The thief who must become an example of generosity

You shall not steal.

Exodus 20:15

Within the founding charter of the kingdom of God, the Ten Commandments, theft is forbidden. Within the entire Biblical narrative, theft is never looked upon as a positive characteristic. To be a thief is to knowingly take something from someone else, usually associated with violent acts or even murder.

Anyone who steals from his father and mother and says, “What’s wrong with that?” is no better than a murderer.

Proverbs 28:24

The thief upsets the system of civilized conduct because they feel that the same rules that govern others do not apply to them. Whatever their justification is for taking something that belongs to someone else is to consider their reason more important than obeying the command to not steal and the rights of others to enjoy their own possessions. Theft is dangerous because it mocks the integrity of civil order in any society, and must be punished in order to maintain the economic integrity and security of the community.

However, interestingly, the torah or instruction of God reveals that theft is not punishable by death. Instead, a thief must face a fate that could be worse than death for them: they must pay restitution. At a minimum, they must pay double what they stole (if the goods are recovered). But if what has been stolen has been sold or, in the case of a stolen animal, killed, then he must pay up to four or five times the amount. If they are unable to pay, then they must go into forced servitude to pay off the debt.

So it turns out that God’s solution for discouraging theft is its exact opposite: a type of forced generosity. They must give abundantly or they must give themselves.

Yeshua also taught that not only should believers not steal, they should be generous.

Matthew 10:8 Freely you received, freely give.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

In answering the questions of a wealthy young man, Yeshua also mentions a similar “restitution of generosity” for covetousness, which makes sense since extreme coveting can also lead to theft.

Jesus said, “Never murder. Never commit adultery. Never steal. Never give false testimony. Honor your father and mother. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” The young man replied, “I have obeyed all these commandments. What else do I need to do?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, sell what you own. Give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then follow me!” When the young man heard this, he went away sad because he owned a lot of property.

Matthew 19: 18-22

In keeping with the torah or instruction of God within his kingdom, and as a follower of Yeshua, we should never secretly take anything that does not belong to us. Instead, we should always be willing to give generously of all resources that have been entrusted to us. And because the life he has given us is a debt we can never repay, the remainder of our existence should become an offering of servitude to the one who has provided us this immeasurable gift of life.

If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at coreofthebible@gmail.com.

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