Why does God forbid stealing?

Humorist Boyce House told the story of a Texas lawyer who asked his rough-looking client if he knew what an alibi was. "Yes," said the client, "that's when I can prove I was somewheres else when I stole the horse."

My friends don't have any alibis for stealing, but many have solid reasons why we should respect the property of others. Brittany, age 9, says, "God wants us to be happy with what we have." Nathan, 11, adds: "Stealing is wrong because it is actually coveting. So you are breaking two commandments."

Good thinking. If you're content with what God has given, how can you become a thief? Keep your heart free from wanting other people's possessions by resting in God's provision, and you won't be tempted to steal.

Stealing is just plain "mean," says Heather, 10. "It's just like stealing God's things. It makes God sad when we steal, and the people we steal from."

Most thieves would never associate stealing from people with stealing from God. Yet, if we are created in God's image, the way we treat each other is a reflection of our relationship with God. If we have a relationship with God, we will respect his image in people, and that includes fruit of their labor.

For you who have planned and executed the perfect crime, Casey, 10, says, "If you think nobody saw you, think again because God sees everything you do."

Furthermore, Beth, 10, adds, "When people steal, their conscience bothers them."

Do you have a problem sleeping at night? Try returning the extra $15 you received when you paid with a $5 and the store clerk thought you gave him a $20.

"But I didn't steal it."

Listen to the Apostle James: "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). Oops. Can we steal by failing to do the good to which God has called us? If you've failed to act after sensing God's promptings in your heart, you know that sinking feeling of robbing someone of a blessing.

Kacey, 11, says it's a matter of applying the golden rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Some have perverted this into "Do unto others before they do it unto you."

"We should not steal because we didn't work for it," says Lee, 9. "The other person worked for it."

Work has dignity, and it should be respected. If you want to see God at work, read Genesis 1. Enjoy the golden hues of a sunset this evening.

Our respect for the dignity of work should extend to the fruit of one's labor. Some have viewed work as part of the curse God pronounced upon the Earth after Adam and Eve sinned. But God told Adam to "tend and keep" the garden before he ate of the forbidden fruit. Once Adam sinned, however, work became more difficult because God cursed the Earth.

Although Adam and Eve lost paradise, it took a thief to show us the way back. Almost 2,000 years ago, one thief scolded another for mocking an innocent man condemned to die with them. "We are getting what we deserve, but this man has done nothing wrong," said one thief to another.

Jesus turned to the thief who had defended him and said, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."

The thief didn't steal his way into paradise but simply believed in the Son of God. You can, too.

Point to ponder: Be content with God's provision for you. Scripture to remember: "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).

Questions to consider: Are you content with God's provision? Do you respect the work and property God has entrusted to others?

Inspire your children by reading this column with them and visiting the Kids Talk About God website at  www.KidsTalkAboutGod.org. Bible quotations are from the New King James Version.

© 2004 CAREY KINSOLVING