The eighth commandment prohibits stealing. Almost any law code tells us not to steal, but only the Bible tells us why. Why shouldn’t you steal? The reason you shouldn’t steal is because everything we have has been given to us by God, and what has been given to our neighbor has been given to our neighbor by God. Therefore to steal from our neighbor is to steal from God.
How do we steal? Well, it’s not only a matter of breaking into someone’s house in order to take another’s possessions. We steal from an employer when we waste time or don’t give the best work of which we’re capable. We steal if we waste raw products from the company where we work. If we run a business, we steal if we overcharge for our products just because the market will bear it, or if we sell an inferior product at the normal cost. We steal when we borrow but don’t repay a loan, or if we repay it late. We steal from the government if we cheat on our taxes. We steal from God when we fail to worship Him as we ought.
What is the positive side of this commandment? The positive side is that we ought to do everything we can to help other people and to protect their property. Jesus expressed it in the Golden Rule: “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matt. 7:12).
The ninth commandment forbids giving false testimony. It has to do with testimony in a court of law. But of course it’s not to be restricted to that. It also has to do with telling the truth and telling the truth at all times. Jesus said we are to have our yes be yes and our no be no. So that includes and eliminates all forms of slander, gossip, idle talk, and all deliberate exaggerations and distortions of the truth.
The Bible tells us that we must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to our neighbors (see Ephesians 4:25). That’s not easy to do. If we begin to think about it, it’s one of the hardest of all the commandments. Some of the others are clear; we know what we should do and what we shouldn’t do. But telling the truth is hard. It’s hard for several reasons. In some situations, telling a lie—or at least modifying the truth—seems almost to be demanded. We say, “Well, if I told the truth, it would hurt the other person.” In other situations, telling the truth almost seems impossible, such as when it could lead to an innocent person’s death at the hands of cruel people.
There is also the question of how to separate what is true from what is false in “gray areas.” We have the whole system of law to try to sift out from among conflicting evidence what really is the truth. We are admonished when we give testimony in a court of law to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. But it requires cross-examination to bring that out.
How are we going to tell the truth? One thing we have to do is fill our heads with Bible teaching. The Bible is the only thing that’s absolutely true, so we have to start there. We have to have our hearts and minds focused on God and His glory, and we must love Jesus Christ. That is the antidote to selfishness, which is the very heart of sin. If your mind is focused upon yourself and you are always thinking of yourself, then you are always going to distort the truth to your own advantage. You won’t even know you are doing it! You just perceive things in a way that helps you. But if your mind is focused on Jesus Christ, and your goal is the glory of God, and you are feeding on the Scriptures, then you can begin to make progress in this very difficult area, and begin to speak the truth as Jesus Christ Himself did.
The tenth commandment is, “You shall not covet.” It’s perhaps the most revealing and the most devastating of all the commandments because it has to do with the inner attitude of the heart. On the surface, the other commandments appeared to deal with concrete actions; although as we saw, Jesus took them and moved them into the attitude of the heart. However, when we talk about coveting, we’re talking about something that really has to do with attitudes.
That strikes at the heart of our materialistic Western culture. Mass marketing today is bent to make us dissatisfied with what we have and covet the things we don’t have. Nevertheless, this is what God is telling Christian people. This doesn’t mean that we’re not to improve our lot in life. There’s nothing wrong with that. It doesn’t mean that we are not to work hard or that we can’t enjoy the things we have. Rather, it’s being dissatisfied with what we have because somebody else has more, who has something or someone we want. Coveting involves wanting whatever the other person has and being willing to do whatever it takes to get it, even if we have to disobey the other commandments. That’s what we are not to do.
We can’t study the moral law without being awakened to our sin. We read these commandments and there’s not one of them about which we can say, “Well, I kept this one, even though the others give me trouble.” No, if we understand these commandments rightly, we understand we have broken them all.
Not only does the law point out the seriousness of our sin; it also points us to Jesus Christ the Savior. At the same time this law was given on Mount Sinai, God also gave the ceremonial law that had to do with the building of the tabernacle. And everything in the tabernacle pointed forward to what Jesus Christ would do. It was God’s way of saying, “This is the law. You have to live by this. But if you don’t live by it—and I know you won’t—what you need is a savior.”
The law reveals to us the holy character of God. As sinners, we cannot keep it as we are commanded. But Jesus Christ has kept the law perfectly for all those who come to Him in faith. Knowing this, we go on in His strength, through His Spirit, striving to please Him in all things. Ask yourself these questions: What has this study revealed to me about my sin and the changes in my life I need to make? Has it actually pointed me to Jesus Christ? Am I trusting Him as my Savior? Am I looking to Him for forgiveness and cleansing? Do I desire to be holy, even as God is holy? If not, why not? If so, what are the steps I should be taking?