You Shall Not Steal: Bible Lesson and Life Application

by Dr. Michael L. Williams · Print Print · Email Email

It is hard to find anyone who has not been a victim of theft. Yet, despite the nightly news reports and the stories of those who are victims of theft, most people think that when it comes to stealing, it is something that other people do. However, God’s definition of stealing is quite a bit broader that what most people would consider. For this reason, a Bible lesson and life application study of the eighth commandment, you shall not steal, is in order.

What does the word steal mean? 

The word steal is commonly defined as (1): Verb 1. “Take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.” 2. “Dishonestly pass off (another person’s ideas) as one’s own.” 3. “Take the opportunity to give or share (a kiss) when it is not expected or when people are not watching.”

From these definitions, we see three key points:

  1. Taking something without permission.
  2. Dishonesty and
  3. Doing something that may not be generally acceptable in public.

You shall not steal

What does God say about stealing?

The eighth commandment reads like this: “Thou shalt not steal” (Exodus 20:15). The word steal in this verse is the Hebrew word ganab (2), which is used 39 times in the Old Testament. This Hebrew word is used in the following ways: to thieve (literal or figurative); by implication to deceive, carry away. Additionally it communicates to secretly bring, steal (away), or get by stealth. The Greek word that has the same meaning is klepto (3).

Biblically, we see the same three points as were mentioned in the common definition: Taking without permission, deceit (dishonesty), and doing something in secret. We find the word steal used in these capacities in the following verses:

  1. Taking without permission: Genesis 44:8; Exodus 22:1; Leviticus 19:11; Matthew 6:19-20; Matthew 27:64; John 10:10; Romans 2:21; Ephesians 4:28
  2. Deceit or dishonesty: Leviticus 19:11
  3. Doing something in secret: Genesis 31:27; 2 Samuel 19:3; Job 27:20

Is stealing ever justified?

In Proverbs 6:30-31 God says, “Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.” We see from this verse, used as a comparison to the difficult restitution for adultery, that the reason behind the theft does matter when it comes to it being right or wrong.

This passage is of particular note because many people will excuse stealing if the reason for it is what they determine to be reasonable. For example, many will steal from their employer if they feel that their pay should be higher. Others will steal from someone because they think that the person is rich and owe it to others who are less wealthy or because they will never miss it. The fallacy of these arguments is that anyone can use any excuse to justify stealing, which denies what God says about stealing. No matter what the reason, stealing is taking something from someone that does not belong to you. 

What is the Spiritual perspective of stealing?

The Bible is very direct about stealing and God’s displeasure of those who steal (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). However, what is even more offensive to God is the stealing of a person as found in Exodus 21:16, “And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.” This verse speaks volumes about the evils of slavery and how many, even those who called themselves Christians, claimed slavery was a Christian value.

The reason God is so adamant about the penalty for stealing a man in the Old Testament is because Satan steals men. We find this in John 10:1-16 where Jesus discusses how He is the Good Shepherd and came to provide protection for believers, referred to as sheep. Jesus makes specific reference to thieves and robbers who came before Him (John 10:9-10) that kill, steal, and destroy.

The context of these verses tells us that Satan is a thief and murderer who comes to steal people away from being saved. This concept is mentioned in the parable of the sower in Luke 4:1-20 and Luke 8:4-15. In Mark 4:3-4, Jesus describes how the sower sows the seed and the fowls of the air devour it. In Mark 4:14-15 and Luke 8:11-12, Jesus explains the parable by saying that the seed is the Word of God and people hear it, but the devil comes and takes it away out of their hearts so that they cannot believe and be saved.

Additionally, in John 10:11-13, Jesus makes mention of the hireling that is hired to tend the sheep, but runs away and when “the wolf” comes to attack the sheep because they do not care for the sheep. Jesus is referring to false teachers here, which are not there to do the work of God (John 8:44; Romans 16:17-18; 2 John 9-11) and are cursed by God (John 1:8-9). 


God commanded us not to steal in the eighth commandment. Although this was an Old Testament commandment, it pointed to the fact that stealing is not in keeping with loving our neighbor. More so, when it came to stealing a person, the penalty was death. This is because stealing a man models how Satan steals away men through theft of the word from their hearts through deception and dishonesty. Those who steal on behalf of Satan do so through false teaching and deception.

Read more from Dr. Mike: You Shall Not Commit Adultery

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Google. (2014). “Steal”. Retrieved from Google: (2) Strong, James, (2014). “Steal”. Strong’s number H1589. Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary. (3) Strong, James, (2014). “Steal”. Strong’s number G2813. Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.

How to turn your sermon into clips

Share the truth

Previous post:

Next post: