The Eighth Commandment

What could be shorter or more simple than the eighth commandment, which contains God’s great law against stealing? ’Thou shalt not steal." Four little words make it up. There is not a single unnecessary letter in it. It is so plain that I suppose even the youngest student in a kindergarten class can tell what it is. In speaking about this commandment, the chief thing to be considered is the different ways in which it may be broken.

Did you ever see counterfeit money? This is money which someone has made to look so much like good money that most people are not able to tell the difference. It passes for good money although it is not worth a straw. The people who make this think themselves very cunning; but they are not a bit better than thieves. But a great many other things may be counterfeited as well as money. Jewelry and such like things are made of brass and sold for gold. Medicines are sold as able to cure certain diseases, - when those who make them know they have no more power to cure such diseases than so much water. All these are so many different ways of stealing or breaking the eighth commandment.

We find those who break the commandment by keeping back money that belongs to others, when they think it won’t be discovered. A very good story is told in illustration of this. One day a duke in Scotland had bought a cow in the neighborhood where he lived. The cow was to be brought home to him the next morning. Early in the morning the duke was taking a walk, not dressed at all like a duke. As he went along he saw a boy trying, with no success, to lead the cow to his home. The cow was very unruly and the poor boy could not manage with her at all, The boy, not knowing the duke, saw him and called out to him in his broad Scottish accent, "Hie, man, come here and give me a hand with this beast." The duke walked slowly on, not seeming to notice the boy who still kept calling for his help. At last the boy, finding he could not do anything with the animal, cried out in distress, "Come here, sir, and help us, and sure as anything I’ll, give you half of what I get.,’ The duke went and lent a helping hand. "And now," said the duke, as they trudged along after the cow, "how much do you think you will get for the job?" "I do not know," said the boy, but I’m sure of something, for the folks up at the big house are good to everybody." As they came to the lane near the house, the duke slipped away from the boy and entered by a different door. Calling a servant, he put a gold coin (about $5) into his hand saying, "Give that to the boy who brought the cow." He then returned to the end of the lane where he had parted from the boy, so as to meet him on the way back. "Well, how much did you get?" asked the duke. "A shilling," (about 25g ) said the boy, "and here is half of it for you." "But surely you got more than a shilling," said the duke. "No," said the boy, "that’s all I got, and do you not think it is plenty?" "I do not," said the duke, "there must be some mistake, and as I am acquainted with the duke, if you return with me, I think I can get you more." They went back. The duke rang the bell and ordered his servants to be assembled. "Now," he said to the boy, "point me out the person who gave you the shilling." "It was that man there with the apron," said he, pointing to the butler. The duke indignantly ordered him to give the boy the gold coin, and dismissed him from his job. "You have lost," said the duke, "your money, your position, and your character by your deceitfulness; learn for the future that honesty is the best policy." The boy now found out who it was that helped him to lead the cow, and the duke was so pleased with the manliness and honesty of the boy that he sent him to school and provided for him at his own expense. This butler broke the commandment by deceit, trying to keep back from another what belonged to him when he thought he would not be found out.

Lastly there are those who break the commandment by violence and fraud. The word violence here includes all burglars, housebreakers, thieves, and robbers prowling about the street. It requires no argument to prove that these people break the commandment. We are all agreed about that.

Remember, my dear children, as long as you live, that if ever you have any money left in your care belonging to another person, you have no more right to use that money as your own than you have to break into your neighbor’s house and steal his money. There is a very important question to be considered in closing the subject. The question is - How shall we keep this commandment? There are two things for us to do. We must resist little temptations and pray to God to keep us from temptation. This is what Jesus has taught us to do in the Lord’s prayer, "Lead us not into temptation."