At first glance, the prohibition of stealing (found in Exodus 20:15) seems to be a simple and effective law. But it only takes a few moments of thought to realize that, like the prior commandments, itís so vague that itís practically useless. Every modern society has numerous law books dedicated to theft, not because they are purposely trying to make the law convoluted, but because itís never as cut-and-dry as people think.
- If someone owes you a debt, but they refuse to pay you, is it stealing if you take something of equal value from them?
- Is it stealing if you can convince someone (using legal means) to give up property they normally wouldnít part with? What about if you trick them? What about if you intimidate them?
- If a person without any descendants dies and doesnít have a will, is it stealing to take their belongings?
- Is it stealing to take stuff that wonít be missed, like a penny from a billionaire?
- Are hidden fees or unmentioned costs considered stealing?
- Is it stealing if you use insider-information on the stock market?
- Is stealing to feed your starving child just as bad as stealing out of greed?
- If a person is convinced into signing a contract with interest rates they couldnít possibly pay, does that count as stealing?
- Is it stealing to use up all of the natural resources in the area so that nobody else can enjoy them?
Words like embezzlement, larceny, and burglary didnít come into existence for the fun of it, they each describe a different type of theft, with different motives and different consequences. Human cultures have spent millenniums honing their legal systems, which is why any judge can tell you, ďthou shalt not steal,Ē is useless to modern law.
God, knowing the future, should have foreseen this issue and spent a few chapters laying out a proper legal system for stealing, so why didnít he?
I stole numerous pieces of candy as a child, and I still share mixed tapes, which is considered stealing to the RIAA (though not by many of the artists they represent!).