Let’s say, while you’re out of the house, your neighbor breaks into your house, and steals your TV. He installs it in his house, and you can see your TV in there when you get home that night. Is it right for you to wait for him to leave the house, so you can break into HIS house, and reclaim the TV that is, after all, rightfully yours?
If you’ve answered NO, good for you. This is how Christ would handle it. If you’ve answered “Well, after all, it IS my TV – it’s not really stealing!” then answer the question… How is it possible to fulfill this command of scripture:
Romans 12:17 Recompense to no man evil for evil…
If you take justice in your own hands, and steal that TV back, you are recompensing evil for evil. Do not misunderstand – you are helping no one, least of all the thief, by letting him get away with it – but you are limited by God to using LEGAL means. But if you go to the sheriff, and discover he is corrupt, or for some reason is unable to do anything… you CAN’T take the law into your own hands.
Romans 12:19-21 Dearly beloved, AVENGE NOT yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Is God unable to replace your TV? Is He so powerless or unconcerned with your welfare that He can’t find a way to prosper you somehow to make up for it? If you use the same methods used by those who are evil, the world can’t tell the difference between you and them – even if, LEGALLY, it belongs to you – if you can’t LEGALLY get it back, LET IT GO. God says HE will repay you – and them.
When faced with this question, many say “well yes, Christ did say to turn the other cheek… but that doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat!”
Luke 6:27-29 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.
So if he takes your TV… offer him your VCR too?
1 Peter 2:12-15 Having your manner of life honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; Or to governors, as to them that are sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well-doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
Returning to our example, if you take back your TV, then your other neighbors can’t tell a difference between you and him. Sure, it was your TV to begin with, but you both stole to get it. And even though you had a right to that TV… tell me how it is possible to steal from a thief, and turn the other cheek at the same time…
However, I don’t believe you can do that. If someone steals from you, and you can’t easily reclaim it, LET IT GO. God doesn’t want you in trouble with the law for any reason, because it reflects badly on Him. Even if you’re more or less innocent – unless you’re in jail for preaching the gospel, you reflect badly on God!
Philippians 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.
So, if this principle is established, we can use it to magnify the eighth commandment in quite some detail.
For example: downloading music off the internet has been deemed illegal by the Supreme Court. If you do this, as well as you may justify it, the world will call you a thief. As indeed you are; what right do you have to the work of someone else? Regardless of what exorbitant price they place on music, you have no right to steal it from them.
Remember the scripture that says “the labourer is worthy of his hire” (1 Timothy 5:18) – worthy of HIS hire, not the hire you think he might be worth, but the hire he places on himself!
Romans 2:21-24 Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege? Thou that makest thy boast of the law, through breaking the law dishonourest thou God? For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written.
You are held to a higher standard than the world. God wants you to be BLAMELESS. This means that semi-legal things like this MUST STOP before God can bless the church.
Daniel 6:4-5 Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.
Daniel was totally BLAMELESS. These men wanted to tear Daniel down – just as, and for the same reason as, the world wants to tear you down – and if Daniel had speeding tickets, or illegal music, or in ANY way violated the least of the laws of the land, they would have found it. And yet, they could not find ANYTHING. He was BLAMELESS.
And why shouldn’t he be? The laws that the country enforces that you shouldn’t steal, or shouldn’t endanger the lives of others are not contrary to the law of God. And Daniel, and you, are obligated to obey them.
Romans 13:1-4 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
This includes using hacked copies of software, prevalent in the world and the church today. Sure, “Microsoft is a thief, and wouldn’t miss the money” – and the classic reasoning “And I wouldn’t have bought it anyway” but is that really the point?
Can you imagine the hey-day the enemies of God would have, if they are able to say things like “That guy in God’s church writes articles against stealing – on a STOLEN, HACKED, program!” Can you imagine the shame God feels if that happens?
It simply can’t happen in a person, or a church, God is going to be with.
If your employer overpays you, even though he cheated you a few months ago, is it right of you to just take it “as payment for the time he ripped you off”? Or is the right answer to inform him of his mistake? Which answer will show credit to the things you say you believe, and the God whom you claim to serve?
The bottom line – it is NOT alright to steal from a thief. Ever.
1 Peter 2:19-20 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.