8. Are you a thief?
The eighth commandment - "You shall not steal” Deuteronomy 5:19 (NIV)
Go back throughout your life and ask yourself honestly whether you have ever stolen anything, however small, from a shop or a person, or fiddled a tax return or expenses claim. Alternatively have you ever received wages for work that was not actually done or not properly done? Or have you ever spent time in your working day doing things for yourself on the internet, or texting, or on the telephone, or shopping when you should have been working for your employer? If you have then, at the very least, you have stolen time and wages from that employer, not to mention his phone bill. That alone makes you a thief and a lawbreaker, even if you have only ever done it once:
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.James 2:10 (NIV)
James’ point is that to do a thing even once means that you have broken the law. If so, then you are a ‘lawbreaker’ overall. In God’s eyes it is as if you have broken the whole law. In case you are still insisting that you have never stolen, what about failing to give your money or possessions to God, or to a person whom He wants you to help? To fail to give away what God wants you to give is equal to theft, because you would be robbing God. The book of Malachi shows this principle:
8"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, 'How do we rob you?' "In tithes and offerings. 9 You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. 10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.Malachi 3:8-10 (NIV)
See also what God says about giving to the poor and the attitude we are commanded towards have to those in need:
7If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward your poor brother. 8Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs. 9Be careful not to harbour this wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for cancelling debts, is near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you will be found guilty of sin. 10Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.11There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land. Deuteronomy 15:7-11 (NIV)
You might argue that these verses are from the Old Testament and that they perhaps do not apply to us now if we are Christians. That would be a mistake. The New Testament still teaches the need to give, and to give generously. All that has altered is the way in which the level of our giving is to be calculated. If anything, the duty to give is even higher now. In the Old Testament the Jewish people had to give "tithes and offerings". (A tithe means a tenth of your income.) The duty to tithe no longer applies to us, but the duty to be generous still applies. Indeed, whatever it meant to be "generous" back then, I would think that God expects more of us now than He expected of the people of the Old Testament.
So, the mere fact that we do not have to tithe does not necessarily mean that we should give any less. Many of us ought in fact to give more. Even more importantly, God wants us to be cheerful as we do it. That's a tall order and, so far as I can tell, not many people seem to manage it. Giving should be something we enjoy and look forward to with relish. Instead of finding out the minimum that we are obliged to do, we should be volunteering cheerfully to give more. Look at what apostle Paul has to say on this:
6Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7 (NASB)
Are you generous to the poor? Do you give sacrificially, to the point where it really costs you something and you have to go without? Or, are you hard-hearted and tight-fisted? Be honest with yourself. Many people are mean and stingy. Otherwise why would the Bible have to correct us on this point so frequently? Even if you imagine yourself to be innocent concerning this commandment, or any of the others, you probably aren’t. You are probably just blind to your own sin if you think that. Look at what the Psalmist says about people who can’t see their own sin:
1An oracle is within my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before his eyes.
2For in his own eyes he flatters himself
too much to detect or hate his sin.
Psalm 36:1-2 (NIV)