Exodus 20:15 says, “You shall not steal.” It is the 8th of 10 Commandments. Stealing takes a number of forms and is not relegated to just taking something that doesn’t belong to you. Here are 5 different categories or forms of stealing.
First, there is individual or personal stealing. This form of stealing can come when we deprive men of their rights like respect, dignity or freedom. Jeremiah wrote, “To deny a man justice in the presence of the Most High, to subvert a man in his lawsuit, the Lord does not approve” (Lam 3:35-36). We can steal by gaining an unfair advantage at another’s expense (e.g., identity theft, which is the fastest growing crime in America). We can steal when we borrow and don’t return, when we don’t pay our mortgages or bills when we agree to pay them, when we shoplift, when we pirate music or movies off the internet, when we download illegal material off the internet, when we cheat on our taxes or do not pay our taxes at all, when we plagiarize in writing, speaking or blogging, when cheating, etc. Slander could also be labeled as a form of stealing, because it is robbing someone of their reputation.
Second, there is economical stealing. This form of stealing is so broad and can range from anything like unfair trading, to deficit spending, to wasting public money, to embezzling money from another, to charging someone excessive interest, etc. Solomon wrote, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight” (Prov 11:1; 16:11).
Third, there is vocational stealing. This form of stealing is more common than we like to admit or even know. Some examples of stealing in the workplace from the employee’s perspective would be not working at work, taking a sick day when you are not sick (which is costing companies approximately $350 billion annually), taking office supplies without permission (which is costing companies approximately $40 billion annually), etc. Some examples of stealing in the workplace from the employer’s perspective would be paying insufficient wages, price gouging, false advertising, etc.
Fourth, there is communal or societal stealing. The Bible speaks out against this form of stealing often when it addresses suppressing the poor (Exod 15; 22; Lev 25; Deut 15; Mic 2-3), taking advantage of a stranger, widow or fatherless (Exod 22:21-24), slavery (Exod 15:12-18), kidnapping another person (Exod 21:16; Deut 23:7), etc.
Fifth, and finally, there is ecclesiastical stealing. The example that comes to mind about how we can rob the church or rob God is from Malachi 3:8-9 –
“Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you.”
I might also argue that anytime we choose to not meet with God over something else, we are stealing time from God.
Stealing is so much more pervasive than we realize.