You Shall Not Steal Nor Covet
Deuteronomy 5:19, 21
Dr. Tony Chute, Lead Pastor
Overview: The eighth and tenth commandments prohibit stealing and coveting while affirming generosity and contentment. Stealing takes many forms: theft of property belonging to others; theft of time dedicated to others; theft of goods owed to others; and theft of services provided by others. The underlying cause of such sins is covetousness, which may be defined as an underlying discontentment based upon someone else’s good fortune or undue concern over one’s personal situation. Coveting is a more subtle sin than stealing as it pertains to an attitude rather than an action, and it is a more “acceptable” sin because it is often disguised as ambition. Christians are called to combat both sins by recognizing that they arise from deeper issues of the heart, which reflect dissatisfaction with God’s good providences in our lives.
01. The cure for stealing is to develop a heart of giving. We may not need to become ascetics, but we should be known for our generosity.
02. The cure for coveting is to develop a heart of contentment. We may not need to abandon ambition, but we should be known for our satisfaction.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION & DISCOVERY
1. We normally think of stealing as the theft of personal property. What other ways of stealing do you find depicted in Scripture (see Proverbs 22:22, Malachi 3:8)? What other ways of stealing do you find taking place in our culture? How do dishonest dealings threaten relationships in the workplace and society?
2. How can we address the underlying economic realities that lead people to steal without actually condoning the sin itself? What provisions in the Bible can you find that help to alleviate the physical needs of the poor and thus serve to discourage stealing from others? What special temptations do the rich and poor face with regard to contentment? See Deuteronomy 24:17-22 and Proverbs 6:30-31for further insight.
3. What does the prohibition against stealing imply about the right to own private property? How does the prohibition against stealing underscore the value of work? See Ephesians 4:28 and 2 Thessalonians 3:6-12 for further insight.
4. How is covetousness related to sinful ambition? How can we distinguish covetousness from godly ambition? How can you avoid sinful ambition in a world that often rewards aggressive behavior? For an example of sinful covetousness, see 1 Kings 21. For instruction on godly contentment, read 1 Timothy 6:6-10.
5. In what ways can you develop a heart for giving? Think of practical ways that you can share what you have received from the Lord so you can bless the lives of others. In what ways can you develop a heart for contentment?
For Further Reading: Thomas Watson, The Art of Divine Contentment (First printed, 1653; republished by Soli Deo Gloria, 2001).