Summary: An examination of the 8th commandment and what it means for building healthy relationships when we don’t take from those relationships, but work to give.
Give and Take (Exodus 20:15)
There is an old story about two neighbors, a baker and a farmer, who didn’t get along very well. You see, the baker was suspicious of the farmer, suspecting that he wasn’t getting his money’s worth when he paid for a pound of butter. He weighed the farmer’s butter on several occasions and finally had him arrested for fraud.
The judge asked the farmer at the trial, “I presume you have scales?”
“Yes, of course, Your Honor,” the farmer replied.
“And weights?” the judge asked.
“No,” replied the farmer. “I don’t have a set of weights.”
“Then how do you hope to weigh accurately the butter you sell to your neighbor?” the judge asked.
“That’s easy,” the farmer said. “When the baker began to buy from me, I decided to buy my bread from him. I’ve been using his one-pound loaves to balance my scales. If the weight of the butter is wrong, he has only himself to blame.” (Dr. William Mitchell and Michael Mitchell, Building Strong Families, Broadman & Holdman, 1997; www.PreachingToday.com)
When we cheat, we end up hurting ourselves, but not only that, we destroy our relationships. It will be a long time before these two neighbors learn to trust each other again. & That’s the sad thing. Stealing not only hurts us. It hurts those closest to us, as well.
We’re talking about how to have and maintain healthy relationships. & The Bible is very clear and practical on this point. In 10 simple commands, it tells us how to love God and to truly love people.
If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Exodus 20, Exodus 20, where we get this practical help on all of our relationships. This morning we’re looking at the 8th command. Exodus 20, and verse 15: “You shall not steal.”
There you have it, pure, plain, and simple. If you want to have and maintain healthy relationships, then don’t steal; don’t rob one another; DON’T TAKE what doesn’t belong to you.
Now, obviously this covers the “big” sins like robbing a bank, or shoplifting. But stealing also involves things like taking a person’s time by being late, taking someone’s honor through gossip, or borrowing something and not returning it. Stealing involves cheating on a test or paper at school, keeping the change when you’re given too much, or calling in sick at work when you’re not.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, employee dishonesty costs American businesses over $50 billion annually. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that 75 percent of all employees steal at least once, and at half of these steal again and again. The chamber also reports that one of every three business failures are the direct result of employee theft. (Bob Mather, Employee theft: Prevention Beats Apprehension; www.PreachingToday.com)
When we steal even the little things, it creates big problems. Stealing of any kind damages a person’s integrity and their relationships.
Some time ago, the Associated Press ran a story about a young man who tried to steal gas from Dennis Quiggly’s motor home in Seattle, Washington. His intent was to stick a rubber hose in the motor home’s gas tank, suck on the other end of the hose until he got a mouth full of gas, and spit it out. Then with the gasoline flowing through the hose, he intended to fill his own tank.
Dennis Quiggly happened to be inside his motor home at the time. And when he heard some noises outside, he ran out and discovered the thief curled on the ground vomiting violently. Intending to suck up the contents of the gas tank, the thief had put his hose into the wrong hole – and had sucked up the contents of the sewage tank instead.
The thief, a boy 14, will not be prosecuted. Dennis and the police agree that he has suffered enough.” (Associated Press, www.SermonCentral.com)
Now, that boy learned the hard way that there are some very distasteful consequences to stealing. When it’s all said and done, we only end up hurting ourselves.
John Smith was a loyal carpenter, working for a very successful building contractor who called him into his office one day and said, “John, I’m putting you in charge of the next house we build. I want you to order all the materials and oversee the whole job from the ground up.”
John accepted the assignment with great enthusiasm and excitement. For ten days before ground was broken at the building site, John studied the blueprints. He checked every measurement, every specification. Suddenly he had a thought. “If I am really in charge,” he said to himself, “why couldn’t I cut a few corners, use less expensive materials, and put the extra money in my pocket? Who would know the difference? Once the house is painted, it will look just great.”