You will not steal. [Exodus 20:15 ESV]
Within Adam’s rebellion is, in some way, the violation of every one of the absolute statements of God found in the ten commandments. Yet, if there was one obvious crime it was Adam taking something which did not belong to him. He was given every tree in the garden but the fruit of one tree. We do not know if he plucked the fruit for Eve to take the first bite. We do know he took a bite. This simple act tells us Adam stole from God.
Stealing is taking for yourself anything which does not belong to you. Most of the time when someone steals from another it has nothing to do with persecution. Yet, stealing is a direct assault on righteousness and the just standards of God inherent in the image of God given man.
All of these statements reflect the thinking of the heart showing how each believes and acts upon their understanding of God. If murder is an attempt to destroy God by unjustly killing one who has the image of God then murder must first start in the heart. If adultery is an attempt to destroy the relationship one may have with Him whose image we carry, then, it too, must first start in the heart. So stealing first begins in the heart as an action meant to degrade any relationship with Him. Since God cannot be touched we grab what we can from His creation. Murder is a failed attempt to devalue the image of God. Adultery is a failed attempt to a relationship with God. What then is stealing a failed attempt to do?
Stealing is an attempt to replace the value God gives to an object with the thief’s standard giving the thief illegitimate control. Thieves steal more than objects. They steal control. Part of the image of God given, and corrupted by sin, is dominion. Originally, God gave Adam dominion, or control, over earthly creation (see Genesis 1:26-27).
When Adam sinned he did not lose the image of God but he, the vessel which contained the image, was corrupted. He was given control exercising the authority given by God as God’s representative to the world. As he rebelled against God so the world rebelled against him. Integral to the sentence was the frustration and anger Adam would experience because of the loss of control.
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” [Genesis 3:17-19 ESV]
Why did this happen? Adam stole from God, doing the one thing he was told to not do. Adam and Eve were tempted by Satan to grasp for control over that which was God’s. Adam’s rebellion and theft resulted in a war to wrest control over the world, over other people, over things, over God. Satan tempted Eve and Adam to view the fruit of the tree as having a value not given by God. The thinking of their hearts were led away from the truth.
Everything created belongs to the One who created everything. When we claim anything as our own we say it does not belong to God and we try to steal from Him. Our place is to acknowledge all, including ourselves, belongs to Him. If He owns everything then He, and He alone, assigns value to that a thing. We do not have the right to replace the value God has given with our own. Doing this devalues the thing only in our eyes and in the thinking of our hearts. Finally, nothing but people will exist for eternity. To say a thing has more value than assigned by God suggests it is worth having more than a relationship with God.
If your are His then when you die only what is truly valuable will go with you into eternity. Everything you value in this world will stay in this world. What does God value? Himself, His Word, and the people He created. Jesus did not die for anything in this world but the people created in the image of God.
While the motivation, the thinking of the heart, behind persecution is a direct attack on God and His ambassadors in this world, a war against righteousness, it may contain the desire to own that which belongs to the Christian. Most thefts are an attack on the standard of righteousness and only incidentally against the temporal owner of the stuff. Whether the theft is motivated by hatred toward the person it remains and act of hatred toward God. Stealing is a failed attempt to control God.