When you think about it, this commandment might seem a little out of place with the others. Does this prohibition really belong with the directives against adultery, murder, idolatry, etc? Does this belong in the “Top Ten”? Apparently God thinks so.
And since the Lord considered it important enough to put in his "Top Ten" list, I'd like to point out that our culture specifically denies its importance, especially in our popular culture (TV and movies). Think about it for a moment: How many TV shows and movies glorify thieves, such as pirates, cat burglars, bandits, or bank robbers? How many TV shows and movies present the spoken or unspoken premise that it's OK to steal, as long as it's from people who're wealthier than you? How's about some of our heroes, like Jesse James, or Billy the Kid, or Bonnie and Clyde, or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid? Because of all the glamour and mystery we've associated with people like this, and since they're normally presented to us as charismatic and attractive rogues, we seem to forget that these men were thieves and robbers, taking stuff that didn't belong to them. It's doesn't really matter whether their targets were people we happen to feel sympathies for or not.
First off, let’s talk about what this commandment does not mean. We need to start with the understanding that everything belongs to God, and ultimately we own nothing--we’re only stewards. This means that the Lord has loaned us things and one day we'll have to give them up and also give an accounting before him about how we used them. Therefore, we don't have a right to do with our possessions as we please, and whatever the Lord desires us to give up for him, we should do so with a smile on our face. Again, we owe him everything and he owes us nothing except judgment.
Nevertheless, although in the ultimate sense we don’t own our property, our property doesn't belong to our neighbors either. With this verse God establishes property rights, at least as far as other people are concerned. This undermines the whole foundation of Marxism/Communism, since Marx claimed that property rights (the idea that your property is your own, not the community’s) are just made-up by rich people in order to exploit poor people. His ultimate goal was to abolish private property, put “the people” (by which he meant the government) in ownership of everything, and then we’ll have paradise on earth. With over 300 million murdered in the name of Communism during the last century, you'd think his ideas are getting harder and harder to defend. Although Communism itself has been largely refuted, its disdain for property rights still runs in the back of a lot of peoples' minds.
On a "micro" level, this is one commandment that most people think they obey, but don’t. We might not have shoplifted or robbed a bank, but how about our relationship with our employers? When we’re on the clock, they own our time. Have we been stealing it by goofing off when we’re supposed to be working? Aren’t we in effect stealing money from them? Someone once told me that every Christian ought to be working as if Jesus himself is signing your paycheck and watching over your shoulder, because he is. This aspect alone is enough to convict me, and I need to be better.
Lord Jesus, I know that your blood covers my sin, but that’s no excuse for being a poor employee. Help me to be the kind of worker who brings honor to you.