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Summary: The 8th commandment forces us to look at our attitude towards possessions and our accountabilty to God

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“IT’S A STEAL, BUT NOT A BARGAIN! “

(Exodus 20:15)

We visited the Norman Rockwell Museum in Philadelphia and nostalgia gripped us as we remembered those great covers on The Saturday Evening Post. One of my favorites pictured an encounter in a butcher shop. A woman shopper and a butcher faced each other with a turkey on the scales between them. Each had the pleased smile of someone who is in on a private joke. A careful look shows the butcher’s heavy thumb on the scales, while the customer pushes up on them with a dainty forefinger.

Were they thieves? Neither would rob a bank or steal a car. Each would be indignant if accused of stealing, but neither saw anything wrong with a deception worth only a few cents for either of them. James Bere of Berg-Warner said to Time magazine: “There’s a definite problem. Many of the young people who come in to work for us don’t know right from wrong.” [Time, August 15, 1988].

In the United States department store pilferage exceeds $4 billion a year. One estimate says that of every fifty-two customers a day one carries away at least one unpaid-for item, and the number is rising. Then there are the tax cheats, the double-dippers on welfare, the millions stolen through telephone and computer misuse, and those who steal with impunity from their employers.

Schemes, scams and swindles are a way of life today. Sophisticated deal makers like like several recent high-powered executives, and penny-ante con artists invade every community. A man on crutches hobbled over to a passerby and asked for money. The charitable pedestrian handed him a dollar bill with the remark, “Cheer up. It would be much worse if you were blind.” “I know,” he responded. “I was blind last week and kept getting phony money!”

Every rip-off costs you and me. Honest consumers pay the price for this dishonesty and cheating, and covering the cost is no bargain!

I. ATTITUDES TOWARD POSSESSIONS

The eighth commandment, “You shall not steal,” infers God’s approval of private property ownership. You cannot steal property from a person if he doesn’t own it. Seventeen of Jesus’ thirty-six parables in the New Testament speak of property and ownership.

The parable of the Good Samaritan can be outlined by the attitudes it demonstrates toward property and riches. The story begins in Luke 10:30: A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. The robbers’ attitude was, “What’s yours is mine: I’ll take it.”

That’s the attitude of the businessperson who pads an expense account. Those who cheat on their income tax, or purchase goods on credit with no possibility or intention of paying for them are also guilty. Cheating on a test robs other students as well as yourself. “You’ve worked hard for your score, but what’s yours is mine, and I will take the grade I don’t deserve.”

It’s a pervasive attitude. A wife complained to her husband one evening, “The housekeeper has stolen two of our brand new towels.” He replied, “Well, some people are just like that. Which ones did she take?” The wife said, “The ones we took from the hotel last week.”


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