Jesus in the command not to steal (Exodus 20:15)

To steal is to use someone else as a conduit for one’s own pleasures, for one’s own desires.  It is to take what they have in order to enrich oneself. And the greatest thing that can be stolen from a person is their very life, sentencing them to a life of slavery.  It is true that slavery existed in ancient cultures and still exists today, but slavery never was an institution that was meant to display human dignity and love.  Slavery, in the human forms, always seeks to use others.  And God didn’t want us to steal objects from people, but even more he didn’t want us to steal a person’s very life either.  As we read Paul’s statement to Timothy we find a very interesting elaboration on what stealing is. 

We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who [now listen] kill their fathers or mothers (5th), for murderers (6th), for adulterers and perverts (7th), for slave traders (8th) and liars and perjurers (9th) — and for whatever else (10th) is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me” (1Timothy 1:9-11) 

Paul lists commandments five through ten in order but in the position of the eighth place is slave traders not thieves.  Human slavery is the greatest form of theft that can occur.  It is what happened to Joseph when he was sold into slavery. 

For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon” (Genesis 40:15)

In fact, humanity since the fall finds itself in the position of being a slave to sin, a grievous form of thievery for the very image of God – righteousness and holiness has been taken and replaced with its opposite.  But that is precisely where we find Jesus in the command not to steal.  He is the one who restores life to people instead of taking it.  He is the one who gives dignity and seeks our best interest not his own.  That is why the scripture declares,


When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men. (Eph 4:8)

“Come to me,” Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28) 

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink (John 7:37)


The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy

Jesus says,

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10)

Jesus gave himself in order to usher in the jubilee when all slaves were set free. Quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2, Jesus says,

The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19). 

Jesus didn’t come to collect slaves, but to be a slave.  Listen to his words 

the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). 

The author of Hebrews commenting on this writes, 

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance — now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant (Hebrews 9:15). 

Where the thief enslaves for his own personal profit, Christ redeems at his own personal cost, sharing his very life with all who come to him.  Giving us the right to be called children of God (Gal 4:31).  Setting us apart

so that [we] may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which [we] shine like stars in the universe (Philippians 2:15).

Jesus has opened the very doors of heaven and given us access into the most holy of holies.  Let’s close with these words of Paul to the Ephesians,


He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone” (2:17-20).

That’s what it means not to steal life, but to give it.


About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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