Owner’s Rights and Responsibilities

MEMORY VERSE: “Let him who stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.” —Ephesians 4:28

EXODUS 20:15; AMOS 8:4-6

TO STEAL is to take for oneself that which belongs to another. This is directly contrary to the spirit of love which should motivate every follower of the Master. In Paul’s masterful discussion of the subject of Christian love he says that love “seeketh not her own.” Those who are so filled by the spirit of love as to be willing to give up what does belong to them that others might be benefited would certainly not want to take from others so that they themselves might be enriched.—I Cor. 13:5

In Amos 8:4-6 the Lord’s prophet describes a method of stealing which is considered proper in some circles if one can keep out of the clutches of the law. “Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail.” (vs. 4) The scene described was in natural Israel, where the principle of greed and gain overruled the principle of love, as it has done so many times and in so many places both before and since that time.

The grasping and wicked, who care little for the welfare of their fellows, are often impatient in waiting for the opportune time to defraud them of what is properly theirs. This is actually stealing. In the prophet’s time these were saying, “When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat?”—vss. 8,9

Fraudulent business methods are a definite breaking of the commandment, “Thou shalt not steal,” and this method of stealing is practiced by many who are improperly considered respectable in the eyes of the world. The only deterrent is not the fact that it is wrong, but that there is a danger of running afoul of the law of the land, and in many countries of the world there is little danger of this kind. Indeed, the officials of government are often guilty of this type of stealing.

LUKE 19:1-10

This is the story of how Zacchaeus, a rich publican, became acquainted with Jesus, and presumably became a follower. Zacchaeus was short of stature, and evidently when he climbed into the sycamore tree and Jesus came nearby, it enabled them, very literally, to talk with each other face to face. Being a publican he was looked upon by the Israelites generally as being a sinner, so there was criticism of the fact that Jesus proposed to visit this “sinner” in his home.

Zacchaeus was greatly impressed by the fact that Jesus was so cordial to him, and had announced his intention of visiting him. He said to Jesus, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold”—vs. 8

This forthright statement by Zacchaeus does not imply that he had in any way been dishonest in the accumulation of his wealth. The Israelites who knew him probably thought that he had been. But his declaration of willingness to give half his goods to feed the poor and to restore fourfold anything he had obtained through fraud would tend to dissipate any thoughts of this sort which any might entertain. Evidently Zacchaeus basically was an honest man.

And then Jesus said to him, “This day is salvation come to this house, for so much as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (vss. 9,10) The Revised Standard Version translates this last phrase to read that Jesus came “to save the lost”

The statement, “To seek and to save that which was lost,” is used elsewhere in the Gospel, where the reference obviously is to the fact that Jesus came to save the lost race; but here the reference evidently is to individual salvation from sin and death.

Seemingly there were some in the Early Church who, steeped in heathen customs and rituals, did not realize that it was un-Christian to steal.


“Is there more than one way to steal?

Was Zacchaeus a dishonest man?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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