SPECIAL TOPIC: STEAL (Exodus 20:15, BDB 170, KB 198)


A. Like all other regulations in the Decalog, our faith, love, and respect for God must be seen in the sacred and secular aspects of our daily lives. It is an abomination to God to claim to know Him and then exploit our covenant partner (cf. 1 John 2:7-11; 4:20-21).

B. This command is meant to help maintain the fellowship of the covenant community. The quality of this spiritual fellowship will attract a confused and seeking world to our God which is the purpose of Scripture.

C. As other commandments have focused on God’s ownership of all of life, so too, this one! We are stewards, not owners. Our fallen drive toward possessions, without cost, is behind this prohibition (cf. Ps. 50:10-12).



A. This is the third command in the second half of the Decalog which is made up of only two words in Hebrew.

B. The object of the prohibition is absent. This is usually supported by:

1. The context of the two previous commands relating to capital offenses.

2. The presence of applicable parallel passages both immediate (Exod. 21:16) and remote (Deut. 24:7). Also see Genesis 37.

C. However, the short form is also defensible

1. It is recorded for us by inspiration

2. It widens the scope of the injunction

3. There is also a parallel passage in the immediate context which relates to theft – Exodus 22:1ff (not kidnapping).

4. Jesus apparently quotes this passage in reference to stealing (cf. Matt. 19:18).

D. Theft is also dealt with in the other ancient Law Codes but usually the penalty is death, mutilation, or 30 times restitution.

E. There are some significant parallel passages which define and explain this truth:

1. Leviticus 19:1-18 — "You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy"

a. Our lifestyle must reflect the family characteristics of our Father and our God (cf. Leviticus 19).

b. Our faith must impact our lives daily, both in positive actions and negative prohibition, both informed by proper motives (cf. Leviticus 19).

c. Compassion for the ostracized and needy, Lev. 19:9-10,13, is as significant as refusal to rip off our neighbors, Exod. 20:11.

2. Amos 8:4-7 – God hates exploitations!

3. Micah 6:6-8 – God wants proper motives in all of our actions. Why we don’t steal is the issue!

4. Exodus 22:1ff – Often the missing truth in our modern discussion of robbery is restitution! Sin always costs!



A. Joy Davidman, C. S. Lewis’ wife, has written a delightful book on the Decalog. She translates this command "Thou shalt not try to get something for nothing." This assuredly widens the scope beyond possessions. She also says that "property is neither sin nor inalienable right, but a loan, a trust from God."

B. Theft, like all other sins of the fallen heart, are dealt with by a new heart (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:26; Eph. 4:28). It is amazing how the old nature of "take" turns into the new nature of "share!"

C. Our respect for God is clearly seen in our respect for other covenant partners! This truth overshadows the Decalog.

D. Fallen people steal in many ways!



1. How does modern man practice stealing?

2. How is restitution related to repentance?

3. How does this verse relate to capitalism’s view of property?