Observe a group of toddlers playing, and it will not be too long before you see one child snatch a toy from one of the others. At that point, the child who has lost the toy will respond by crying, snatching the toy back, or otherwise protesting what has just happened. No one has to teach young children the injustice of theft; they know from an early age that to lose a possession to someone else unjustly is wrong.
So, we find it no surprise that God includes in the Ten Commandments a law against theft. “You shall not steal” (Deut. 5:19) is the eighth commandment, and there are obvious ways that we can break this statute. Take another person’s wallet, break into someone else’s home and steal jewelry, shoplift a candy bar—these are all forms of theft that break the eighth commandment.
However, human beings can also commit theft in other, less obvious ways. Consider the employer-employee relationship. Employees enter into contracts with their employers wherein they promise a certain level of work and a certain number of hours of labor in exchange for their salary. All too often, however, we can be guilty of not living up to the terms of our contract. Maybe we do not work as diligently as we should but waste time on other things. Perhaps we allow ourselves to get distracted so that the work we perform is not of the quality it should be. When we are guilty of these things and other similar actions, we have stolen from our employer who is paying us for work that we have not completed or have not done as we have promised.
It is also possible to break the eighth commandment in the voting booth. Politicians will often encourage us to vote for them by promising good things that they will fund by raising taxes on other people. But when we vote a tax increase on other people, we are actually taking money from them through government proxy.
While wrong, these forms of theft pale in comparison to robbing God. Malachi 3:8 warns the people of Judah that by holding back their tithes and contributions, they were actually stealing the Lord. In the modern church, too many Christians are robbing God. Recent surveys conducted by the Barna Group report that only 12 percent of self-identified born-again Christians in evangelical and non-evangelical denominations tithe on a regular basis. This means that 88 percent of people who claim to be born again are robbing God.