“You shall not steal.” Exodus 30:15
Some of the most important aspects of life, including the purchase of property, inheritances, and so forth, involve financial matters. Thus, we are not surprised to find that God’s law deals with such things as poverty, riches, and ownership in many places (e.g., Lev. 25). As is the case with other matters central to human life, the Ten Commandments provide the foundational law upon which other laws related to financial and stewardship issues are based. We are talking about the eighth commandment: “You shall not steal” (Ex. 20:15).
A commandment against theft is easy enough to understand, but we should take care not to miss what this law assumes. In outlawing stealing, the eighth commandment assumes a right to ownership and private property. One cannot steal something if it does not rightly belong to someone else, so the eighth commandment implicitly commends the right acquisition and stewarding of material goods. Since God Himself is an owner of the cattle on a thousand hills (Ps. 50:10) and we are made in His image (Gen. 1:26–27), it makes good sense that there would be a way to mirror His ownership of all things through our ownership. In other words, God delegates to us the responsibility of owning and caring for property and other goods. He assigns human beings to be stewards of what ultimately belongs to Him.