disappeared. 'Huh! Not in the church!' I think what happens is some people say, 'you know, there's this song I want to learn and, after all, I'm a member and I pay tithe and offering.

I'd like to take it home and learn this song' and they forget to bring it back. Yes, that was a veiled appeal. If you have a hymnal that you've borrowed, we're running short. Proverbs 3, verse 27, "do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in the power of your hand to do so." If you have borrowed something, whether it's money or some object, and you've got it - you know, mrs. Rengifo makes me very nervous because she's always sending me home with food and it's delicious and I sure appreciate it, but it's in her containers.

Oh, praise the Lord, okay. And then I just fret. You already know that I'm a little compulsive about making sure I don't - because, you know, when you're a recovering thief you become very hyper-conscious about these things because I don't want it on my record. I can see it now, I'll be standing there in the judgment day and the Lord's going to be showing me mrs. Rengifo's tupperware that's still in my kitchen.

And you know what I'm talking about. Any of you ever have those concerns? I think it ought to bother us a little bit. If something belongs to somebody else, get it back to them. And you know what else makes me nervous? Just a little personal thing that scares me. People give me books - a lot of people give me books to read and manuscripts and I say to them, 'do you need this back and they say 'yes' and I'll say, then let my buy my own because I am afraid' - people have given me books - I forget who gave it to me and I've still got it and I don't know what I'm going to do and it just makes me very nervous and so some of you probably have books that you - any of you ever borrow a book you haven't given back yet? Now - don't worry, I think the lord can forgive.

Don't misunderstand. There's some things you can make right and some things you may not be able to make right, but God wants us to be faithful in - 'he that is faithful in that which is least' is what? 'Faithful also in much.' Exodus 22:14, "and if a man borrows anything from his neighbor, and it becomes injured or dies, the owner of it not being with it, he shall surely make it good." If you borrow something and you break it, the right thing to do is to fix it and get it back to them. You should return it in the same or better condition. Has someone ever lent you their car? Don't bring it back dirty. The nice thing to do is wash it before you bring it back.

They gave it to you with three-quarters of a tank - you bring it back with one-quarter of a tank? That's kind of like stealing, isn't it? Put gas in the tank, wash it up, give it back to them. You know what, they'll be happy to lend it to you next time. But if you give it back to them and it's covered with bugs and the tank is running on fumes - what would you do? 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' Gambling - oh wait, one more thing under that borrowing - you got a party to go to so you go shopping at macy's or nordstrom's. You wear that dress to the party and then afterwards you thought, 'I don't think I'm ever going to probably go to that party again.' Do you take it back and get a full refund? Come on. Let that sink in.

I did an evangelistic meeting one time - I probably shouldn't have done it. And I think bonnie or Karen had bought me a new tie and I put it on just before the meeting and I looked down and I still had the tag on it - when I first put it on - and I said to the people, I said, 'does this look okay?' And they said, 'yeah.' And I said, 'yeah,' - I said - 'I got a new tie.' And so I said, 'you like it?' 'Yeah, we like it.' So I pulled off the price tag and said, 'I guess I'll keep it then.' As if I was going to take it back after wearing it once to the meeting but I was just kidding, I was going to keep it. I just need it to go on record in case you ever watch that program now. My conscience was bothering me. Gambling - is gambling stealing? I think we know gambling is wrong but, you know, gambling's all based on the premise of you're trying to get something from other people without working, just by playing a game of chance.

Right away Christians ought to know there's something wrong with gambling because it becomes addicting. Not living very far from reno - well, we don't even need to worry about reno anymore, there's bingo parlors everywhere and indian casinos. That's basically become legalized gambling all across the 50 states, under the pretense of being cultural diversity - it's just really legalized gambling and we've got one of the biggest bingo parlors - or casinos in North America is almost across the street from Amazing Facts and a lot of people lose everything. We thought we ought to put a sign out front for ministry - because of the traffic that goes by. A lot of people lose everything going to those places because they're addicted.

Proverbs 28:20, "a faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished." Whenever you get involved in any get-rich-quick scheme, you're usually not going to be without guilt. There's all kinds of different forms of gambling and multi-level Marketing and things that are designed for people to get rich quick - usually at the expense of somebody else - and that stuff borders on the definition of stealing. Gambling is really trying to take - you know what the lottery is doing? Who do you think buys most of the lottery tickets, poor people or rich people? Poor people do. Statistically it's very clear. And the government's basically purloining all this money from the poor people and, ostensibly, it's supposed to be going into some kind of government good project, but people are doing without so they can buy the lottery ticket attached to some dream and what do you think happens with the majority of people that get this big windfall? There's very few of them that win, but the ones that get this big windfall, track what happens in their lives afterward.

All kinds of - man recently got murdered by his family - who won the lottery - because everyone was worried about who was going to get the money. It's not attracted - it's not connected with good things. Gambling can strain relationships, interfere with work, lead to financial catastrophe - people do things they never thought they would do when they get addicted to that. How about stealing time? Ecclesiastes 9, verse 10, "whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going." They did a survey at 2006 - a combination of America online and salary.com - workers in this one poll admitted to wasting an average of nearly two hours a day of company time. The number one distraction was surfing the internet, following by socializing with coworkers.

Other top time wasters were running errands, making personal phone calls and arriving late or leaving early, according to the poll that interviewed 2,700 people. Two hours a day of an eight-hour day that employees are admitting that they don't really work. You wonder about productivity - what happens there - and economy? You know, this is in America. A lot of countries they work six days a week. I mean, they really work six days a week and some of them work seven days a week.

I'm not saying we should be workaholics, but if you're being paid for the time you're at work being paid, you ought to work. This idea that you're being paid to rest - most workplaces give people rest time off - there's a lot of fraud. It's stealing from your employer. Again, Colossians 3:23, "and whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord". If God was your employer - if Jesus was your employer, would you be just playing around on Facebook during his time? And yet, I think we all know a lot of that happens.

How about stealing ideas? There's more people out there than you would imagine that have 'phd' behind their name that downloaded their thesis - plagiarized it - took it from somebody else. Or what about cheating in school? Or on tests? Seventy four percent of students admitted sharing answers with a classmate during a test. You know, I found in my research for this another website that gave statics on cheating and how prevalent it is. I mentioned 73 percent of all test takers, including prospective graduate students and teachers agree, most students do cheat - the majority cheat at some point. % Of high school students agreed.

It wasn't always that way, that's gone up quite a bit. In the last 50 years, statistics show that cheating among high school students has risen dramatically. Notice, I told you they took the Ten Commandments off the wall. 'While about 20 percent of college students admitted to cheating in high school during the 1940s, today 75 - between 75 and 98 percent of college students surveyed report having cheated in high school. In the past it was the struggling student who was more likely to cheat just to survive.

Today, it's the above-average student who also cheats to get the very best grades. It doesn't have the stigma it no longer - it used to have with it. You're really stealing, sometimes, someone else's homework when you do it. I heard about a professor in a college that was about to give a test and he told his class just before the test, he said, 'you're going to get a test on two things today. Honesty and trigonometry.

' He said, 'if you are going to fail one of the tests, fail the test of trigonometry.' He said, 'there are a lot of good people out there that know nothing about trigonometry but there are no good people that don't understand honesty.' And so, it's possible for someone to steal by taking ideas that belong to somebody else. You can steal a person's reputation through gossip and slander. What's the most important thing you possess? Your house, your bank account or your name? And sometimes by slandering a person and saying evil things about them, trying to cut them down - maybe there's a promotion coming and you're hoping you're in line so you've got to undermine them to others and spread bad things. The Bible talks about that. 2 Timothy 3, verses 1 through 3.

"But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers" - gossiping about others, saying malicious, unkind - even if they're true, you don't need to be cutting that person down and stealing their reputation. And it's really hard to recover those words once they're spoken. Stealing from God - you know I'd be remiss as a pastor if I didn't mention what the Bible says about tithe and offering, but does it say in Malachi chapter 3:8, "will a man rob God? Yet you say...'In what way have we robbed you?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, for you have robbed me, even this whole nation.'" A hundred percent of what we have - that we worry about other people stealing - really belongs to God. We are simply temporary stewards of what God has given us.

Have you ever seen a hearse pulling a u-haul? No. You can't take it with you. These things all belong to God and we need to remember that. And one way we show that is - you know what? Beautiful thing about this commandment is it's really telling us that God does give us the rights to use his possessions. He says, 'prove you believe it all belongs to me by the tenth of your increase and offerings - you return that and I will bless the other 90 percent.

I'll bless what you have.' He'll also protect what we have. That doesn't mean that if you're a faithful tithe payer, no one will ever steal, but it seems like God restores somehow or another. Now, having said all this, I don't want to leave you looking as depressed as you do right now. The gospel is good news. Can thieves be forgiven? Yes.

Luke 19:8 - there was a man named zacchaeus and he was a publican and publicans used to take taxes for the Romans and they pocketed - they were notorious - they were mafia back then. They lined their pockets with - just like the mafia used to control the shipping industry, the publicans controlled the shipping industry and they'd line their pockets with the goods of others. When zacchaeus was received by Jesus, he was so moved he said, "lord...i give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation," - a form of stealing - "I restore fourfold." Why fourfold? Because the Bible said that you're supposed to pay back four times. When David talked about this man who stole another's man lamb, he said, 'he will restore fourfold because he did not have pity.' They used to pay back four times. And part of being forgiven is you should be willing to return.

Now, you say, 'Pastor Doug, I'm so glad you preached this sermon about stealing because, you know, I've had my neighbor's rake in my yard and I've got some things I took from my employer that I probably shouldn't have taken. They're little things but, you know, I needed extra paper and paper clips - whatever it was - so I brought some home from the office supply and, praise the Lord that Jesus will forgive me.' You're right, he will forgive you. You need to bring your neighbor back his chainsaw - you don't think he notices it's gone? His rake - even if he doesn't notice, you need to take it back. I've had a lot of people come to me after a message like this, they say, 'Pastor Doug, if I confess what I stole I may end up in jail. What do I do?' I say, 'you trust Jesus.

You go back to your boss, you tell him what you did. You say, 'I've become a Christian. I'll do everything I can to make it right, but I just felt I needed to confess.'' And you see, I've never known anyone who was incarcerated - though some could have been - because they were honest. It usually shocks people. And even the courts are very lenient with people who have suddenly developed a conscience.

It's like that man who wrote a letter to the irs and it says, please - enclosed find 50 dollars. I cheated on my taxes and I've not been able to sleep. If I'm still not able to sleep after this, I'll send the other .' The irs is not in a very good light right now, so I don't know if I should have said that. But it says in Ezekiel 33, 'if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen.' Now, what if you can't give it back? Sometimes - I was a thief, I burglarized houses - I woke up sober didn't even know where they were - it was in the dark. And really, sometimes you just can't or it's been years and the person's dead.

What do you do? God forgives you. Praise the Lord. He'll forgive you. Did Jesus forgive a thief on the cross? Could he pay anything back? No, and he said, 'you're going to be with me in paradise.' So does Jesus forgive thieves? No question about that. But as far as possible, if you can right some wrongs - pray the Holy Spirit will show you how to do that and God is willing to forgive you.

He'll forgive you first. Notice he forgave zacchaeus. After he forgave zacchaeus, he was so excited to be accepted by Jesus, he said, 'now I want to do the right thing because you've forgiven me.' And he'll forgive you today, but resolve in your mind to do the right thing, amen? Now while we talk about this subject - it is very serious because the Bible tells us that it was ultimately a thief who betrayed Jesus. It was greed that drove Judas to sell his Savior for silver. And so, if we don't think that stealing is serious, it cost Jesus his life.

It is serious business. Ephesians 4:28, Paul said, 'let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need." Stealing is all about sin and selfishness. It's taking for me. A Christian is the opposite. What's the opposite of stealing? Giving.

And so the Bible says, 'if you're going to stop stealing, don't just say, 'oh, don't steal, don't steal, don't steal.' Do it the other way - steal backwards. Work, earn, give. There are two kinds of people in the world. There are people who go through life trying to take more out of it than they put into it. There are consumers and there are producers.

Say, 'by God's grace I want to be a producer for Jesus. I'm going to try and earn, produce, help - so that I can give - I can support.' And that's really the message of Christ. He came to give. God so loved the world that he gave. Now, the most serious thing that we can steal? Life is a gift to you.

God has given you the greatest gift. If you live your life for yourself you'll be stealing what Christ has paid for. He purchased your life for his service, with his blood. If you live selfishly, you are a thief. If you take it - the Bible says, 'you keep it, you'll lose it.

He who thinks to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life' - he who gives his heart to Jesus - I'm paraphrasing - 'will find it.' The way to really be able to keep the greatest treasure - life - is he must give it to the one who owns it and that's Jesus. So what would you rather have? You rather have Jesus or the things of the world?

Name:

Email:

Prayer Request:


Share a Prayer Request
Name:

Email:

Bible Question:


Ask a Bible Question

Back To Top