Commandment #8 – Do not steal

Opening Question

What motivates stealing?

Exodus 20:15

You shall not steal.

In the beginning (5 mins)

Read Genesis 2:8-17 (esp. 16-17). Discuss what is written there in the context of not stealing.

The huge positive in this section is the generosity of God to give to mankind a) an established garden and b) freedom to eat from anything in that garden. God has provided generously. The only thing forbidden is the one thing that they will desire enough to rebel. See Genesis 3:6.

The command to Israel (5 mins and optional)

The command in Exodus 20:15 is to not steal. As an exercise in getting to know the commandments, where does it fit in the order and is there a logic to it?

The following are ways of seeing the commandments. A guided discussion may allow people to observe things for themselves and there is no need to exhaust this for the sake of this study.

Commandments 1-4 can be characterised as Israel’s identity. They are monotheistic nation, unified in their worship of Yahweh and no other; strange in their refusal to worship him through images and monuments; charged with the sacredness of using his name carefully and demonstrating their national confidence in Yahweh by resting and celebrating the rest because He is the God who provides. Deut 6:5.

Commandment 5 provides the framework by which each generation will sustain their knowledge and commitment to the covenant with the LORD. Future generations will learn that the LORD is one and to be devoted to him only (Deut 6).

Commandments 6-10 are concerned with character and holiness – the horizontal relationships. Leviticus 19:18.

6 is fundamental that we would love one another. 7 is to keep and preserve the marriage covenant. 8 is to protect the property of others. 9 is to love the truth. 10 is to watch over your own heart.

So, 5, 6 and 7 will maintain a harmonious society from the family unit outward. 8, 9, and 10 will maintain our integrity and boundaries.

All of the commandments test our trust in God.

Israel’s history (10 mins)

Exodus 22 contains various scenarios of stealing plus more criminal acts. Scan over the chapter to compare how stealing, in Verses 1-15, compares to other crimes from Verse 16 on.

You may scan the chapter as one group or divide the chapter into chunks and discuss. The aim here is simply to absorb how the nation of Israel were to regard stealing compared with adultery or witchcraft. Other Ancient Near Eastern cultures would have removed a hand for stealing.

Read Deuteronomy 6:10-12. What does it say about stealing and what motivation do Israel have to not steal from one another.

God is promising Israel to take ownership of land that was not theirs but now is. The world is the LORDS and all that is in it. He chose to bless Israel and curse the Canaanites in this way. But there is no point in Israel stealing from one another because the LORD has provided all this for them. It was not theirs to begin with.

NB: the land gets divided proportionately between the 12 tribes of Israel with rules on how to lease land and every 50 years for the land to be returned to the original clan. The law included a maintainable equity system for ongoing generations. See Leviticus 25:8ff

The Gospel (10 mins)

Read Matthew 22:15-22. What does this have to say about stealing?

In one brief account, Jesus is able to testify that we must give to people what is rightfully theirs and also that we are capable of stealing from God.

Matthew 6 has much to say here about our desire to be for the kingdom of heaven and not for treasure on earth. We shall return to this passage perhaps for Commandment#10. Time permitted, read Matthew 6:25-34 (esp 33).

Christian Living (15 mins)

As generous as God was to Adam and Eve in the garden he has continued to show generosity to Israel and even more so to all who trust in the LORD for salvation. For Adam and Israel everything was provided for them. For us, we are given the kingdom of God and that is where our hope and love lies. We do not work for treasure that spoils or fades but for the kingdom of God which is freely given to us.

Read Ephesians 4:17-32 and discuss the areas of life listed there which match with various commandments.

Commandment #7 – No Adultery

Opening Question

Read Romans 13:8-10 and open in prayer for one another in response.

Exodus 20:14

You shall not commit adultery.

In the beginning (5 mins)

Genesis 2:20-25 describes the origin of marriage. What can we gather from these verses?

  • Marriage is for companionship – to do life together in partnership.
  • Marriage is for a man and a woman.
  • Marriage is exclusive and intimate – the two become one, naked and unashamed. Sex is designed to take place inside of marriage. Not for a fling but as part of the marriage union.
  • Marriage is for family units – leaving the family of origin to start a new family.
  • NB: please remain sensitive to those who are not married. 100% of us are also unmarried for a great portion of our lives and those who are married have a 50% chance of becoming unmarried again later in life as widows/ers.

The command to Israel (5 mins)

Read the following with regard to the 7th commandment:

Exodus 20:14, Leviticus 18:1-5, 20, 24-30, 20:10 (the whole chapter directs Israel to not do the detestable things that Egypt and the original land owners did, the subject of the chapter is sexual immorality).

Proverbs 6:20-35 (v32)

Israel’s history (10 mins)

Malachi 2:10-16 merges the issue of unfaithfulness to God with unfaithfulness in marriage. While God rebukes Israel here for marrying women who serve other Gods, he seems to accuse them of marital unfaithfulness which matches their unfaithfulness to Yahweh. What spiritual lesson does God teach us about adultery?

The marriage covenant is a model of our covenant with God. He is faithful and we must be faithful in our marriages. The Genesis language of the two becoming one is profound. Disobeying the 7th Commandment is not simply breaking a law but revealing our unfaithfulness.

The Gospel (10 mins)

Read Matthew 5:27-30. Discuss how Jesus speaks of the 7th Commandment.

Similar to the 6th commandment, we can break this command in our hearts and minds before any real testable action takes place.

When the gospel went out from Jerusalem to the Gentiles, the Christian church in Jerusalem was concerned to write to them. Read the letter in Acts 15:23-29. Being a brief letter, what do we notice of high priority?

Abstaining from practices associated with idolatry as well as sexual immorality. The concern is for Christians everywhere to not live as the pagans live. See Galatians 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1 Thess 4:3; Heb 12:16; 13:4, not to mention much of 1 Corinthians!

Christian Living (15 mins)

The Israelites were told to not do what the other nations do in terms of sexual immorality. Christians are instructed in the same manner. We must stop living for the cravings of our own hearts but as mature people who have been saved by grace. Read Ephesians 2:1-10 to remember what we have been saved from and remember the gospel that saves.

Ephesians 2:1-10

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Commandment #6 – Do not Murder

Opening Question

“Each and every commandment exposes the inclinations of our evil hearts.”  Discuss.

Exodus 20:13

You shall not murder.

In the beginning (5 mins)

Genesis 1 and 2 contain the absence of murder. Death is mentioned here only as a warning (Gen 2:17). Rather, the chapters are filled with life! Genesis 3 describes the Fall when the serpent sows doubt with regards to God’s death threat! (Genesis 3:4)

It is Genesis 4 where we read of the first murder. Read Genesis 4:1-16. Verse 8 describes the murder, but what is the warning in Verse 6-7? Focus on those two verses and discuss.

Before the actual murder, Cain has anger brewing in his heart. God warns him to change his thoughts – focus on what is good and not what is evil. Sin is like a dog that if you let it off the chain it will overpower you. The problem was with Cain before the actual murder took place.

Genesis 4:23 describes a man who boasts in his ease of killing others in revenge.

See also Genesis 9:6. What does this tell us about the significance of murder? 

Being made in God’s image is important. We are not equal with the animal kingdom. See Genesis 9:1-6 – eating meat is not murder – although there are still regulations around that.

The command to Israel (5 mins)

What does the 6th commandment presume about life?

The key word in this commandment is ‘murder’ rather than ‘kill’. The Penteteuch contains many occasions when putting a person to death is called on (this is a civil rule given to the nation of Israel). No person has the right to take another person’s life for personal reasons.

Israel’s history (10 mins)

Read over Exodus 21:12-32 to get an overview of how various situations are dealt with.

Note also Leviticus 19:18

The Gospel (10 mins)

Read Matthew 5:21-26

To what extent does Jesus broaden this commandment?

He would declare Cain guilty even before he struck a physical blow to Abel. ‘Raca’ might be like saying ‘go to hell!’ Ironic that this is exactly where a comment like that might take you!

Discuss what is said in Verses 23-24.

Jesus may be inferring that Abel could have done more in the Genesis 4 account!

What are some counter moves to keep this command?

Be proactive in love. Don’t simply avoid killing people out of passion, but work on our love for one another – mend relationships soon.

See Matthew 7:12

Note that Jesus puts our behaviour toward others as the primary agenda for fulfilling the laws. 

Christian Living (15 mins)

The Christian way is to love as demonstrated by God’s love for us. Romans 5:8 teaches us that God demonstrates his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ himself, left his throne – the ultimate altar – to make reconciliation with his enemies – you and I! While we were haters of God, Christ came and made peace between us and God. Christ’s fulfillment of this command is to demonstrate the ultimate gift of life. Rather than taking life, he brings us to life! (see Ephesians 2:4-5)

Look up some or all of these passages to spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Perhaps challenge one another to pick one reference and make it your memory verse for this week.

  • Colossians 3:12-14
  • Galatians 5:22-25
  • Romans 12:9-21