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Bible Q&A: Is It Stealing to Look for the Lowest Price?

February 9, 2016

Question: Pastor Colin said in one of his sermons that stealing is trying to get as much as possible while giving as little as possible. So, if I fill up at the gas station with the lowest price, is that stealing?

Answer: This is Pastor Tim from Unlocking the Bible. Thank you for your good question. You asked, “So, if I fill up at the gas station with the lowest price, is that stealing?”

You’re responding to Pastor Colin’s definition of stealing: Stealing is trying to get as much as possible while giving as little as possible.

Colin is talking about the 10 Commandments here. And a good framework for the 10 Commandments is that the first four commands are about how to love God.

The last six commands are about how to love your neighbor. So the framework for Colin’s definition is this: How do I love my neighbor? God’s answer is: “Do not steal.”

What stealing actually is, is more or less common sense, right? Getting the best price at a gas station is not stealing. Taking gas from a station without paying is stealing.

Colin’s definition does not really redefine stealing (it’s now wrong to get the best price) in terms of specific actions. What the definition does is it helps us to see that stealing is more than the sum of our external actions.

Stealing (in God’s eyes) is a matter of the heart. Our motives matter.

For the person who is trying to establish his or her own self-righteousness, this definition will be incomprehensible at best: “Don’t talk to me about motives, just give me something concrete to measure!”

But it is important to remember that God knows the heart. That’s why David can say,

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. (Psalm 139:23)

Whenever you start with a question like, Is this or that action wrong? you’re asking the wrong question. In the context of love (think marriage or parenting), if the only question you ask is, Is this wrong? you have left the arena of love, and you have moved into the arena of the law.

You are actually asking: Does this meet the minimum requirement (which is a legal question)? And you are not asking: Is this best for the other person (which is a love question)?

Praying that this will be helpful to you,

Pastor Tim

The Author
Tim Augustyn

Tim serves as the resident pastor, writer, and editor of Unlocking the Bible. He was born and raised in northern Wisconsin, came to faith in his 20's while working in the business world, and received a Master's in Divinity from Trinity International University. He is author of the children’s book Man on the Run, and co-author of The One Year Unlocking the Bible Devotional with Colin Smith. Tim and his wife, Janna, and their four kids live in Arlington Heights, Ill.

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