By Blair Stone
Mr. Stone may be contacted through ICW
(c) 1999, All Rights Reserved
Used With Permission

Posted: 11 August 2005


The importance of the law against stealing is clear from its inclusion as one of the Ten Commandments.

It is located in:

Deut 5:19 "You shall not steal"
Lev 19:11 "Do not steal. Do not lie"
Ex 20:15 "You shall not steal"

Keeping the laws God gave to Moses was a major obligation of the Covenant that God proposed at Mt Sinai. The Israel Nation agreed to it, saying "All that the Lord has spoken we will do" (Ex19:8). A covenant is an agreement which places obligations on both parties.

From that time forward, the Israelites were subject to the Laws of God given to Moses.

Blessings And Curses Made Clear to the Israelites

For obeying God's voice, and keeping the covenant - including the laws - the Israelites were to have the status of God's chosen, were to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation under God's protection and were to receive many other blessings besides.

For disobeying, the reward was to be a variety of curses (corrective punishments), ranging from serious to calamitous.

Eventually, as the Bible records, God divorced Israel (showing the Mosaic Covenant to be a species of marriage contract) following centuries of her chronic disobedience and unfaithfulness, and refusal to keep the covenant despite numerous warnings from the Prophets.

Do God's Laws Apply Today?

The question of whether the laws given to the Israelites by Moses apply to today's Christians, and if so in what way, is obviously of great importance.

I will be addressing this issue from the scriptures, in this article, with special reference to the laws on stealing.

Discerning God's Values From His Laws

There are three main places in the Old Testament where the laws on stealing are set out: Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. We must look in all three places to get the full picture.

"You shall not steal" is the Commandment. But there is much more to the law than the commandment. So let's look at the specific statutes (laws) and judgments (corrective punishments) which show how the commandment is to be applied in different situations in the real world. Seeing this, we may begin to understand something of God's legal principles and values expressed through His law.

The Law When Property Is Returned Voluntarily

To begin, let's consider this example from Leviticus:

Lev. 6:1 The LORD said to Moses:
Lev. 6:2 "If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him,
Lev. 6:3 or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do,
Lev. 6:4 when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property must be found,
Lev. 6:5 or whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day he presents his guilt offering.
Lev. 6:6 And as a penalty he must bring to the priest, that is, to the LORD, his guilt offering, a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value.
Lev. 6:7 In this way the priest will make atonement for him before the LORD, and he will be forgiven for any of these things he did that made him guilty."

Legal Principles and Values

When we look at this passage of law-giving about "stealing" one of the first things we may notice is its complexity. So let's go through it, and identify some of the important principles and values that are being expressed. We may notice:

  1. The violation (or sin) is seen to have two aspects:

    1. An offense against the person whose property was wrongfully acquired, and
    2. An offense against God (being an act of unfaithfulness to the Lord by not keeping the covenant).

  2. The judgment for the offense against the owner is based on a principle of restitution to the owner (rather that a corporal punishment, or a fine paid to the court, or a jail sentence for the offender).

  3. Restitution to the owner is calculated as return of the stolen property plus a penalty loading of 20% (a fifth) of the value of the property.

  4. The penalty paid to the Lord is a ram, without blemish, to be brought to the priest to be sacrificed. The principle is that this kind of atonement involves life (blood sacrifice).

  5. The restitution to the owner and the guilt offering to the Lord must be paid on the same day illustrating the principle that, in God's view, the obligation to atone for the offense to he person is of equal importance to the obligation to atone to God for the offense to God.

  6. In God's view gaining property by trickery (deception), lying about lost property found, and breach of trust, are equivalent forms of stealing and all are equally sinful.

  7. The level of penalty set here applies to the case when the offender makes restitution voluntarily as a result of a change of heart (repentance) and wanting to "put things right", i.e. restore the lawful order.

  8. The principle that the law shall provide for the restoration of the offender to atoned status in the eyes of God and the victim.

  9. The law sets in motion a process which restores a healthy, happy society.

These principles are inherent in the law and show us a God interested in mercy, justice, repentance and redemption. The action is to set things right and to restore the healthy state of affairs which existed before the offense was committed. In so doing, the law in effect acts to erase the sin and its negative consequences on all concerned ,without compromising justice.

These principles show God's purpose in the law is to heal the wounds caused by the sin (crime of stealing). Even this one example begins to show the farsighted wisdom of the law, its benevolence, and its practicality. It is for healing and saving, not destroying.

The Law For Stealing Without Voluntary Return

Now let us continue, by considering next the statutes and judgments which apply when stolen property is not voluntarily returned.

Ex. 22:1 "If a man steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay back five head of cattle for the ox and four sheep for the sheep."
Ex. 22:4 "If the stolen animal is found alive in his possession - whether ox or donkey or sheep - he must pay back double."


  1. Unlike our first example, the offense (sin) is not confessed, but rather detected - indicating a problem of a lack of repentance.

  2. Where there is no repentance, but there may be hope of reform, the punishment is more severe - restitution of 300% or 400% of the value of the returned stolen property (compared to 120% when repentance is shown). The larger restitution to the victim helps to comensate for the hurt caused by the theft. And the heavier punishment showing the more serious nature of the offense may cause the offender to repent, as sometimes happens, so that restoration is possible. (If the offender actually refuses to make restitution, showing no repentance, the law provides for the death penalty).

  3. The penalty for the offense against God remains a ram - the same as the penalty for stealing with later contrition, indicating God's requirement that all acts of unfaithfulness to God are sins of a nature such that they can only be atoned for by the shedding of blood - that is, through payment of life itself.

  4. When the crime involves the slaughter (destruction) or sale of the stolen property, the penalty escalates steeply. This sort of crime suggests a hardened attitude like that of a professional criminal. Even here there is no jail sentence, and provided the offender shows repentance - first by full payment of the fourfold or fivefold restitution, and secondly by not repeating the offense, there is redemption and restoration.

  5. The principle of fourfold restitution for a sheep and fivefold for an ox may show the principle of imposing a penalty in proportion to the harm to the victim - an ox may be needed to grind the daily oil from flax for four families; a sheep doesn't perform vital work, although it might be needed for food and fleece.

The Law When The Offender Cannot Pay

Ex. 22:3 "...a thief must certainly make restitution, but if he has nothing, he must be sold to pay for his debt."


The expression "sold to pay for his debt" does not refer to a sale into slavery, but rather a period of employment until the "debt" is paid off, where the debt referred to is the amount of restitution to be paid for the theft.

This law doesn't send the offender off to prison (where they may become embittered and trained in crime), or condemn to perpetual pariah status (ex-con). Rather it provides the offender a way to pay what he owes, to be reconciled with his victim, and be restored and redeemed to the community.

Here we see the values inherent in God's law of love of justice, mercy, redemption and restoration reflecting the wisdom, justice, mercy, and love of the law designer and giver.

The Law When Goods in Safekeeping Are Stolen

Ex 22:7 If a man gives his neighbor silver or goods for safekeeping and they are stolen from the neighbor's house, the thief, if he is caught, must pay double.
Ex 22:8 But if the thief is not found, the owner of the house must appear before the judges to determine whether he has laid his hands on the other man's property.
Ex 22:9 In all cases of illegal possession of an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or any other lost property about which somebody says "this is mine" both parties are to bring their cases before the judges. The one whom the judges declare guilty must pay back double to his neighbor.


  1. In the case where a thief is caught stealing goods left in safekeeping the penalty is double restitution and the ram sacrifice as per the other types of stealing discussed earlier, showing the law upholding the same principles and promoting the same values already discussed.

  2. If the thief is not found then the householder responsible for the safekeeping of the neighbor's goods goes to trial. It is up to the judges to determine the facts, and whether the safekeeper is guilty or innocent. The principle here is that when there has been a theft in such unclear circumstances the resolution shall not be left to the parties, but brought to judges to investigate and decide the matter. Again the law provides for a process that will lead to justice and benefits to the whole community. Without this particular law to resolve these kinds of cases, the result could be hard feelings, suspicion and bitterness, even in extreme cases blood feuds with all their misery.

Similarly, in all cases where someone is accused of illegal possession, the matter is removed from the parties in conflict and goes to the judges for trial providing a process for sorting out the matter fairly. Such a law is necessary for justice and for the peace, harmony and health of community. The promotion of these values is its purpose.

When Animals Go Missing While in Safekeeping

Ex 22:10 If a man gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to his neighbor for safekeeping and it dies, or is injured, or is taken away while no one is looking,
Ex 22:11 The issue will be settled by the taking of an oath before the Lord that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person's property. The owner is to accept this and no restitution is required.
Ex 22:12 But if the animal was stolen from the neighbor, he must make restitution to the owner.
Ex 22:13 If it was torn to pieces by a wild animal, he shall bring in the remains as evidence and he will not be required to pay for the torn animal.


  1. While goods do not normally damage themselves or wander away on their own, such things do happen with animals. Therefore, in this case, unless there are facts indicating otherwise, the owner's oath before the Lord shall be sufficient to resolve the matter, and restitution is not called for. Perhaps the oath was sworn before the judges, to impress the owner with the seriousness of the matter, to satisfy the party in loss, and to put the matter on the public record. Also, if there were any insincerity detectable, the judges would be interested in that. A most effective process for justly resolving a potentially difficult matter.

  2. The same penalty of double restitution to man, and a ram sacrifice to God, shall be required if stealing is proved.

  3. If the owner can produce a carcass showing the animal was killed by a wild animal, the whole matter is made clear. The law's requirement that if such a carcass exists it be brought to the judges, promotes the same values of justice, societal harmony, and so on, mentioned many times before in this article and reveals again the benevolent design of the laws.

When An Animal Is Borrowed

Ex 22:14 If a man borrows an animal from his neighbor and it is injured or dies while the owner is not present, he must make restitution
Ex 22:15 But if the owner is with the animal, the borrower will not have to pay. If the animal was hired, the money paid for the hire covers the loss.


Here, the owner of the animal has not placed it in the safekeeping of his neighbor, but rather the neighbor has borrowed it from the owner for some purpose. In this case, if it dies it is the responsibility of the borrower to make restitution. On the other hand, if the owner is present, that is, hired to use the animal for some purpose on the neighbor's land, the animal is in the owner's care and is his responsibility. If the animal is injured or dies in that circumstance, the borrower is not liable and does not make restitution. The money paid by the borrower for the hire fulfills his obligation.

Here the law distinguishes between when the borrower is and when not held accountable for a borrowed animal. The law promotes a fair practice and neatly heads off rancorous disputes that would otherwise occur without this practical law. The law is wise and kind.

Return of Lost Property

Next let's consider the following verses:

Deut 22:1 If you see your brother's ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to him.
Deut 22:2 If the brother does not live near you or if you do not know who he is, take it home with you and keep it until he comes looking for it. Then give it back to him.
Deut 22:3 Do the same if you find your brother's donkey or his cloak or anything he loses. Do not ignore it.
Deut 22:4 If you see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen on the road, do not ignore it. Help him get it to its feet.
Ex 23:4 If you come across your enemy's ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him.
Ex 23:5 If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure to help him with it.


  1. The law is not "Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers," but rather "find the owner, or keep it for him," depending on distance. This promotes trust, harmony and peace in the community instead of suspicion, division and strife. It is onerous to no one and beneficial to all. "Finders Keepers" is stealing and treated as such.

  2. The law applies to anything lost, not just animals.

  3. The injunction is to pro-actively take care of lost property, including for example to render assistance to lost animals in distress.

  4. Exactly the same helpful behaviour toward brothers is to be extended to enemies and their property, which illustrates the two principles "love thy neighbor as thyself" and "love your enemies," later taught, with emphasis, by Jesus.

Weights and Measures; and Land Boundaries

Deut 25:13 Do not have two differing weights in your bag - one heavy, one light.
Deut 25:14 Do not have two differing measures in your house - one large, one small.
Deut 25:15 You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
Deut 25:16 For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.
Deut 27:16 Cursed is the man who moves his neighbors boundary stone.


  1. God is well aware that people are tempted to deal dishonestly (some being more susceptible than others). This law makes His position clear - it is unacceptable. Therefore only just weights and measures are acceptable.

  2. The Lord's motive is as always benevolent: "...so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Fair dealing protects people from all sorts of woes, including the vengeful acts of people bitter and angry because they have figured out that they were cheated. Looming in the background is the larger warning of possible expulsion from the country by God, which is what happened to the whole nation later.

  3. Using deceptive weights and measures is a form of stealing, and the laws against stealing apply.

  4. This principle also applies to illegal changes made to property boundaries.

Unintentional Violations of the Law

Lev 5:17 If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD's commands, even though he does not know it, he is guilty and will be held responsible.
Lev 5:18 He is to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for him for the wrong he has committed unintentionally, and he will be forgiven.
Lev 5:19 It is a guilt offering; he has been guilty of wrongdoing against the LORD.


If someone unintentionally breaks the law - in the case of stealing, by for example unknowingly taking someone's property or forgetting to return borrowed property - since they have deprived the owner, they are considered to have broken the law and must pay the usual penalties to the victim and the Lord. In this way the law teaches the offender to take care not to forget his responsibilities to God, and to his neighbors.

All in the Land Subject to the Laws

Lev 19:34 The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.
Lev 24:22 Your are to have the same law for the alien and the native born. I am the LORD your God.


The fact that aliens in the land are to be under the law shows God providing the same protections and blessings, and corrective punishments of the law to all. The laws, thus applied, promote the values already discussed, throughout the whole community. Equal protection and accountability of all under the law are two of God's values and principles.

Malachi on Stealing From God

In Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament, God speaks of another form of robbery:

Mal 3:07 "From the days of your fathers, you have turned aside from My statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the Lord of hosts. 'But,' you say, 'How shall we return?'
Mal 3:08 "Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me!" But you say, 'How have we robbed you?' In tithes and offerings
Mal 3:09 "You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing Me, the whole nation of you!
Mal 3:10 "Bring the whole tithe into the stockhouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this," says the Lord of hosts, "if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
Mal 3:11 "Then I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it may not destroy the fruits of the ground; nor will your vine in the field cast its grapes," says the Lord of hosts.
Mal 3:12 "All the nations will call you blessed, for you shall be a delightful land," says the Lord of hosts


  1. At the end of the Old Scriptures, the main problem issue identified is the same one that has been troubling God since Mt Sinai - Israel's unfaithfulness to God shown here by disobedience to the laws concerning stealing. Scripture shows God has been a perfectly faithful Husband to Israel; Israel as a nation was an unfaithful wife from the first (a faithful remnant excepted).

  2. God hates divorce (Mal 2:16). He also observes (Mal 2:14) that priests who have divorced wives of their youth "though she is your wife and your companion by covenant" have "dealt treacherously." And in Mal 2:15, He says "But not one has done so who has a remnant of the Spirit..." Those priests who have some (even a remnant) of God's spirit have not divorced their wives. God's Holy Spirit has not completely turned his back on Israel depite her many transgressions. The principle here is that it is the Holy Spirit which enables men to understand and obey God's laws. God values faithfulness and detests unfaithfulness.

  3. God explains that He is being robbed by "...the whole nation of you" through failure to tithe. The larger portion of the tithes was used for the maintenance of the priests, and a portion was kept for direct distribution to the poor by the people.

  4. Yet God says if only the nation will have a change of heart and begin to tithe, He will lift the curse on them and open the windows of heaven to pour out blessings until they overflow and the nations roundabout call them "a delightful land," Here God's desire to forgive past sins completely, if only His people will repent, is shown once again.

  5. An important principle shown in this passage is that repentance is demonstrated by obeying the law. Without a visible change in behaviour there is no reason to believe an individual or the nation has had the change of heart which characterises true repentance. Mere "lip service" does not show real repentance.


In Part I we examined the laws against stealing in the Old Scriptures. There we saw that God's values were expressed in His laws, and searched for some the important principles to be found in the laws.

Review of Principles

Among the important principles found in the Old Testament laws against stealing were:

  1. Stealing was seen to have two aspects:

    1. The offense against the human property owner
    2. The offense against God

    1. The offense against the owner was in depriving him of his property
    2. The offense against God was unfaithfulness by breaking the vow to keep the Covenant

  2. The purpose of the imposition of the penalties of the law was to undo the harm done and restore a good relationship between the offender and (a) the property owner and ,(b) God.

  3. This was done by

    1. Making restitution to the property owner of the lost property together with a penalty loading that varied according to circumstances - the more correction needed, the greater the loading - and
    2. The sacrifice of life (of a spotless Ram) to atone for the act of unfaithfulness to the giver of all life - God.

  4. The laws were designed to educate and correct the offender, not to destroy him.

  5. The laws were designed to heal the breach between the offender and (a) the victim and (b) the Lord, so as to restore the offender to good standing again.

  6. The laws promoted justice, redemption, healing and the health and happiness of society generally.

We also found that while the laws were wise and taught the values of God, the people never obeyed them faithfully. In this way the Israel Nation showed herself to be in an unsuitable condition to be God's wife.

God Forgives Israel's Sins

Since Israel could not pay, God's plan was to pay for her sins Himself. To accomplish this, He sent His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, into the world where this spotless lamb's blood was shed to pay for the sins of Israel and the whole world.

This shedding of blood - "once for all" - met the requirements of God's own law and made the ritual of animal sacrifice for sins redundant. All sins committed by men were thereby forgiven by God:

Heb 7:24 But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.
Heb 7:25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.
Heb 7:26 Such a high priest meets our need - one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.
Heb 7:27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.


Jesus' sacrifice on the cross paid for the sins committed against God by Israel and the whole world.

Thus cleansed, Christians were able to receive an earnest of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Temple of God was no longer a temple made of wood and stones, but of flesh - our bodies. The story of God's people since then has been one of a warring within ourselves of the Spirit and the flesh.

While the Holy Spirit has the power to lead us into all truth, the leaven of the carnal mind has caused the Church to see the truth imperfectly. We await the arrival of the day of unleavened sight, when we will see not "as in a glass darkly, but face to face."

As that time nears, and God's spirit begins to pour out on us, we begin to see more clearly, though not yet perfectly.

Hence, for many years now, there has been partial blindness about the place of the laws in our lives, and how they should be applied in this age.

Are The Laws Temporary?: David's Testimony

Confusion about the law today manifests in many ways. One of these is in thinking that they were designed only for the particular circumstances of old Israel's society. Were God's laws only temporary? Let's consider some thoughts of King David about that question:

Psa 119:89 Your Word, oh Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.
Psa 119:138 The statutes you have laid down are righteous; they are fully trustworthy.
Psa 119:14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
Psa 119:15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
Psa 119:18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
Psa 119:34 Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
Psa 119:45 I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.
Psa 119:24 Your statutes are my delight; they are my counsellors.
Psa 119:46 I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame.
Psa 119:54 Streams of tears flow from my eyes, for your law is not obeyed.
Psa 119:53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked who have forsaken your law.
Psa 119:152 Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last forever.


David meditated on God's laws over a long period of time. He found in the laws spiritual principles which he believed revealed to him much about God's ways. He adopted the principles as best he could into his own life, finding them invaluable counsellors, enabling him to meet all of life's challenges and to walk in freedom. He came to believe that they were of such wisdom and value that God had established them to last forever. He did not believe they were temporary. He meditated on them daily and found in them the most important and trustworthy precepts to live by. Although he fell short of perfection in his life, King David understood the enduring value of God's laws.

Jesus' Testimony

Now let us hear what Jesus has to say about the question:

Mark 10:19 You know the commandments; do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother.

Joh 14:21 Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by the Father, and I too will love him and show myself and show myself to him.

Matt 5:19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands, will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 17:1 Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come.


  1. When Jesus said the whole of the law is contained in the two commandments, "Love God with all your heart, all your strength, and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself," He was saying that all the Commandments and specific laws, statutes and judgments sprang from these two great principles and values of God. By so saying, He affirmed the laws and explained their origins. Jesus came not to put away the laws, but to fulfill them. All that He said and did showed that He wanted to restore the laws and observance of them. His own life was a unique example of perfect obedience to the Spirit of the law.

  2. By affirming the two commandments he did, Jesus affirmed the statutes and judgments which are essential to obeying the commandments.

  3. Jesus reaffirmed the commandment against stealing.

  4. Jesus knew that some people would break the commandments themselves and teach others not to obey them. He said such would be the least in the kingdom of heaven. Conversely, those who obeyed them and taught others to obey them would be the greatest.

  5. Jesus said and did nothing to suggest that the laws were temporary.

What Changed After Jesus' Death and Resurrection?

Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection did not change the principles and values underpinning the laws given at Mt. Sinai. It did change the way the law would be fulfilled thereafter.

Before Jesus' sacrifice as a once-for all payment for the sins of the world, animal sacrifice was required for every violation of the law, since each one was an offense against God as it broke the Covenant. The law remained, God's principles and values in the law remained-to promote justice, repentance, reconciliation, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration- but the part of the law which specified animal sacrifice was gone (and with it much of the former role of the Levitical Priesthood. The new priesthood was the order of Melchizadek with Jesus as its high priest.)

Still remaining too was the part of the law having to do with making atonement for the offense to the human victim of the crime.

What Remains in Effect of the Law Against Stealing?

Since the animal sacrifice component of the judgment is no longer necessary because of Jesus' sacrifice, the only remaining judgment is the one for the offense in the crime against the human owner of the property-namely the restitution described in the law. As we have discussed, the purpose of the restitution is entirely constructive and permits the owner to be reconciled to the offender, the offender to repent and be forgiven and restored to good standing in the community. Restitution enables all of these purposes to be achieved.

Those who would put the law away misunderstand God's purposes in the law, and by altering the stealing laws in the ways that they have, have blocked the achievement of God's purposes. In other words, they have made the laws of God of none effect.

Heart Problems

The law, as we have seen, provides a way which enables the offender to correct his errors, make restitution for his offense, and demonstrate his repentance, all of which paves the way for the victim to forgive and be reconciled with the offender, and for the offender to be redeemed and restored to his place in the community.

It is a law which promotes all the purposes and values of the Lawgiver, that is the Spirit of God manifesting as a love of righteousness and compassion for people:( compare with Rom13:10 "Love does no harm to it's neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.")

This same spirit must be in the hearts of the offender and the victim for the law to achieve it's intended purposes. The lack of this spirit manifests itself in society today as an antinomian attittude- a spirit of lawlessness. This spirit is in rebellion against God's laws. It can express itself in the writing of laws which are put in place of God's laws, and which are lacking in wisdom, love of justice, and compassion for people.

Compare with Isa 10:1-2 "Woe to those who enact evil statutes and to those who constantly record unjust decisions so as to deprive the needy of justice and rob the poor of my people of their rights, in order that widows may be their spoil, and that they may plunder the orphans."

Isaiah observes these laws and unjust decisions are made so that stealing and victimisation are "legalised" He says woe will come to people who do such things.

Jesus' Parable

Now consider Jesus' parable on another manifestation of this loveless, antinomian spirit:

Matt 18:26 The servant fell on his knees before him. "Be patient with me," he begged," and I will pay back everything."
Matt 18:27 The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
Matt 18:28 But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. "Pay back what you owe me!" he demanded.
Matt 18:29 His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, "Be patient with me, and I will pay you back."
Matt 18:30 But he refused. Instead he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.
Matt 18:31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went off and told their master everything that had happened.
Matt 18:32 Then the master called the servant in. "You wicked servant", he said, "I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to."
Matt 18:33 "Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?"
Matt 18:34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all that he owed.
Matt 18:35 "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."


The first servant was forgiven a debt of 10,000 talents by his master- more than a million dollars in today's money. That servant then refused to forgive his fellow servant a debt of 100 denarii-about 15 dollars, illustrating a willingness to take all he can get for himself, but showing no mercy, no generosity, no compassion, no forgiveness to others.

This parable of Jesus conveys many levels of meaning. One of them is the comparison between God's great generosity in forgiving every person's offence against God by means of the crucifixion His own Son, and the sad lack of generosity of the forgiven in not forgiving the relatively small debt of a fellow human being.

The parable is also saying that those who do not forgive their fellows, in so doing will find that God will impose strong correctives until such time as the person has learned to forgive. This is a principle of the utmost importance for Christians, and indeed all people to understand.

Hebrews 10:26-31

Heb 10:26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,
Heb 10-27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.
Heb 10:28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses,
Matt 10:29 How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
Matt 10:30 For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge His people."
Matt 10:31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


  1. The author of Hebrews is saying that Christians under the New Covenant will be rebuked if they insult the Spirit of Grace. By not following God's example of gracious forgiving, Christians set themselves up to receive a very strong dose of corrective medicine.

  2. The failure to obey God's laws generally, and by failing to obey the laws against stealing for example, Christians frustrate the process God has provided to promote forgiveness.
The Spirit of the Law

Our examination of God's laws on stealing, reveal the essential Spirit in them is of God's love for His Creation. The law serves to promote justice, restitution, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration of his people when they fall.

God has done everything in a Spirit of Love. He even paid for our sins to fulfill that part of the law's requirement.

Everything God has said and done shows he would like us to operate in the same spirit of love:

Lev 19:17-18 "Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Luke 17:3 "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.

Acts 26:20 "...I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.

Without forgiveness, the community and the nation become filled with division and strife, instead of the unity and strength God promised Israel and the Christians if we would follow his wise laws.

The time is now arriving for the restoration of God's law in the Earth, as an integral part of God's loving purpose to redeem and restore His people and all things to the vision of perfection he has had from the beginning of His Creation. Praise our wonderful, loving God.

Blair Stone
Sydney, Australia