July 21, 2011
When you return home from shopping abroad and do not declare all -- if any -- of your purchases, that is stealing, although many try to justify it. When you steal time from your employer by not doing his work while on the job, and also arriving at work late and leaving early, that is also stealing.
Downloading songs over the Internet without paying for that song is also stealing. Stealing isn't only about someone breaking into a home or robbing a person at gunpoint. Religious leaders say that as a nation, Bahamians have a real struggle with stealing, and are doing things that go against the eighth commandment which states: You shall not steal.
But Pastor Lyall Bethel, senior pastor at Grace Community Church, says the love of money is truly the root of all evil and that it shows because of what is taking place in society. " Going against this law is really damaging our society because there is too much crime happening from day to day. Many people feel if they can't, or choose not to work for what they need or want, then there is no problem in stealing it and this is not right," says Bethel. "This commandment is just as much about us being better people as it regards interacting with one another but also in depending on God to provide."
Pastor Bethel says when you take something that is not yours, you are saying God is not capable of providing for you. "We do not learn the lesson or have the level of faith He wants us to learn or have when we take from someone else forcefully. We are not really helping ourselves by doing it, much less doing good to others either. The birds and flowers do not worry about how they will eat or survive, so why do we? God will provide so there is no need to steal. This is something many of us are obviously forgetting."
The religious leader says the first six commandments were made primarily so mankind knows how to treat one another, but he says there is an underlying purpose in the eighth commandment found in Exodus 20:15. Pastor Bethel says when God gave this rule it was to help man form good and honest relationships with one another but was also meant, secondarily, to command man to depend on Him.
"The commandments were given so we can know who we are when we look in the mirror. We often think we are perfect or doing alright when we have nothing to compare it to, so God gives us some rules to show us our flaws so we can learn to be even better people."
As a nation, he says the eighth commandment is one people do not pay as much attention to as they should
"Hearing that someone was robbed -- whether it is a public office or an individual doesn't often come as a major surprise to most people. In fact, if we as a country had heeded the Lord thy God's commandment we probably would've had a very different history," says the evangelical minister. "We are a nation that has made its living benefiting off the misfortune of others.
"For instance, in the time of shipwrecking, by law a wrecked ship could be salvaged and all that was found belonged to the persons who found it. That was theft, but it was legal. We still have bad habits today where every time we come home from going away we often do not declare all -- if any of our purchases. This is also theft although we try to justify it. We steal the man's time on the job by coming in late and leaving early. We steal time. We steal songs over the Internet. I think we have a real struggle with stealing as a nation which is a problem because God said we are not to steal.
"God says that the poor learn to be content with all I have whether I am in want or not. Nothing flies in God's face more than feeling we are entitled to something and since we are not getting it we have the right to take it from someone else. Entitlement is the basis of theft today."
St. George's Anglican Church rector, Archdeacon Kingsley Knowles says the eighth commandment is more relevant today than ever before due to an increasingly consumerist society. "What God meant, in my interpretation, is that we should not remove anything that does not belong to us. I think that it was really important [in the biblical days] for people to understand that no matter how much or how little they had, only that which belongs to them is for them to deal with. God is more than adequate enough in being able to supply all their needs. So they need not try to usurp that and get their wants as well."
Fr. Knowles says your needs are supplied without you having to infringe on someone else's property. "I believe this commandment is relevant today more so than ever before [because] we have so many things now compared to the older days, so there is obviously more temptation now."
The Anglican priest says stealing is not just taking something physically from someone but that it is also a violation of someone's personhood and sense of safety and justice which he says is very wrong not only in a Christian perspective but also from a humane way of looking at things.
Reverend Beverly Strachan, minister at Evangelistic Temple Assemblies of God, says the eighth commandment clearly establishes that God will provide for your every need and that if you disobey this law, you are doubting His ability to do all things.
"The 10 Commandments begin with the statement "I am the Lord Your God," -- God reestablished in the heart of His people that He alone is the sovereign Lord. With His sovereignty established I believe God revealed to His people 10 ways in which they would deny His sovereignty in their lives. If you were to examine the 10 Commandments, by breaking any of them you deny God's sovereignty to provide for you without you having to do so for yourself. God made a promise to the children of Israel that if they would obey His laws, they will live in a land flowing with milk and honey.
This simply means that as sovereign Lord, He would provide and meet their needs. So, particularly with the eight commandment "Thou shalt not steal," when this law is not kept the thief is saying that he must make provision for himself. God's omnipotence is being denied. God is sovereign and demands our obedience. The 10 Commandments are to be upheld and obeyed today as when they were first given."
Many biblical scholars say the Bible as we know it today is a very different text from the original version transcribed by early religious scribes since it has gone through numerous translations many times throughout the ages. Due to this there are some texts that are considered contradictory, redundant and others which are viewed as questionable but there is one text many can agree has transcended time and its translation still holds its relevance and it's the 10 Commandments.
These ancient rules given to humanity by God through Moses on Mount Sinai millenia ago establish the purpose of humanity and how mankind should be aiming to live day to day as it relates to God and his fellow man. Some local ministers of the Word say the 10 Commandments are not always as straight forward as they seem. The ones with the most words are often not the most complicated but instead it is the simpler ones where you have to read beyond the text which often need more interpretation.
The 10 Commandments as given by God are as follows:
o I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; do not have any other gods before Me.
o You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
o You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
o Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work; you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
o Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.
o You shall not murder.
o You shall not commit adultery.
o You shall not steal.
o You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
o You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.
Over the next two weeks, The Nassau Guardian will engage a number of ministers of religion on the topic of the 10 Commandments, as they dissect each one and talk about the relevance of the commandments to the twenty-first century society.
Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian