Do Not Steal

You shall not steal (Exodus 20:15)

When the Israelites were living in Egypt, they had a custom. But the customs are not all the same. God’s customs and man’s customs are different. In South Korea, there is something we call “seori” which is like poaching. So if we were passing a field of cucumbers and picking some to eat or going to a field of watermelons in secret and picking one, it was not regarded as a crime but just a traditional custom or practice. Thus it was not considered as a trespass.

Also, when I was growing up, if friends came over, they just walked into our house. They would come in, open our fridge and take out whatever they found and eat it. They would go through the drawers and pick something, saying, “Hey, I’m taking this!” It was the norm for us. But this is unthinkable in Western culture.

Japanese people also cannot relate to this. I remember seeing this in China. When Japanese people have friends come knocking on their door, they would step outside, close the door behind them and talk to their friends in front of the door for even hours. They will not ask their friends to come inside. If someone came without prior notice, they would not invite them inside. Similarly, the friend that came to see them will not ask to go inside either. For them, us digging through each other’s drawers would be considered illegal behavior.

During that time in China, I came to know a Korean person. He suddenly turned up at my dorm one day. He knocked on my door and then walked straight in. I opened the door when he knocked, and he was already inside my room and rolling on my bed. How different people are.

In the same way, there is an enormous difference between God’s Law and man’s law. Unless God teaches us these laws, we would not even have a clue that there are such laws. We would not even realize that this is a sin. This is God’s standard. Yet, if people do not know what God’s standards are and follow man’s customs, they would not even realize what he does is a sin.

If you stole something at home that is your father’s, would it be a sin? If you just take your father’s things and use them, is that sin or not? Maybe you do that often? There once was a TV program where people came out to get counseling for various concerns, and depending on the level of concern, a higher score was given. And one episode was about a certain man who was just taking and using his family’s things. But he was saying there is nothing wrong with using his family’s things because they are his family. He failed to see what the problem was. But the Bible does mention about such matters.

In Proverbs 28:24 says, “Whoever robs their father or mother and says, “It’s not wrong,” is partner to one who destroys.” Do you understand? Whoever robs another and says it is not a sin is a partner to a destroyer. In this way, unless God teaches us, we would not know it is a sin. That is why God is teaching us. He gave the Law so that we may know what sin is. The Law is very different from the way man thinks. People would say it is not sinful to take and use their parent’s things. That is the normal way people would think, which is why God gave this commandment. It is to demonstrate that God’s law and our law are different. If they were the same, why would He give this commandment?

It is written that what comes out of the heart is theft. Jesus said that what comes out of a man’s heart is theft. Therefore if we were to live according to what came out of our hearts, there would be nothing which is not sin. Therefore God gave the commandment. And because of it, we struggle in between the two and then come to realize that we are sinners. If God did not teach us this, we would not have known that sin is actually sin. Thus we will not feel condemned nor kneel down before Jesus as a sinner. For this reason, God gave this as a commandment.

Do not steal. What is stealing? What is actually stealing? Is it taking someone else’s property? To be exact, that is not an accurate definition of stealing. Why? We take and use what is not ours at the moment. The grace we receive is someone else’s, not ours. It is from God. If we were taking and using this through our own deeds, righteousness, and our own rights, then we would be cursed and go to hell. However we take and use the name Jesus which is not ours. We take and use the authority of heaven, every authority and power and blessing. They are not ours originally, but we take and use them.

Hence just because we are using someone else’s does not always become a sin. Then what is sin? To take and use what is not given to us is stealing. That was not given to us. Though grace, the name Jesus, the Holy Spirit and so on are originally not ours; they have been granted to us, which is why it is not sin even though we take and use them.

In the same way, if my friend takes something of mine but does so secretly, it is sinful – theft. Yet if I gave it to him, it is not stealing. I gave it to him. It is a gift. So the question is whether it has been given or not. There is even a verse in the Old Testament that says, “I am against the prophets who steal My words.” They stole His words. What does that mean? They took it when it was not given to them. The words that had not been revealed to them they take, and God called them the prophets who stole His words. They took it when it was not given to them.

We live by everything that belongs to God. The moment we confess, “I am a sinner,” we do not have any rights. We have no ownership. People think that it is by their merits they have everything. Yet we are sinners. And the moment we confess that we admit that we have no ownership over what we have and live by grace from then on. So the life I live is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. We take, use and live by everything of Christ, what He gave us.

This is all grace because He has granted them to us. Since we live by what He gave us, we are not stealing. We are living by grace. But what happens if we do not realize that they have been given to us and we just take and use them as we please? Though He is willing to give us, if we do not know the fact that it has been given and just take and use it, then that is theft. Then we will be thieves.

Therefore whoever has not received grace becomes a thief automatically. Whoever does not know grace – what God gave him as grace – and if he is enjoying that grace without realizing it is grace and does not give thanks, is stealing without himself knowing.

Those who do not tithe are using what God has not given them. And yet they voice their rights. They claim that it is what they earned, but in fact, they are robbing God. They claim it is not a sin. They insist that it is not a sin. But it is written that whoever robs his father or mother and says it is not a sin is a partner to a destroyer. So such people not only bring destruction upon themselves but also destroy others. Hence we have to know that we have received grace, and it is by grace that we live. Otherwise, everything becomes theft. If one says, “All of this is my achievement, it is my right, it is the outcome of my merits,” it is stealing.

So we confess that everything was given to us. Because He gave us, we can cast out demons in Jesus’ name and use that name because it was given to us. Since it is granted, we receive the Holy Spirit; since it has been granted to us, we live by His power and do all these works. If we claim that it is by our own wisdom and power that we are doing these things, then we are inappropriately using what is His without knowing He has given them to us. This is stealing.

We could even steal from our parents. Even though parents plan to give everything to their children later on, if the child, not knowing this, takes and uses that without the father’s permission, it becomes theft. When the father gives it to him, and he takes and uses it, then it is grace. Thus we must be the ones who live by grace, not those that steal. For that, we need to know what God has given us grace. Then we will have peace. Those who receive an abundance of this grace and know this grace have peace.

That is why during the days of the early church, they used this greeting. I made a greeting in Chinese. People that write to me all use the same greeting. May the peace and power of heaven be upon you all (愿天上的平安和能力充满在大家身上) or may the blessings of the Lord be with you (愿主的美福与你同在). We use these greetings often. People that write to me usually say may the blessings of the Lord always be with you (愿主的美福常与你同在), and then they write Immanuel (以马内利) at the end. These are very common in China.

In the early church, that is what they said. May the grace and peace of the Lord always be with you (愿主的恩惠与平安常与你们同在). Grace and peace be with you. This is the way Paul always greeted, and Peter did the same. This was not used by only one person, but many people used this greeting. There was a shared perception.

Peace is something that comes down from heaven. It is eternal peace. This peace the world cannot snatch away. Peace refers to a state of full joy that no enemy can threaten, which comes through reconciliation with God. So how does that peace come? It comes through grace. When we receive a fullness of grace, we have peace. So does that mean we receive grace anew every day? No. Rather it means we get to know more about the grace that God has given. The more we know, the deeper we understand what God has given us through grace, the greater the peace we have.

That is why those who are not at peace are because they already robbed God. They are living off what they robbed. If one is not living by grace, he is living off what he robbed. Let us pray that we will not be like this and that we may know more about what God gave us so that we can have peace.

God our Father, help us to be the ones who do not live by our own righteousness or power but by what God gave us. God has given all things, and we are living in His grace. May we always acknowledge and know this and hence have the fullness of peace in our hearts. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center