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Lesson 7

The Seventh Commandment

Thou shalt not steal.  (Exodus 20:15)


     What are we commanded by the seventh commandment?

By the seventh commandment we are commanded to respect what belongs to others, to live up to our business agreements and to pay our just debts.

Better is a little with justice, than great revenue with iniquity.  (Proverbs 16:8)


Saint Nicolas

     What does the seventh commandment forbid?

Besides stealing, the seventh commandment forbids cheating, unjust keeping of what belongs to others, unjust damage to the property of others, and the accepting of bribes by public officials.

Do not any unjust thing in judgment, in rule, in weight, or in measure.  Let the balance be just and the weights equal, the bushel just, and the sextary equal.  (Leviticus 19:35-36)

     Are we obliged to restore to the owner stolen goods, or their value?

We are obliged to restore to the owner stolen goods, or their value, whenever we are able.

If any man steal an ox or a sheep, and kill or sell it, he shall restore five oxen for one ox, and four sheep for one sheep.  (Exodus 22:1)

     Are we obliged to repair damage unjustly done to the property of others?

We are obliged to repair damage unjustly done to the property of others, or to pay the amount of the damage, as far as we are able.

If any man hurt a field or a vineyard, and put in his beast to feed upon that which is other men's, he shall restore the best of whatsoever he hath in his own field, or in his vineyard, according to the estimation of the damage.  (Exodus 22:5)


Thou Shall Not Steal

This commandment forbids all unjust taking away or keeping what belongs to another.


Now everyone knows that it is wrong to steal.  Civil Authorities certainly know because they put people in jails or prisons for doing it.

But what everyone doesn't know is that almost everyone steals in one form or another.

Now lets look at a few examples:

  1. A clerk in the supermarket gives you a five dollar bill in change instead of a one by mistake.  You are aware of the mistake but leave the store with the extra money.  That is stealing.

  2. A waitress in a restaurant bills you less for what you have ordered.  You do not point out the error and leave paying the lesser amount.  That is stealing.

  3. An employer takes advantage of an over supply of labor and pays his employees a less than livable wage.  He not only harms his employees, but also their families or dependants.  That is stealing.

  4. An employee does not put in a just day's work for a just day's pay.  Or takes home paper clips, pens, pencils, stationary, and other items without his employer's permission.  Or uses the computer and telephone when he should be putting in productive efforts.  That is stealing.

Much better examples are the ones listed by the author Connon Francis Ripley in his book "This is the Faith":

  • Theft and robbery

  • Assisting in theft and robbery

  • Borrowing without hope or intentions of repaying

  • Rash speculation, without being able to bear possible loss

  • Unfair interference with another's success

  • Extravagance, especially when others are hurt by it

  • Accepting bribes

  • Receiving stolen goods while knowing they are stolen

  • Not restoring what has been unjustly taken or what has been lent to us

  • Not paying just wages during a reasonable time

  • Not taking reasonable pains to seek the owner of things found

  • Passing bad money in payment (bad checks)

  • Forging signatures to checks, etc.

  • Using false weights and measures

  • Adulteration of goods and any other form of cheating in business

  • Dishonest statements in insurance contracts

  • Usury or exorbitant interest

  • Willfully damaging property

  • Wasting time at work

  • Unlawful strikes

  • Refusal to pay rent

  • Not paying debts

  • Gambling away family savings

  • Cheating on exams in school

  • Plagiarism

  • Violation of copyright laws

There are many other ways a person can steal.  You can steal one's affection, ruin their reputation, destroy their business through unethical business practices, destroy their emotions, or steal their wives or husbands.

There are however, times and situation when a person is permitted to steal.  Such as stealing food in order to save one's life.  But, repayment eventually must be made.

All of these will be discussed in more detail in future lessons.