“Your Word Is Truth”
“You Must Not Steal”
“RISING Wave of Shoplifting—and No End in Sight.” So read the title of a feature article appearing in U.S. News & World Report, March 2, 1970. It told that this type of stealing had tripled in a decade, “making it one of the fastest-growing types of all thefts.” “Just a fraction of all shoplifting incidents are actually reported to the police,” it went on to say, and thousands of millions of dollars in money and goods are stolen annually.
This report also told that in one store where 175 customers were put under surveillance, one out of nine stole something. A survey of 1,000 high-school students in Delaware revealed that 50 percent admitted to stealing at least once. A West Coast merchant was quoted as saying that, according to lie-detector operators, “75 percent of all employees steal everything from money to merchandise. It’s like a big iceberg—we see only the tip.”
Stealing is a type of selfishness that takes on many forms, shoplifting and employee theft being but two of them. People steal from insurance companies by making out false or exaggerated claims of losses. Citizens steal from their government by tax evasion, by smuggling goods into their country without paying duty and by getting undeserved unemployment benefits. Some cashiers at grocery check-out points have been known to defraud customers in various ways.
Today thieves in broad daylight rob people in the street in many cities, such as New York. Thus while a group of people were waiting in line to take a tour of a printing plant, a car drove up, one man got out, snatched a purse from one of the women standing in line, jumped back into the car and was driven off in a matter of seconds. Even on busy subway platforms a thief will approach a stranger, show him a knife in the palm of his hand, relieve him of his wallet and then wave him a cheery good-bye!
Why is there so much stealing today? The Bible foretold this increase as well as the reason for it. In brief, it shows that Satan the Devil and his demons have been cast down to the earth where they in great rage are doing all they can to debauch the human race, for they know their time is short.—Matt. 24:12; 2 Tim. 3:1-5; Rev. 12:7-12.
Among the causes that might be mentioned for widespread stealing today are drug addiction and gambling. Then again, some steal because they are too lazy to work, even as there are women who carry on shoplifting for “kicks,” for the excitement of doing something unlawful and getting away with it. Lack of proper parental training no doubt also accounts for much theft by youths.
Those who steal often try to explain away or rationalize their actions. Many feel that it is all right to steal from big stores or corporations, but it still is theft. Others justify stealing because of poverty or other social injustices, but two wrongs do not make a right. Others, again, justify their thefts because they may not be large. But God’s Word says: “The person unrighteous in what is least is unrighteous also in much.”—Luke 16:10.
In view of the propensity of fallen mankind to take things that belong to others, how wise is the eighth of the Ten Commandments, which reads: “You must not steal.” (Ex. 20:15) While this law was given to the sons of Israel, the Christian Greek Scriptures likewise plainly forbid stealing. Typical is the command recorded by the apostle Paul: “Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him do hard work, doing with his hands what is good work, that he may have something to distribute to someone in need.” How much better to be giving to needy persons than to be stealing!—Eph. 4:28.
The first human to steal, it might be said, was Eve. Seeing that the forbidden fruit in Eden “was good for food and that it was something to be longed for,” she yielded to the temptation and began eating of it. Then she induced her husband to join her in her theft. What a price they paid!—Gen. 3:1-24.
Another thief who came to a bad end was the Israelite Achan, who stole some of the things dedicated to Jehovah when Jericho was taken by Israel. He also paid for his theft with his life. And there was the betrayer Judas Iscariot. He is stigmatized as a thief by the apostle John, who wrote: “He was a thief and had the money box and used to carry off the monies put in it.” He ended up a suicide.—Josh. 7:1-26; John 12:6; Matt. 27:5.
How can a person fight the tendency to take unlawfully what belongs to others? By telling himself all the reasons why he should not do so. First of all, the fear of Jehovah God should keep one from stealing, because stealing incurs God’s displeasure, and is it sensible to risk that? “We are not stronger than [God] is, are we?” Yes, “the fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad,” and stealing certainly is bad.—1 Cor. 10:22; Prov. 8:13.
Secondly, a person should shun stealing because it results in a bad conscience. Better to do without certain things than acquire them at the cost of losing a good conscience. Christians are commanded to hold a good conscience: “Hold a good conscience, so that in the particular in which you are spoken against they may get ashamed who are speaking slightingly of your good conduct.”—1 Pet. 3:16.
Further, stealing makes for bad relations with the one from whom a person has stolen something. One just cannot steal from another and remain friendly at heart toward that one. And then there is always the fear or likelihood of getting caught. As the apostle Peter also warns: “Let none of you suffer as a . . . thief.”—1 Pet. 4:15.
In fact, reason alone should tell one that stealing is wrong. Just as one would not want another to take from oneself what one had lawfully obtained, so one should not want to take from another what that one has lawfully acquired. The Golden Rule makes sense: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.”—Luke 6:31.
A great help is contentment. He who appreciates that “there is great gain in godliness with contentment” will not be tempted to steal. And it must be admitted that an aid in combating the tendency to steal is staying as far as possible away from opportunities to steal.—1 Tim. 6:6-8, Revised Standard Version.
In summing up, it might well be said that the two great commandments, to ‘love Jehovah God with all one’s heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ will keep one from stealing. No question about it, “Love does not work evil to one’s neighbor.”—Mark 12:29-31; Rom. 13:10.
Even as with other vices with which the fallen human race is afflicted, stealing can be overcome. The apostle Paul tells of certain ones in the Corinthian congregation who overcame this vice. It can be done and it is being done also today.